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Without a doubt, more has been done in recent years to protect the environment than ever before.  And golf courses are no exception.  For too long, some believed that golf courses were a burden to the environment because they were large expanses of green space being managed with herbicides, fertilizers, and pesticides or required too much land to be built.   However, recent non-biased studies have supported what golf course architects and superintendents have known for years--properly managed golf courses actually improve their surrounding ecosystems!  And at Watermark Golf, we believe that it all begins with the design and planning of the course, whether it's a new design or renovations to an existing course.

 

"Until golfers here in the States will be content with less-than-perfect agronomic conditions, we can and should undertake carefully planned steps in the design phase to conserve resources, minimize impacts, and improve the surrounding ecosystem when the course is complete.  We can't sit around and wait for new cultivars of drought tolerant turf grasses or a change in the desires of golfers--both of which would take years.  We as designers must take the initiative to be proactive from day one." 

 -- Nathan Crace, Watermark Golf/Nathan Crace Design

 

In addition to developing drainage systems to recycle irrigation water back into the course's lake system and creating natural areas for wildlife habitats (as well as to reduce maintenance needs), other less-conspicuous factors should also be considered.  This can include anything from the shaping of lake banks to minimize the potential for runoff and the creation of natural wetland "filters" within the course to the location of the Natural Resource Management Center (a.k.a. the maintenance facility) to minimize fuel used for transportation by turf equipment and the use of skylights in the NRMC to minimize the use of electricity during daylight hours. (cont. below)

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More often than not, holes must be routed around and over environmentally sensitive areas throughout the golf course property.  The 14th hole at Copper Mill Golf Club (the green is shown above and a diagram of the hole is shown below) is one such example.  This par 5 utilizes the areas between the wetland areas to create "target" landing areas for the tee shot and second shot, before navigating a well-bunkered green complex for your third shot.

But proper environmental care on the golf course begins with proper planning and design.  More than just a handful of native areas in out-of-play parts of the course or some wetland flora planted on a lake bank, a proactive approach must be taken to ensure the long-term viability of a course's natural resource programs.  To accomplish this, we believe that--as the golf course architectural firm--our goal is to work with the builders, owners and operators through active involvement in a well-planned strategy that encompasses all areas of the facility's design and operations.  More than just during design and construction, this is precisely why we at Watermark Golf strive to be environmental stewards--subscribing to the theory that not only can golf and nature co-exist, but that they also must do so in a synergy that enables both to thrive and maximize the other's fullest potential while protecting the integrity of both. (cont. below)

Inspired by an abandoned dwelling that had burned down near the turn of the century, Mr. Crace designed these "faux ruins" to stand guard along the left side of the fairway on the dogleg right par-4 17th hole at Copper Mill Golf Club.  In addition to serving as a target from the tee, they help to anchor the creek which meanders across the fairway of this scenic hole and are surrounded by a native area frequented by birds.

Mr. Crace has also presented these concepts in both public and private forums during speaking engagements and presentations to regulatory agencies in an effort to further the cause for the environmental benefits of well-managed golf courses.   As a member of the American Planning Association, he is a firm believer in the proper planning and programming of such large-scale projects.  For our firm, this includes utilizing golf courses not only as testing grounds for natural resource conservation, but also as "living laboratories" for continuously improving the interaction between golf courses and the environment.  For example, he is a proponent of the use of golf courses as dynamic filtering systems to buffer lakes, streams, and aquifers from urban sprawl and hard surface developments.   This is just one of the key ways in which we can assist you in developing a properly-managed golf course that can not only avoid negative impacts on its surrounding ecosystem, but in fact actually improve the current condition of the environment it supports.

 

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