CRI­SIS, WHAT CRI­SIS!

Western Cape clubs im­pro­vise as water us­age is sub­stan­tially re­duced.

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - The Golf Life WATER CONSERVATION - BY STU­ART MCLEAN

Golfers this sum­mer have re­acted with shock, hor­ror and sym­pa­thy to the im­ages of sun-drenched cour­ses in the Cape Penin­sula and Winelands, af­fected by the re­gion’s water cri­sis. When an aerial photo of the Metropoli­tan 9-holer near the Cape Town Water­front went vi­ral on so­cial me­dia, show­ing the stark con­trast be­tween dark­coloured greens and fair­ways burned white by the sun, Met mem­bers had to as­sure the out­side world that they were very happy with the way their course was play­ing, and turned down the gen­er­ous of­fers to play else­where on some­thing greener.

City slick­ers are so used to play­ing on lush green golf cour­ses, with wall-to-wall ir­ri­ga­tion, that brown cour­ses dis­turb them. It’s ei­ther a sign of ex­treme drought, or a golf club too poor to af­ford ir­ri­ga­tion. Vis­ually they take get­ting used to, but drier cour­ses with fair­ways a lighter shade of green are healthy, very playable, and fun for club golfers, who find them­selves driv­ing the ball fur­ther off the tee, and hit­ting crisper iron shots off tighter lies, not spongy ones.

Iron­i­cally, be­fore the water cri­sis led to re­stric­tions, Metropoli­tan was so over-wa­tered that drives left pitch marks in the fair­ways, and there was lit­tle run. It’s now gone to the op­po­site ex­treme, but some­thing in be­tween might be more ap­pre­ci­ated by golfers. That sce­nario ap­plies to sev­eral cour­ses in the Cape, where green­keep­ers have to deal with hot, dry, windy sum­mers and in past years have been un­der­stand­ably prof­li­gate with water.

Yet the water cri­sis has not only forced golf clubs in the re­gion to dras­ti­cally re­duce their daily water con­sump­tion this sum­mer, but also take a crit­i­cal look at their fu­ture ir­ri­ga­tion strat­egy. Even when the rains re­turn, and water hope­fully be­comes plen­ti­ful again, bet­ter man­age­ment of this re­source is needed.

Cu­ri­ously, not all Cape cour­ses have been treated equally by the cri­sis. Some have more water for ir­ri­ga­tion than oth­ers, thanks to bore­holes or a

Royal Cape ini­tia­tives

plen­ti­ful ef­flu­ent water sup­ply. King David Mow­bray has re­mained as green as any Gaut­eng golf course, which is why the Sun­shine Tour asked the club at a late stage to take over the host­ing of the Cape Town Open from Royal Cape, which re­lies solely on rain­wa­ter from their course dams. ● ●● In­ci­den­tally, Royal Cape was not un­fit to host the tour­na­ment. The course may be dry, with balls gal­lop­ing along the fair­ways, but the rea­son be­hind the change of venue for the Cape Town Open was that Royal Cape found them­selves hav­ing to host two ma­jor events in three weeks. The No­mads Na­tion­als be­gin there on March 4, and the club felt they didn’t have enough water to pre­pare ad­e­quately for both.

Royal Cape have prac­tised sound water man­age­ment for a few years, their course su­per­in­ten­dent Gaeren Wilkin­son be­ing one of those rare in­di­vid­u­als who be­lieves in starv­ing grass with the cor­rect amount of water ap­pli­ca­tion. How­ever, after a rea­son­ably dry win­ter in 2017, Royal Cape had to re­duce their water us­age even fur­ther, by 60% for greens and 80% for fair­ways, ac­cord­ing to GM Cassie Viljoen. The rough got no water what­so­ever. “Our fair­ways have be­come very dry, but they re­main playable,” said Viljoen. “I’ve never hit the driver this long, the ball rolls for­ever!” Viljoen ob­served that there seemed to be fewer in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors play­ing golf in Cape Town be­cause of the cri­sis. “The few clubs that have the lux­ury of treated ef­flu­ent water for their cour­ses will have the edge on the mar­ket com­pared to the rest of us.”

