golf course greens bordered by low-water use plants

Glendora Country Club Shares the Do’s & Don’ts of Turf Removal

Current and recent past presidents share their turf tips.

Golf course turf reduction is among the most effective ways you can conserve water. Unfortunately, these golf course maintenance projects can also be incredibly complex. To find out how one club did it, we talked to Mike Mutschler and Jack Stoughton, the current and recent past president, respectively, at Glendora Country Club.

Over the past year, Glendora removed 25 acres of turf, replacing it with approximately 10,000 drought-tolerant plantings. Within three months of completion, Glendora has significantly reduced its water usage, with a 63 percent savings in June and a 28 percent savings in July.

Here’s what Mutschler and Stoughton shared about the process, the results and what other clubs should know before undertaking such a large-scale project.

BrightView: What prompted the decision to undergo a water conservation project of this magnitude?

golf course bordered by bed of low-water use plants
A 30% turf reduction yielded significant savings for Glendora Country Club, with no negative impact on the course.

Glendora: Prior to the turf reduction project, we were doing what we could to save water. We’d swapped out our turf for a less thirsty variety, but the 15 percent we’d saved in water use was matched by the increases in water costs. We knew we had to do something more — and quickly.

BrightView: Whose idea was it to do a turf conversion project?

Glendora: The Greens Committee suggested we eliminate turf from outlying areas on the course and once they brought up the idea, our partners at BrightView suggested we walk the course with a golf course architect to see what could be done.

BrightView: Why was it important to have a course architect’s recommendations?

Glendora: We’d tried to do a smaller turf reduction project on our own in 2004 and the final results were not as good as we’d hoped. Having the architect work with us upfront helped everyone on the board envision what could be done and how it could be done esthetically and without negatively impacting the play of the course.

BrightView: What were the architect’s recommendations?

Glendora: The architect recommended a range of solutions from 10 to 50 percent turf reduction. We voted and went for a 25 percent reduction — a significant but doable amount, particularly given that our local water authority had just announced a rebate program offering $2 per square foot of turf replaced with drought-tolerant plantings.

BrightView: In addition to the architect, who else was on the project team?

Glendora: We also had a landscape architect, an irrigation specialist, a project manager who kept everything on track, and a construction crew.

Our superintendent, Sean Rathje, also played a key role as did a board member whose knowledge of public utility rebate programs was critical.

BrightView: How did the members react to such a big project?

Glendora: In the beginning there were some skeptics. As mentioned, we’d done a turf conversion project before and the results weren’t great. But this time we had an expert team behind us. They really helped us communicate the plan and show what the results would be.

BrightView: How did you communicate the plan to members and the community?

Glendora: We held an open meeting and cookout on the course during which we shared the details, the process and the architect’s renderings. People got excited when they could see what the results were going to be. We also invited members of the community because we knew the work we were going to do would impact them.

Before and during the project, we posted updates and posters throughout the club, in locker room bulletin boards, in the pro shop. We also reached out to community newspapers and newsletters to let people know what we were doing and why.

BrightView: How did the construction go, and was play disrupted?

Glendora: Everything went well, primarily because we had prepared members and the community for how the course would look during the process, especially when we were killing turf before removal.

We did one nine at a time so play wasn’t disrupted too badly, and we really worked to schedule operations so as not to unduly disturb play or the community. That said, it was a big project and there will always be some disruption.

BrightView: Now that the project is done, what are the results and how much water has been saved?

Glendora: The final results are beautiful. In the end, we actually ended up reducing our turf by 30 percent without negatively impacting our course. As for water savings, we were able to significantly reduce our usage within the first three months of completion—63 percent for June and then 28 percent for July. We even received a letter of commendation from the City.

BrightView: What insights or tips would you share with any club thinking about a turf reduction project?

Glendora: First of all, have a really good team. There is so much that goes into these projects, so much at stake. You really need experts who know what they are doing. Second, be sure there is someone on your team who understands the parameters of a rebate program. You have to follow these programs to the letter. Because we had all that, we came in under budget and the rebate covered the majority of our costs.

Finally, you need to educate members and everyone at your club that maintenance costs will go up for the areas that turf was removed. That’s the trade off, but in the end, with water being as precious as it is, it’s just the right thing to do.

BrightView: Thank you, Jack, Mike, and everyone at Glendora.

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