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Water Issues in Golf to be studied in U.S. Survey of Superintendents

3.36pm 19th September 2014 - Management Topics

Water Use and Conservation study 2009
Water Use and Conservation study 2009

The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) will seek data from superintendents regarding water use and conservation practices to compare golf’s current landscape to information collected in a survey conducted eight years ago.

The study, which will continue collecting data nationwide through 2017 on five key topics, is sponsored by the U.S. Golf Association and the Environmental Institute for Golf (EIFG).

The Golf Course Environmental Profile survey program will be administered by Mark Johnson, associate director of environmental programs for GCSAA, under the umbrella of the EIFG, GCSAA’s philanthropic organization. To collect the data, an in-depth questionnaire will be sent electronically to superintendents at nearly 15,000 facilities.

“It is time for us to have current data and be able to measure change and trend analysis for the future,” said Johnson, who noted that the information will be analyzed independently by Wendy Gelernter, Ph.D., and Larry Stowell, Ph.D., of Pace Turf LLC.

The results will be announced in 2015 and compared against numbers from 2006, but water use and conservation practices will be only the first data collection topic. Other surveys will follow between 2015-2017 on nutrient use and management practices, pest management practices, energy use, land use and environmental stewardship. All the topics will closely mirror the initial studies conducted.

“The profile surveys will provide critical information to use in the management of golf facilities, as well as to communicate golf’s efforts more broadly within and outside the industry,” said Kimberly Erusha, Ph.D., managing director, USGA Green Section.

“The goal is to demonstrate continual improvement and that golf courses have well-thought-out plans in place as they manage their facilities,” she added. “By following statistics over time, we can look for improvement in the industry, and if changes need to be made, to work toward making those changes.”

One concern for the industry is the proposed “Waters of the United States” legislative bill that would add heavy regulations for using water from streams and standing lakes on golf courses. The bill is currently open for comment until the end of October.

“This data will be invaluable, especially on environmental issues, because those are receiving a lot of scrutiny and pressures,” said Chava McKeel, associate director of government relations for GCSAA. “We feel strongly that regulators and policymakers should have science and data drive their decisions.”

“The profile will be a powerful tool to help GCSAA maintain its mission and document outcomes,” said Dan Dinelli, a certified golf course superintendent and long-time employee at North Shore Country Club in Glenview, Ill.

In the first data collection from 2006, nearly all those responding from 18-hole facilities said they used one or more techniques to aid in scheduling irrigation, but only 15 percent indicated they had a drought management plan. Since then, great strides have been made for more targeted irrigation and ground moisture measuring, leading the industry toward healthier turf and firmer conditioning.

“That information served as a starting point,” said Erusha. “In the end, all golf courses should have written water and drought management plans. The availability of water is one of the most critical issues facing the golf industry today, and it’s not going to get any easier.”

For more information, visit the Environment section of

Environmental Institute for Golf


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