How Scottsdale Golf Courses Handle Sustainability
Did you know that according to the Arizona Golf Alliance, the state’s golf industry accounts for just two percent of the state’s overall total water use? Efficient management of that precious resource is critical, but Scottsdale golf courses are striving to enhance sustainability in many different ways, too. Here are several examples of sustainability efforts at golf courses in Scottsdale.
Everyone checks the weather forecast before planning or heading out for a round of golf, right? Same goes for the agronomy team at the courses, too. At The Westin Kierland Golf Club, an upgraded weather station installed near the second and fourth holes on the Ironwood nine features state-of-the art technology that aids Director of Agronomy Dan Figueras and his team with programming decisions for irrigation by using real-time, accurate data.
Golf carts are a very comfortable way to get around courses in Scottsdale. But what powers them up for every 18-hole journey? At The Phoenician Golf Course, new lithium batteries have been installed in all 90 golf carts. “The lithium batteries have had a huge impact on our golf operations,” said Ryan McKay, Director of Golf and Tennis. “The charging time has gone down significantly, which has saved us in electricity costs, and we can easily send out our carts twice a day, if necessary. We also have saved on labor by not having to add water to the batteries, which was a necessity with ‘Lead Acid’ types.”
Irrigation systems provide life to the fairways and greens on courses everywhere, but the manner in which water is distributed has been enhanced by recent advances in technology. Boulders Resort & Spa has invested in two new state-of-the-art pump stations, one for each of its 18- hole courses. “Each station can operate at 2,000 gallons of water per minute,” said Ryan Schroder, Director of Agronomy. “The previous station operated at around half that amount, so a 7-hour water window is now shrunk to down to 3.5 hours, and energy consumption is estimated to be cut in half.” Other water conservation efforts include not overseeding rough areas or on the driving range, which means up to a 40 percent annual savings.
Mowers used to cut grass come back full of grass clippings, fertilizers and other materials, which can include petroleum-based products such as oil, gas, or grease. At Ak-Chin Southern Dunes in Maricopa, a Bio Skid from Superior Cleaning Equipment is used for the mower wash pad. “When those byproducts are washed off each mower into a self-contained area, they get treated to remove any harmful products,” said Brady Wilson, General Manager. “The ‘greenwater,’ or water with all the natural grass nutrients still in it, is then stored in a tank. When we go to mix whatever application we are going to apply to the golf course with the sprayer, we dilute the initial chemical with this green water, which means we use less water and are recycling used water back into the golf course.”
Ben Hogan famously said the secret to his success was “in the dirt.” He was referring to his legendary practice routine, but the dirt also provides the agronomy team at Grayhawk Golf Club with plenty of answers, too. Since 2020, they’ve been able to instantly spot-test soil condition anywhere on the course, but especially on the greens, with a tire-pump-looking probe created by Stevens Water Monitoring Systems In Portland, Oregon. After inserting the tool’s prongs two inches deep into the turf on the front, middle and back of each green, information about moisture, salinity levels and soil temperature is communicated directly to a phone app that reveals wet and/or dry spots on the green. Those numbers could indicate a sprinkler head not working, or one that might be placing too much water on one particular spot. The end result is increased water usage efficiency. “We use it every other day during the week on both the Raptor and Talon Course,” said Ryan Voyles, assistant superintendent, Raptor Course. “But during the NCAA Championships here last May, we used it on the Raptor Course every day. It’s a very handy tool to have.”