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February 2024

Going Green

STRATEGIES FOR ECO-FRIENDLY ADJUSTMENTS AT YOUR COURSE

By Doug McPherson

To answer the question of what you can do to make your course more sustainable, you only need to meet Pamela and Randy Dreyfuss, owners of the La Cañada Flintridge Country Club near Los Angeles, California. They’ve been making eco-friendly adjustments for a full decade now.
 
And they’re seeing many benefits: reduced power costs, great public relations, improved employee morale, proud members (one member said he chose La Cañada Flintridge over a competing club because of the green efforts), and, of course, reduced carbon emissions.

But there’s also a personal benefit. “Doing what’s right just feels good,” Pamela says. “Nothing can feel better than that. It’s about the importance of stewardship of 113 acres of green space. There can be hostility towards golf courses using up resources … and that’s a fair charge and one the golf industry needs to look at and assess for itself.”

They started their sustainability conversion in 2014 by installing variable rate irrigation pumps which saved them about 60% in electricity costs/burned fossil fuels.

Since then, they’ve made a long list of changes: solar panels, LED lights, electric carts and equipment, tree planting, chemical-free fairways, no plastic utensils, bags or cups, food composting, reclaimed/recycled irrigation water, turf grass replaced with draught-adapted wildlife-friendly native plants, captured stormwater for irrigation use, and native plants around putting greens to reduce water use and support local wildlife among other adjustments.

In 2020, they hired a consultant to explore more ways to reduce their carbon footprint – something they say can be a good starting place for course owners. The cost of a consultant offering a full energy efficiency audit with calculated carbon emissions for fossil fuel use would run about $10,000.
Pamela adds that in hiring a consultant, “experience counts for a lot” and that consulting firms have developed strong stables of professionals who have deep knowledge of local laws and conditions.
“But a word of caution: Big-name consulting firms can be fantastic, but are known to assign junior professionals at high rates. I’d recommend small firms that are nimble, experienced, enthusiastic, smart and great communicators.”

Another good starting point, they say, is to transition to all-electric vehicles, pumps and appliances coupled with a renewable energy source such as solar or geothermal. 

“There are really great federal and state incentives for renewables and many of them will pay off in dividends in just a few years by reducing emissions significantly and ultimately paying for itself – no electric bills down the line,” she says. “I think that water use is growing as an issue worldwide and so anything that can be done to reduce water use will be very important, things such as turf grass removal in out-of-play areas, state-of-the-art irrigation systems, stormwater, reclaimed water, and greywater capture and reuse.”

The Dreyfusses believe all these changes are a dire matter.

“If golf wants to survive into the future – where resources and ecosystems are stretched thin and challenged like never before – it has to bring a positive benefit to the world,” Pamela says. “That positive usefulness can be beautiful, protected green spaces, and all the desirable, life-enhancing treasures which they bring with them, both for humanity and wildlife.”

They say those treasures include physical and social benefits, ranging from stress reduction, enhanced health, mitigation of the heat island effect, support of wildlife, quicker healing, cleaner air and water, to decreasing crime and air pollution.

“Most of that bounty is shared by those around the green space, and not necessarily only those playing golf through it,” Pamela says. “All of those natural gifts need to be stewarded, lovingly attended and supported as part of a new understanding of golf’s role in a changing world. I think the case needs to be made that golf courses are life-enhancing green spaces; that the alternative is likely a paved-over, short-sighted strip mall or development. Once a green space is developed, it’s not likely to ever return.”


NOTE: Pamela Dreyfuss is happy to talk with course owners about sustainability. You can reach her at pamela.dreyfuss@lcfcountryclub.com

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