Saddle Creek Resort – the Castle & Cooke golf community in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Calaveras County – is embracing the future with a creative course maintenance program that gives a glimpse into golf’s future both in California and further afield.
To comply with the state-wide mandate to reduce water use by 25% (and local authorities requiring 35%), the golf course is employing an array of innovative turf care practices under the direction of general manager Rick Morgan and superintendent Pat Smyth. Forty fewer acres are being irrigated today than one year ago, resulting in 50% less water use. This browner look has been accomplished without sacrificing overall course playability. Tactics include:
- Removing 230 irrigation heads (largely on outer boundaries of holes)
- Limiting 150 sprinklers to 180-degree turns (saving 150,000 gallons per night)
- Reducing fairways from 25 total acres to 18
- Substituting wetting agents for watering where possible
- Keeping “crucial” areas like tees, greens surrounds, greens and fairways healthy as possible
“Rather than shying away from the challenge, we’re embracing what we believe is the ‘new normal’ for golf in California,” says Morgan. “Thanks to the hard work of Pat and his team, we haven’t heard a single complaint about playing conditions despite only receiving an inch of rain year-to-date.”
The course’s trademark consistent, smooth putting surfaces remain. They are complemented by firm-and-fast landing areas that help players add yards to their drives. The ball “running out” introduces another element of strategy, further enhancing the overall playing experience and calling to mind the game’s roots on the seaside links of the British Isles.
Like lack of water, golf cart use is another major stressor on turf health. Therefore, beginning in July Saddle Creek will offer $20-$30 discounts to players who agree to walk or keep carts on cart paths at all times. Management is also exploring purchase of carts that can carry four, rather than the standard two, golf bags.
“Saddle Creek was originally conceived as an entirely self-contained project,” says Smyth. “We’ve always used recycled waste water for irrigation and all golf course run-off traditionally has been treated onsite, so these new practices are a natural extension of our culture.”
Adds Morgan: “We think in the not-too-distant future, golfers playing ‘green’ courses in the summer months will be perceived as abusers. ‘Brown is the new green’ in California golf and we’re excited to be ahead of the curve when it comes to sustainability.”
Even though state regulations forbid Saddle Creek from watering the ornamental turf at the community’s front gate, real estate sales continue to be strong. Custom and estate lots, custom and semi-custom homes are all available, many featuring golf course, lake and mountain views. New homes also feature Castle & Cooke’s unique “Green-Wise” philosophy that highlights sustainable building materials and promotes energy efficiency.
Saddle Creek Resort www.SaddleCreekGolf.com
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