Golf Course Management

OCT 2014

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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38 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 10.14 Bunny Smith twitter: @GCM_Magazine Nestled in the west San Fernando Valley, among the rolling foothills of the Santa Mon - ica Mountains, Woodland Hills Country Club has been feeling the pain of a three-year drought along with the rest of Southern Cal - ifornia. For the club's superintendent, main- taining the golf course around water restric- tions isn't exactly breaking news. "Unfortunately, weather has always dic - tated our water use as much as anything else," says Steve Sinclair, CGCS, who's been heading up golf course operations at Woodland Hills for the past 22 years. So Sinclair began pinching off the spigots fve years ago with the frst phase in a planned reduction of maintained turf. At this 89-year- old layout, built at the height of the "golden age" of golf course architecture and designed by renowned architect William "Billy" Bell Sr., that's a tricky business. "We had to start small," says Sinclair, who is a 23-year member of GCSAA. "This is a tight old course, built in 1925 on 70 acres." By the numbers, that means the mainte - nance team's accomplishment of replacing 7 acres of turf with several types of naturalized areas has reduced inputs to one-tenth of the golf course. On the hillsides, beds of mulch planted with species such as lantana, acacia and rock rose that are native to Southern Cali - fornia resemble a desert landscape. An effcient drip-irrigation system keeps these "known low-water-users" alive through the worst of the drought, Sinclair says. Level areas have been seeded with warm-season native grasses — dotted here and there with desert marigold "for color and contrast." These areas, where the grasses can grow as tall as 2 feet in the summer, require little to no irrigation. "The aesthetics of the golf course have changed quite a bit. Either they (members) loved it or they hated it," Sinclair recalls. "Now most have grown to accept it." What might be easier to accept is the 10 per - cent savings in water costs, which Sinclair says have doubled over the last seven years. The club also took advantage of a $1-per-square-foot re - bate from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to move sprinkler heads, install the drip irrigation and plant native species. Sinclair points out that superintendents (water) "The aesthetics of the golf course have changed quite a bit. Either they (members) loved it or they hated it. Now most have grown to accept it." — Steve Sinclair, CGCS pondering similar projects should know that "natural" is not the same as "easy." "I think it's more work to maintain a na - tive area than to maintain turf," he says. "Don't look at it as labor-saving, especially in the frst couple of years." Seeding of the newest naturalized areas was completed as recently as last month, and Sinclair says he will be taking up the matter of designating additional areas for naturalization at the club's next board meeting. The timing couldn't be more critical, given the ongoing drought and the recent news that the club will have to wait until 2019 to receive reclaimed water — not next year, as the city had previ - ously promised. "Rainfall would solve a lot of problems here," Sinclair says. Bunny Smith is GCM 's senior managing editor. The natural Water savings at Southern California's Woodland Hills CC have been achieved by installing native ornamentals in mulch beds on hillsides (top) and planting warm-season native grasses in fat spots (bottom). Photos courtesy of Steve Sinclair

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