You’ve heard it before: The water issue is here to stay for the golf industry. Superintendent’s own Lawrence Aylward said it best: “The golf industry will continue to be on the front lines of the water crisis, meaning golf courses will continually be scrutinized for their water use.”
When it comes to popular opinion, a negative public perception can easily become reality when your biggest advocates – your players and members – aren’t on board.
The good news is that golf is also here to stay. Golf courses are beautiful natural oases, and their green spaces and habitats are desirable in our communities. Not to mention that the game we all love is played on these hallowed grounds.
Your role as a golf course superintendent puts you right in the crosshairs of the water issue, but here are some key factors that work in your favor:
You are, by definition, a steward of the environment.
You are a business manager, and conserving water is good business.
You are a technical expert who stays up to date on all the latest technologies that help you conserve water and improve your course.
You are a public relations professional who can craft an outreach plan that effectively communicates all that you do to protect this precious resource.
OK, maybe not that last one. But communicating your water conservation efforts to your players, your community and your staff is simpler than you realize and crucial to your success.
You’re probably already thinking about water use and making the effort to conserve water. It’s really just a matter of getting out that message.
The first step is formalizing a water use plan. If you don’t already have a written plan, create one. It doesn’t have to be too technical, but you will need to establish a baseline by documenting current and historical water use. Then, add in details about what you’ve already done and are currently doing to conserve water.
These efforts may include:
- Upgrading the irrigation system with modern rotors and a central control system.
- Reducing the irrigated area.
- Improving rainwater retention.
- Using recycled water.
- Selecting drought-tolerant grasses.
- Using wetting agents.
- Keeping the turf fast and firm (i.e., keeping the turf dry).
- Training your team to save water.
- Participating in programs like the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf, which educates course personnel about water conservation and protection, and recognizes courses that take significant steps to conserve water.
Next you’ll need to document the results of your conservation efforts. First, establish your baseline water use, and then track and record usage at regular intervals to document the savings. Once you commit to documenting your plan, you may be surprised by how much you’re already doing to conserve water.
The next step is sharing your plan. Don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth. Start with the people who you come into contact with daily. When the people who know and love your golf course hear that you have a plan and are taking steps to conserve water, they’ll share your message to anyone who will listen.
To help spread the word, consider reaching out to your local community. Offer a turf workshop with a focus on water conservation to help homeowners manage their own lawns better. Finally, be sure to share your story with your local newspaper, TV station or other media. Saving water is newsworthy and can help combat the assumption that golf courses are water wasters. A fact-based story about your efforts would be interesting to people beyond the golfing public.’
There’s no right or wrong way when it comes to getting your message out. Once you’re comfortable with the message, you need to tell your story early … and tell it often.