The recent ASGCA Annual Meeting in La Jolla, California, included a lively panel discussion focused on “Lessons Learned from the California Drought.” Corey Ross of “Southland Golf” magazine attended and reports on the proactive steps ASGCA members are taking – along with course owners and local and state officials – to face the challenges head on.

Ross writes, “Facing a fourth year of severe drought, architects are helping Southern California courses plan for the worst with strategies such as turf reduction to reduce water usage, and this was before Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandate for cutbacks.

“(USGA’s Patrick) Gross estimates that 75 percent of Southern California courses will participate in turf reduction to some degree, an estimate confirmed by Dave Linngren of Landscapes Unlimited, a leading course design and construction company.

“’I would say three out of four courses are either doing it, looking at it, in the application process or working with an engineer,’ said Linngren, whose company did its first reduction projects a year ago, including one at Carmel Mountain Ranch in San Diego.

“Carmel Mountain Ranch, Poppy Hills and some Southern California country clubs, including Wilshire in Los Angeles, have completed projects, and industry officials have also lauded other high-end public courses such as Pelican Hill in Newport Coast and Barona Creek in Lakeside for their sustainability efforts. In the largest turf-removal project to date, Carmel Mountain eliminated 50 acres of turf, largely from tee boxes and perimeter areas, and replaced it with redwood bark, decomposed granite and drought-resistant plants. The eventual annual water savings is projected to be 400 million gallons.

“The challenge is to get golfers to embrace the ‘brown is the new green’ mantra espoused about sandy and sparsely vegetated areas at Pinehurst No. 2 during last year’s U.S. Open that will also be the case at this month’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in Washington.

“’Brown is beautiful,’ said Chad Ritterbusch, executive director of the ASGCA. ‘We need to help golfers understand what the course of the future is going to look like.’

“Ritterbusch is banking on the future being bright because present challenges are being met with ‘unprecedented creativity and problem-solving.’

“’Our members domestically are working to provide new solutions to golf courses that are being operated in a different way than 15 or 20 years ago,’ he said. ‘Turf reduction is just one example.’”

The entire “Southland Golf” article can be found here.