Managing without water
On the 5th of April seven of Britain’s major water companies reacted to the recent lengthy spell of dry weather by imposing hosepipe bans over a large area of southern and eastern England.
It has been estimated that as many as 20 million people will be affected by the bans which are likely to last throughout the summer and golfers could be among the worst hit.
The ban means that golf clubs within the affected areas which do not have their own reservoir or other independent source of water will be entirely at the mercy of the elements and with little rain forecast it is hardly surprising that some clubs are already seeking advice on the legality of the companies’ actions.
There is little doubt that a lengthy hosepipe ban will have a detrimental effect on the vast majority of golf clubs within the affected area but if there is one consolation to be taken from this difficult situation it is that club officials might start to think more carefully about the way they use water to irrigate their courses.
I would suggest a large number of golf clubs are extremely wasteful when it comes to using this increasingly precious resource and believe it is incumbent on all clubs to see what they can do to improve things moving forwards. The current situation is far too serious to be described as an opportunity but if nothing else it might lead to more discussion about water usage and that can only be beneficial in the long term.
Coping with less water
The R&A has long been supportive of all efforts to reduce the use of water on golf courses and at this point it might well be worth highlighting some of the ways this can be done by directing readers to a link to the Water Resources area of this website.
Within that section The R&A states the availability of quality drinking water is the single largest global environmental issue and for that reason alone it is incumbent on all golf clubs and all golf club officials to use this resource more efficiently.
The introduction to this section states categorically that many golf courses use too much water and it is hard to disagree.
R&A agronomists and environmentalists go on to list eleven key ways in which golf clubs can minimise their water usage and all would have an immediate impact if implemented.
It is hoped that at the very least these are the sort of things that clubs elect to do now that the hosepipe ban has brought the importance of water to their attention and with a bit of luck that might well just be a start.
Managing water better
Since the hosepipe ban has come into effect I have heard of several greenkeepers in my area of Hertfordshire who have purchased moisture monitoring devices with the inference being that from now onwards they will be endeavouring to water only the areas that actually need it. That will result in considerable savings and in time will also help to promote indigenous fescues and bents.
My own home club is also currently investigating the possibility of building its own reservoir complete with harvesting facility and that would have an even more dramatic effect on water usage.
The experts have told us we could find 40% of the water we currently use by harvesting it off our car park and clubhouse roof and while I have difficulty in believing that claim it would be fair to say that even a 10-20% saving would represent a huge benefit to the local environment.
A better game?
There are a large number of ways the game of golf can reduce its water usage moving forward but arguably one of the best is to educate golfers at large to understand that a course does not have to been green to be both healthy and playable. That was a message that partially got across back in 2006 when Tiger Woods won his third Open title at a dry and dusty Hoylake but I cannot help but feel it has been forgotten in the interim.
It is somewhat ironic that the English hosepipe ban was introduced on the week of the Masters tournament because it is the TV pictures of a verdant Augusta National which has coloured (excuse the pun) expectations of what a good golf course should look like.
Over the four days of this year’s Masters tournament literally millions of golfers will marvel at the beauty of Augusta and want their own course to look like it while conveniently forgetting (or not understanding) this would be neither affordable nor sustainable for the average golf course.
My hope this summer is that we get enough intermittent rain to keep our courses alive and healthy but at the same time I wouldn’t mind at all if it remains dry enough to remind us that playing on firm and fast surfaces is a great deal of fun.