Practical Measures for Sustainable Management

Handout for the presentation on this topic by Micah Woods on 12 March 2014 at the Sustainable Turfgrass Management in Asia conference at Pattaya, Thailand.


The R&A have described sustainability in golf as:

optimising the playing quality of the golf course, in harmony with the conservation of its natural environment, under economically sound and socially responsible management

Are there steps that one can take in the direction of sutainability? That is, what can a facility practically do to move towards optimised playing quality, conservation of the environment, economic soundness, and social responsibility?

Wendy Gelernter, Larry Stowell, and I wrote about this in Documenting you progress toward sustainability, published in the December 2013 issue of GCM Magazine.

These practical measures are:

  1. Reduce maintained turf area. This reduces inputs, mowing, and cost.
  2. Monitor fertilizer inputs and costs. The MLSN guidelines can be used to ensure nutrients are supplied in adequate amounts to produce high quality turf. To include your facility in a project to validate and improve these guidelines, participate in the Global Soil Survey.
  3. Measure total mass and toxicity of pesticides applied. Use the tracking method outlined in the article, or use the EIQ calculator to most accurately evaluate the environmental impact quotient of pesticides.
  4. Track the amount of water applied. Use as little water as possible. Use recycled water if possible.
  5. Track the cost and amount of fuel used.
  6. Track the amount of electricity used and its cost.
  7. Monitor and track other relevant inputs at your facility.

Note that these practical measures are not only moving a facility in the direction of more sustainability according to The R&A's concise definition, these measures are also a minimum requirement for most environmental certification programs, such as the GEO Certified™ ecolabel.

By reviewing these inputs and costs on an annual basis, a facility can evaluate just how much improvement has been made, and can identify areas in which further steps can be taken.

Other numbers in turf management

It seems every golf course superintendent knows the mowing height of each area of the course. I'm surprised sometimes, however, when a turf manager doesn't know these other numbers that are of vital importance to producing good turfgrass surfaces. To optimise playing quality while conserving the natural environment under economically sound management, one really should know, without having to check some distant file, these numbers.

  1. mowing height
  2. managed turf area (m\( ^2 \))
  3. nutrient inputs, monthly, year-to-date, and annual target
  4. irrigation water use
  5. coring, surface area affected
  6. sand topdressing, annual target
  7. root depth

That list could be extended, but turf manaagers at the courses with the best turf quality and the most sustainable management will have that information readily available. Unfortunately, it seems that the courses suffering from turf problems will often be the same ones at which these important numbers are unknown.

Additional information

The R&A's Golf Course Management Page contains information, resources, and tools, especially the CourseTracker service, all related to effective and sustainable course management.

For more information about turfgrass management in Asia, see the Asian Turfgrass Center blog.