Integrating sustainable landscape principles with golf course design : a case study demonstrating ecologically based recreation planning and design
Golf course design, construction and maintenance began as a reflection of the natural landscape. Over time, however, golf course designs and settings sometimes have taken on artificial or unrealistic characteristics. Characteristics such as greens that can be mechanically moved to vary the difficulty of play (Hilton Head Country Club), traditional golf courses developed in the desert, and TPC (Tournament Players Championship) golf courses designed to accommodate additional spectators while limiting vegetation. Most of today's manicured courses also depend on the application of inorganic pesticides and fertilizers, deemed more efficient, but potentially harmful to golfers and the environment.This study examines three things: construction of a nine-hole golf course on a specified site without drastically changing current or natural conditions; on-going restoration efforts by a local area group/organization on that site; and the successful incorporation of additional user groups into the golf course setting.Through the use of four current site categories - Current Vegetation Survey, Slope Survey, Soil Survey, and Potential Hydrology Survey - determinations were made forproper hole location, potential wetland creation, adequate soil conditions for fairway creation, and vegetation succession. Each category was drafted on a clear 24" X 36" mylar sheet with the proposed site boundary drawn at 1"=200'-0" scale (for practical purposes concerning this creative project, the four 24" X 36" mylar sheets were reduced to an 8 1/2" x 11" format.) All four sheets (categories) were layed on top of each other in no particular order to produce a credible guide/map overlay of current site conditions of this sustainable and regenerative golf course design (see Appendix G, A58-A62 for the map overlay process used.) Location and design of the nine fairway holes successfully reflected all but a few of the standard golf layout practices. For example, golf holes to be laid out in a north/south direction, the inclusion of 'dog legs' and hole hazards, avoidance of steep slopes, and adherence to accepted lengths and sizes for greens, fairway holes and distances between holes.Creation of this unique golf course design was also contingent upon its accessibility to additional user groups and reduced golf car usage - unless golfers are physically challenged. These user groups include joggers, walkers, fishermen, cross-country skiers, campers, and hunters (when deemed appropriate.) The final Nine-Hole Golf Course Design Layout sheet included these additional user groups without intentionally interfering with the golfing activity. Thefinal design suggests adequate safety for those additional user groups according to the common precautions taken by golf courses. Such precautions include the location of signage displays to inform golfers of golf course safety policies, and buffer areas to protect persons in areas deemed most susceptible to stray golf shots. Standard golf course safety policies include: play at your own risk, the golfing establishment is not responsible/liable for personal injury induced by stray golf shots, and no joggers or walkers allowed on golf course. Further design study, perhaps, is needed to prevent any remote chance of injury from stray golf balls.To garner reaction towards the more sustainable/regenerative golf course, golfers self-described as average to good were asked to fill out a survey/questionnaire form. Approximately eighty forms were sent via mail and hand delivered to golfing establishments in Muncie, Indiana. Thirty-three responses were received. Results from the survey/questionnaire suggested that golfers would accept most of the aspects concerning natural/organic maintenance practices and the limited use of golf cars, but were concerned with the possibility of slower play due to increased roughs, wetlands and safety hazards. The survey/questionnaire also revealed that golfers had a negative response toward additional costs associated with organic maintenance practices and with safety for additional user groups. Nevertheless, respondents overall were very interested in ideas promoting a more ecologically safe golfing activity. Although the golfers who responded said they would participate on such a golf course setting, until such a golf course is designed and built, it remains to be seen whether they would accept such a venue.