Water Conservation, Quality Golf Conditions Being Teed Up in Boulder City

It’s a delicate balance these days for Southern Nevada golf course leaders. An ongoing severe drought in the Western United States means course owners, management and superintendents need to be proactive in planning for water conservation while maintaining quality conditions. –By Brian Hurlburt

Such planning is underway at the two city-owned golf courses in Boulder City, Boulder Creek Golf Club and Boulder City Golf Course.

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According to Andy Schaper, general manager and director of operations for the courses, a variety of plans are being put in place to meld these two important goals together. Schaper and his team are dedicated to provide a quality golfing experience while also being responsible environmental stewards.

The two golf courses in Boulder City have long had strong reputations when it comes to conditions and value. Schaper and his course maintenance team, led by the experienced Byron Hinds of Turf Tech Management, are up to the challenge on each level, but admit that the course conditioning will be different and unique moving forward.

Boulder Creek

“Our first plan of attack is to not facilitate our overseeding processes that we have done for so many years, which right away means we will save on the water that we would use throughout the fall season when we grew in the cool season grass that remains green throughout the winter,” Schaper says. “Another part of our plan is at Boulder City Golf Course, we will be identifying areas where we are going to remove turf that is in non-playable areas that won’t diminish the quality of the golf course and the playability of the golf course. There is also an outdated sprinkler system in use at Boulder City and we will be upgrading that as part of overall capital improvement plans. That will be a gamechanger in managing our water use at that historic course. At Boulder Creek, we will be cutting water use to some of the native, non-golf course areas and identifying some ponds that aren’t useful. Again, all of this is being done without any impact on the golf course playability or quality.”

The decision to not overseed golf courses has become a trend in Southern Nevada. As this trend continues to expand, it is interesting to note that TPC Summerlin, home of the Shriners Children’s Open PGA Tour event since 1992, has not overseeded for many years and maintains highly-playable conditions year-round.

But, no question, there are pros and cons when it comes to not overseeding.

Among the benefits are that non-overseeded courses remain open for play and in terrific condition during September, October and early November, when our Southern Nevada weather is perfect for golf. The dreaded “overseed” season (September and October) for Southern Nevada golfers has always been met with a collective “Ugh.”

Also, since a large amount of water is needed to help allow the overseeded rye grass to grow, even when a course reopens post overseed, there are usually cart-path-only restrictions and soggy conditions for a period of time.

Arguably the main drawback to not overseeding is that the grass will go dormant when the temperatures begin to get colder. This can be a shock to golfers who expect to see green grass throughout the winter, but Schaper says it is important for golfers to understand that just because the course may look different, the playability still remains high.

“We aren’t hiding the fact that things will be different moving forward, but hopefully golfers can embrace it and actually enjoy it when they understand what is happening.” Schaper says. “Due to not overseeding, golfers will play a more natural type golf course that is firm and fast in the winter and they will get a lot of roll off the tee and other shots. Our goal is that if we can get people to realize that even though it isn’t the same as it has been, it still can be a fun condition to go play. Moving forward, golfers will play two different types of golf course during the year at one facility, so that is something that can be interesting and challenging.”

For our money, the coolest byproduct of playing non-overseeded courses is the addition 20 or 30 yards of distance to drives due to firmer and faster conditions. Who doesn’t love that?

And to put golfers at ease, the greens will remain in good condition throughout the year and not go dormant.

Schaper believes that educating the golfing public and his loyal customers on why the courses won’t be overseeded is a key to success during this transitional time in the golf industry.

While it may not be the perfect solution, Schaper understands the overall situation and has support to make things happen.

“Obviously in the Southwest, our water situation means our turf management processes have become different,” Schaper says. “What used to be nice green fairways on top of dormant Bermuda in the winter is now going to be a full dormant golf course with painted fairways. We are doing this to be good stewards of water while also keeping the quality of experience top of mind. I want to reiterate the fact that hopefully golfers won’t take the fast, firm conditions as a bad thing, but just as a moment each year for different and unique conditions and embrace the challenge.”

As Schaper says, during the dormant parts of the year, roughly late November through mid-March, the fairways will be painted with green grass paint. He says the quality of fairway paint has improved dramatically and there are other reasons to “throw down” the paint.

The paint is utilized not just for aesthetic purposes because the paint actually helps slow down the Bermuda grass cooling process as winter approaches and also warms up the grass more quickly as temperatures begin to climb in the spring, which speeds up the natural greening process.

Boulder Creek hosts several collegiate tournaments and is also a host site for Shriners Children’s Open PGA Tour qualifying. Schaper says the players and coaches who travel from the Midwest for the college events understand the different conditions they will encounter as a byproduct of the non-overseed.

“In the Midwest states that aren’t under snow, they are used to dormant conditions and that is the way they play,” Schaper says. “We have explained our plan to the tournament organizers who hold tournaments here in February or March, and they have told us that they are used to that type of conditions and have been supportive.”

Led by Schaper and his team, the courses in Boulder City are part of an overall network in Nevada that is working together to provide the best practices to keep the golf industry vital and vibrant during challenging times.

Recently, the Southern Nevada Golf Course Superintendents Association along with their Sierra Nevada counterparts created an expansive “Best Management Practices Guide”, of which a large portion is dedicated to water management. As a result, other Western locales are turning to Nevada’s experts as they create their own water use and conservation plans.

The Guide also includes statistics about the overall economic impact of golf in Nevada. The state is home to 88 golf facilities that generate $1.981 billion in total economic output, produce over 17,500 direct, indirect and induced jobs, and contribute more than $138 million in state and local tax revenue. They also serve as a significant driver of tourism to the Silver State, with traveling golfers spending an estimated $744.3 million on golf-related activities.

“Collaboration and Conservation Potable water supplies in Nevada are limited, and demand continues to grow,” reads an entry in the guide. “Our challenge is to find solutions to maintain the quality of golf while using less water. Collaboration with partners such as the Desert Research Institute (DRI) can help with this aspect of the BMP. For example, reducing irrigation water use by improving irrigation scheduling.”

Schaper and Boulder City are doing their part. And he hopes golfers will be supportive and empathetic because we are all in this together.

For complete Boulder City golf information and tee times, visit GolfBoulderCity.com. Also, the courses are official golf course partners of LasVegasGolfInsider.com.