Architect Richardson says Design for Drought

By |  September 4, 2012

By Curt Harler
            Especially in dry years, there is a cost to keeping every square foot of turf green. That cost comes in dollars and in lost sleep.
“The best way to reduce your stress and stress on your turf is to have less turf,” says Golf Course Architect Forrest Richardson, ASGCA. “The number one strategy is reducing turf area.” He is the principal with Forrest Richardson & Associates in Phoenix.
While that may seem an obvious way to cut droughty areas, he finds that many superintendents and owners overlook that easy step. Cut the green area from 140 acres to 105 and there is that much less area to worry about.
Less grass to water and maintain means fewer headaches.
Less water on the rest of the turf is the next step.
“Certainly, you want the course to be enjoyable and playable,” he acknowledges. “But you’d be surprised how easy it is to get by with 10-percent less water.”
Distant roughs and areas around the tees are the first place to cut back irrigation. While greens, tees and landing areas should be watered, the side and back areas around the tee boxes do not need water. In fact, the area in front of the tee box sees less than a half-percent of play, Richardson figures. So cut the water there, too. 

Another tip is to replace secondary areas with drought-tolerant fescue. “It will look good,” Richardson assures.
Lastly, a bit of communication with the membership can go a long way to having the players assimilate those yellow and yellow-brown areas into their experience. “All turf is naturally drought-tolerant and can go through dry periods. All turf can be taken to a certain stress level and survive,” Richardson says. His point can be repeated in a short item in the club newsletter or on the pro shop bulletin board. It can go a long way to letting golfers know what management is doing.
“Let your golfers know that a bit of brown or yellow is not a bad thing,” he says.
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