Often, lakes serve a function other than a strategic or decorative aspect relating to the golf course itself:

Retention lakes collect runoff from the fairways. Planted with vegetation that uses up the excess fertilizer, these lakes ensure the course remains environmentally neutral to surrounding areas while adding wetland habitat. In dry areas of the country, this habitat can prove especially valuable during drought. They can also be designed to retain stormwater.

Ted Robinson Jr.

Detention lakes are used to regulate rainwater from winter storms to reduce potential flooding through areas located downstream of the golf course. This use is especially valuable when the golf course is located between large watershed areas upstream and populated areas below. These lakes allow excess flow to be held on the golf course so it can be discharged in a controlled fashion.

At Whistling Rock Country Club, located in the mountains just east of Seoul, Korea, the approving agencies required separate systems for both retention and detention serving three distinct drainage areas. A total of 14 lakes were mandated, eight serving as retention ponds to ensure the site remained environmentally neutral and six serving as added detention basins to control flooding during the monsoon season through the village located below the site. The design team was challenged to incorporate the lakes into the golf course plan in the size and locations dictated by the agencies while integrating them to appear natural in a mountainous setting.

The approach: Two entirely separate drainage systems were required: drainage on the fairways was provided by an underground piping system to static retention lakes; drainage of the natural areas and the surrounding watershed was provided by a series of surface streams to a second set of lakes designed as detention basins. These two systems had to be separate as one was not allowed to flow into the other; however with a series of visual tricks and well-disguised dams and barriers, the two systems were expected to appear as one and look entirely naturalized within the site.

The solution: The design solution can control more than 14 million gallons of water during storm events.

The primary lake is part of the central detention system for the site. A stream begins as a dry creek acting to convey stormwater flow from the upper watershed. It appears to flow into an upper pond acting as a retention lake, but this lake is static and bypassed by the creek. At what appears to be the exit point on the upper lake, a recirculation pump from the lake below cascades the water during dry periods.

The fairways are irrigated using a state-of-the-art irrigation system to minimize water use; however, drainage in these areas are picked up and directed to other static retention lakes. As static ponds, the retention lakes ensure the site remains environmentally neutral by also detaining water from the fairways during storm conditions. While the site’s detention system serves to retain 6 million gallons of water from the surrounding watershed, when combined with the retention system, the site regulates over 14 million gallons during a storm event.

The takeaways

In many countries, golf courses can be used to effectively control flood water in mountainous sites within major watersheds. The practices used to provide this control can be equally effective on many flatland golf courses around the world when potential downstream flooding can be an issue.