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July 22, 2016

Wiser water use on the golf course

golf course
Golf courses provide benefits well beyond a good round of the game when they are cared for in an environmentally friendly manner. A collaboration between University of Minnesota Extension and Minnesota Golf Course Superintendents Association (MGCSA), has helped golf courses reduce water use by 22 percent in recent years.


Extension and the MGCSA are planning an environmental certification program for golf courses in the state. The goal is to assess the current operation of golf courses and to make suggestions to improve the environmental sustainability. The Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency have been engaged in this conversation and are providing support of the initiative.

“Golf courses share the same responsibility as the rest of us in our communities—to consume less water,” says Brian Horgan, Extension turfgrass specialist. “At the same time, they are responsible for a playable and appealing landscape that offers a healthy habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.” Horgan is leading The Science of the Green research initiative, including a 5-year research partnership with the United States Golf Association.

“Golf is a $2.3 billion industry in Minnesota,” says Jack MacKenzie, executive director of the MGCSA. “With the majority of the state’s golf courses in need of updates and repairs, the collaboration is taking the opportunity to connect superintendents to knowledge on how to make golf courses friendlier for pollinators and nearby waters. This is the emphasis of the planned certification program. Enhanced stewardship is important to the public perception of golf and golf courses. We think of a local golf course as a community’s largest rain garden.”

Basics of the program will include:
  • Assessing the site
  • Auditing the irrigation system
  • Scouting by staff
  • Taking advantage of technology
  • Using good cultural practices
  • Using drought-tolerant turf
Read 8 questions with Chris Tritabaugh, golf course superintendent at Hazeltine National Golf Club, home of the 2016 Ryder Cup
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