The Golfdom Files: Prince William windmill cuts electric, water bill

By |  May 18, 2015 0 Comments
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Photo: Golfdom

Saving money. Everyone wants to do it on their course. ¶ In the July 1980 Golf Business (yes, we had a different name at that time and no, we don’t like to talk about it), Jospeh Gambatese wrote about Billy Dillon and Charles Staples, former course pros turned course operators, and how they looked outside of golf for inspiration to save money. Dillon saw farmers using windmills to pump water from wells and Staples agreed to utilize this practice on the course. ¶ After a $3,000 investment on the windmill, Dillon and Staples were able to save on both the water and electric bills. The pair took the rundown course back to profit and then were asked to manage two more courses in the area because of their success. ¶ To read the rest of this article, including Dillon’s “four essential elements in a successful course maintenance program,” visit golfdom.com/exclusive.

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Billy Dillon got the idea from farmers in Purcellville, Va., where he was golf professional at Loudon Golf & Country Club. Many of them irrigate their farm with water pumped from a well by a windmill.

Why not, Dillon thought, use the same method to water the public golf course he and Charles Staples had just leased in Nokesville, Va., some 40 miles from Washington? Staples’ reaction: Why not?

That is why today, in its second year of operation, a 28-foot windmill over a well behind the 18th tee of Prince William Public Golf Course pumps as much as 15 gallons of water a minute through two four-inch pipes into two small storage lakes in front of the tee.

From these lakes, water is pumped 800 yards through another four-inch pipe to a larger lake, which comes to play as a hazard on the fourth, fifth and 13th holes.

A watering system from this lake is nearing completion. It now carries water to sprinkler heads on all 18 tees and 10 greens. The remaining eight greens will soon be tied into the system.

“The previous owners watered the course from the two small lakes,” Staples recalled. “They barely provided enough water under normal weather conditions. During a recent drought, they went dry. The big lake had water but there was no way to use it. All the greens were lost. We don’t want that to happen to us.”

Staples was golf professional at the prestigious Aronimink Golf Club, near Philadelphia, site of the 1977 U.S. Amateur and 1962 PGA championships, when he and Dillon decided to go into business together. They had known each other when Staples was at International Town & C.C., Fairfax, Va., before going to Aronimink.

Leasing the golf course from Prince William County was their first venture. The previous owners, Greenwich C.C., were going through bankruptcy when the county bought the 150-acre property. The course was rundown, naturally, and needed a lot of work. Staples and Dillon have done such an impressive job of management that they have since been retained to manage two other northern Virginia courses, Evergreen, a private club 16 miles away, and Goose Creek, a public course another 16 miles beyond Evergreen.

Their first objective was to assure an adequate water supply needed to put and maintain the Prince William course in top condition. They got the 250-foot well dug for $1,500. They built concrete footings on which they mounted a 28-foot Dempster windmill with eight-foot wheel and tail, which cost another $1,500 and had to be assembled.

Besides providing adequate water, the windmill saves money in electrical as well as water bills.

“We don’t have a program for watering,” Staples says. “When and how much we water depends on the weather and the needs of the grass. If there is no rain, we might water every night, or every other night, or during the day to cool down the greens.”

Once they had the water problem solved, their overall objective was one of keeping the golf course green and cut.

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