In my 16 years covering the golf course maintenance industry, I’ve never heard as much talk about water as I do now.
“We’re running out of water.”
“Where will we get our water?”
“I can’t believe how much our water costs.”
“We need to reduce our water.”
“We need better water quality.”
It seems that golf course superintendents everywhere, from parched California to snow-laden Massachusetts, are talking about water issues. They realize what they’re up against.
About half the country is in some form of drought – from “exceptional” in Southern California to “abnormally dry” in central Pennsylvania – according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. But drought is only half of the story, and problem, when it comes to golf course irrigation.
The other half is cost – the price of water and the electricity it takes to pump it. Golf courses just can’t afford it anymore.
In an interview for the lead story of our fourth-annual Golf & Water supplement, Tim Barrier, the certified golf course superintendent at Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club in San Diego, told me that he can count on water prices rising 6 to 12 percent annually in Southern California. Barrier is forced to get creative in his budget to find the money to pay for it. You want pressure? That’s pressure.
But what Barrier has done is embrace technology to help him meet challenges. He’s using more surfactants throughout his course, and he continually monitors his course’s irrigation system to ensure it operates at its highest level.
At the Golf Industry Show (GIS) last month, there was plenty of talk about golf and water. Superintendents realize the challenges they face. The smart superintendents know they must stay out in front of the water issues.
Perhaps more than ever before, the exhibiting space at the GIS was laden with new technology to help superintendents become more water-efficient. The industry’s manufacturers are introducing products – from precision sprinkler heads to surfactants to soil sensors to soil amendments with improved water-holding capacity – to help superintendents save water. Some of the technology is simply amazing, and there’s no doubt that even better technology is coming.
But the technology has to be embraced for it to succeed. While some of the technology comes at a price – perhaps one that superintendents think they can’t afford or that their courses’ decision-makers will quickly reject – they need to do their due diligence before simply rejecting it.
In fact, they need to do their due diligence like they’ve never done before. The technology they think they might not be able to afford could be something they can pay for in water savings in five or 10 years.
If they don’t, their courses could very well be defunct.
Photo above courtesy of Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club.