Collaboration is key to responsible water conservation
Working together with public and private partners is necessary if golf is to reduce its water usage and support local communities, at a time when extreme weather and rising temperatures are causing ‘mega’ droughts and global shortages.
Golf is often the target of environmentalists who believe the sport uses too many resources.
We know from recent report Golf & Social Media: Sustainability that the perception towards golf, particularly around water use, is largely negative.
Many inside golf know the sport must work harder to be part of the solution to the deepening climate crisis.
Here, Syngenta Golf shines a light on examples of organisations and individuals working in partnership to advance golf’s approach to water conservation.
Matteo Serena: USGA academic making every drop count
Matteo Serena is a member of the USGA’s Green Section research team and has one of the most pressing jobs in turf.
Serena, from Northern Italy, works alongside superintendents, researchers, allied golf associations, and stakeholders to promote responsible water conservation.
“Without water, there’s nothing growing,” says Serena, Senior Manager of Irrigation Research and Services at the USGA, in a wide-ranging interview with Golf.com.
The USGA has spent more than $40m on turf-related research since 1921, much of it focused on water conservation.
Leading by example: Recycled Water programs
Leading golf venues across the world demonstrate best practice on water conservation by using 100 percent recycled water that is reclaimed and processed from wastewater generated by local communities.
Finca Cortesin, in Andalucia, Spain, was the venue for the 2023 Solheim Cup.
It works with Acosol, the public company tasked with water supply and management on the western Costa Del Sol. Acosol pumps recycled water through a 5km network of pipes from the nearby town of Manilva to Finca Cortesin, where it is stored in irrigation lakes.
“In a region like Spain, where dry periods are prevalent, every drop of water is precious,” said Ignacio Soto, Director of Agronomy at Finca Cortesin.
Promoting natural playing areas saves precious resources
The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) encourages its members to be the custodians of green spaces and leaders in environmental stewardship.
Data from a 2022 GCSAA survey on water waste revealed that courses in the USA used 29 per cent less water in 2020 compared to 2005.
- Interview: Gina Rizzi on best management practices for Superintendents
Golf facilities can play a major role in helping to conserve water and preserve the environment, natural habitats and eco-systems.
GCSAA says superintendents can support this by breeding drought-tolerant grasses, cultivating water-resistant vegetation, naturalizing courses and reducing the acreage of irrigated fine and manicured turf, a view shared by sustainability experts.
“Golf courses should be more natural looking, sustainable golf courses need less water and by reducing in-play areas we are improving the natural parts of the course and using less water, which means less energy and fuel for mowers and fewer hours for the greenkeeping teams,” says Giulia Ferroni, an Independent Assessor for the GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf and Managing Director of Leeds Golf Design.
“I think that golf’s greatest challenge will be having to deal with scarcity of resources, water and energy,” adds Ferroni.
Other examples of partnership working to advance water conservation include private companies investing in academic research to introduce heat tolerant grasses to market, such as Auburn University’s groundbreaking AU Victory variety of bentgrass.