At Royal Cape, water-sav­ing ini­tia­tives have in­cluded clean­ing golf carts with brooms, and in­stalling mats on the driv­ing range to re­duce wear and tear. Wet­ting agents are used to re­tain water/mois­ture in the greens.

Most golf clubs in the Cape have ei­ther switched off their locker room showers al­to­gether, or dis­cour­aged their use by ask­ing mem­bers to bring their own tow­els. Metropoli­tan was told by the city coun­cil to switch off their showers. Re­source­ful mem­bers be­gan bring­ing 20-litre camp­ing water bags that you can hang in the showers. Racks of them are laid out in the sun be­fore­hand to warm up.

Devon­vale GC in the Winelands was dry a year ago, with the water in their enor­mous dam in the cen­tre of the course slowly drain­ing away. The es­tate is now us­ing 200 000 litres daily, com­pared to be­tween one and two mil­lion in boun­ti­ful times.

A far­sighted com­mit­tee at Dur­banville planned for the fu­ture with the con­struc­tion of a deep reser­voir to tide them through the dry sum­mer months, but are us­ing a min­i­mal 50% of their nor­mal con­sump­tion to keep greens and tees alive

Turn­ing off the sprin­klers

Re­sorts, which would like to have their cour­ses more ver­dant to keep tourists happy, are usu­ally bet­ter pro­vided for in terms of water re­sources than mem­ber clubs. Ara­bella have bore­holes and dams to stay green, yet have still cut back dras­ti­cally on ir­ri­ga­tion, by a mil­lion litres a day.

“Re­spon­si­ble water us­age has al­ways been ap­pli­ca­ble since the re­sort was opened nearly 20 years ago,” said di­rec­tor of golf Mike Munro.

“The es­tate does not make use of any mu­nic­i­pal water sources. We have our own water­works sys­tem which in­cludes a sew­er­age treat­ment fa­cil­ity. We use ef­flu­ent water on the course. We’re also wa­ter­ing in the evenings to pre­vent evap­o­ra­tion loss.” Munro noted that the Over­berg re­gion, where Ara­bella is sit­u­ated, close to Her­manus, is in a stronger po­si­tion re­gard­ing water re­serves com­pared to Cape Town.

Pearl Val­ley es­tate near Fran­schhoek in the Winelands has had to over­come hot tem­per­a­tures and windy weather while at the same time deal­ing with the fact that their Jack Nick­laus sig­na­ture course has cool sea­son grasses on the fair­ways. They are ex­cel­lent in the win­ter, but re­quire ex­tra water in the sum­mer.

Pearl Val­ley usu­ally re­ceives water for the course from the Berg River, but their al­lo­ca­tion was first cut to 60% of what it had been in 2016, then 18%, and has now been cut off al­to­gether. For­tu­nately, Pearl Val­ley lies on a large aquifer, so has un­der­ground sources of ex­tra water. And they have sev­eral hold­ing dams on the es­tate.

“We started plan­ning for this more than 12 months ago,” said di­rec­tor of golf Damian Wrigley. “We have turned

_5J1a1n­p1e8ri2p0h1e7r-y11sp-2ri8nTk0le9r:s07an:5d0+le0t2p:0ar0ts of the rough go. We may lose about 40% of our grass by the end of March.”

An in­ter­est­ing and un­usual main­te­nance tac­tic to keep the course go­ing for as long as pos­si­ble has been to daily verti-drain and aer­ate the tees, fair­ways and bent grass greens on all 18 holes. This lessens com­paction and al­lows water to reach the roots.

“Our five-year plan for the course is to re­duce the play­ing cor­ri­dor from 45 hectares of man­i­cured turf to 31 hectares. And we will shrink the to­tal bunker cov­er­age. This would re­duce our ir­ri­ga­tion foot­print, speed up play, and cut back on our main­te­nance bud­get. The Nick­laus De­sign team has put a plan to­gether which we will be rolling out over the next two years."

The fair­ways at Metropoli­tan GC are no longer be­ing ir­ri­gated.

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