Friday, July 24, 2015

Golf and the Environment

golf and the environment

Scottsdale is located in the heart of one of the most delicate natural environments in the world, the Sonoran Desert. It also enjoys an international reputation as one of the world’s top golf destinations. It may seem that these two characteristics are at odds with each other, but nothing could be further from the truth. Scottsdale golf operators are among the most progressive in the industry, bringing together the latest technology, the most innovative practices, and a commitment to environmental stewardship that is unmatched.

Being a desert environment, conservation and efficient water use are at the forefront for golf operators. Here is some great insight into water use by Scottsdale golf courses:

  • In total, Arizona’s 338 golf courses (including 51 in Scottsdale) account for just 2 percent of the state’s water usage.
  • The majority of golf courses operating in Scottsdale use non-potable water from the Reclaimed Water Distribution System, which provides effluent water from the City’s treatment plant, as their primary source of irrigation, and the percentage of reclaimed water used is growing each year.
  • Nearly 75 percent of the city’s golf courses use sophisticated computerized irrigation systems and weather monitoring stations to maximize the efficiency of their water use. These systems work together to gauge weather and soil conditions in order to minimize surface evaporation and maximize transpiration (the driving force behind the uptake of the water by the plant). This enables golf operators to apply the minimum amount of water required by the individual plants to maintain grass health.
  • More than 60 percent of the area courses regularly apply “wetting agents” to facilitate the penetration of irrigation water deeper into the soil, thus ensuring that less is lost during evaporation.
  • Other “best practices” include hand-watering tees and greens, reducing irrigation of rough areas, raising mowing heights, increasing underground irrigation to reduce evaporation, and increasing the use of low-water plants and grasses.
  • Golf courses all over Arizona take active roles in working with state and local officials to ensure wise and effective water-use policies. Since the 1980s, golf courses operating in the Phoenix Active Management Area, which includes Scottsdale, have been limited to 4.9 acre-feet of water per year with severe penalties in place for courses that go over this limit.
  • This boundary provides sufficient water to maintain approximately 90 acres of turf grass under normal conditions. The result is that Scottsdale golf courses maintain a smaller amount of turf grass and use less water than most courses in other regions, without sacrificing the quality of the golf experience.

Scottsdale golf courses play a vital role in flood control and managing runoff from storm events and community development. City of Scottsdale environmental regulations require that all developments maintain their runoff inside the boundaries of the development property and that downstream discharge does not exceed historic levels. As a result, city golf courses have been designed to act as retention areas for neighboring developments. The golf courses capture runoff water from streets, parking lots, homes and other development structures. The turf and soil act as natural filters, removing contaminants from the water and allowing excess to percolate through the soil and replenish the groundwater.

The golf course turf areas help to control erosion from storm events by stabilizing the dry desert soil and keeping it from washing downstream and disrupting flow patterns in desert washes. Finally, many facilities are able to capture runoff from storm events, store the water in retention ponds and use it to irrigate a golf course, thus further reducing their need to purchase water from other sources. Today, most courses use a variety of eco-friendly methods to maintain the health of the ponds and water features on their properties. Among the most popular is the use of selected fish species, such as White Amur, Koi and Catfish, which help to control algae and unwanted plant growth.

In addition to efficient water use, most Scottsdale clubs have adopted a variety of modifications to their regular maintenance practices to further enhance sustainability. These include:

  • Switching gas-powered maintenance equipment from two- to four-stroke engines to reduce emissions
  • Using organic fertilizer rather than petroleum-based fertilizer
  • Applying liquid rather than granular fertilizer to enhance its absorption by the plant and reduce runoff
  • Frequent testing of soil conditions and calibration of application equipment to ensure proper treatment using the minimum amount of product to maintain plant health
  • Capturing water used to clean golf carts and equipment in order to eliminate the potential for on- and off-site contamination

Not only are golf courses in Scottsdale careful about protecting the state’s natural resources, their presence within the city provides additional benefits to the surrounding environment. These include:

  • Providing more than 44,450 acres of open space, over 25 percent of which is used as Sonoran Desert wildlife habitat
  • Supplying hard-to-find drinking water for native animals
  • Combating the urban heat-island effect of development
  • Producing enough oxygen each year to support more than 2.1 million people and helping to clean the air of carbon dioxide

Through the diligence and innovation of the professionals engaged in the industry, golf in Scottsdale has become a model of environmental stewardship for other regions to follow. The city’s golf operators continue to look for new technologies to ensure that golf maintains its overall positive impact on the city and state. Several Scottsdale golf properties received recognition from Audubon International for protecting the environment by enhancing precious natural areas and wildlife habitats. McDowell Mountain Golf Club ( earned the title of Certified Silver Audubon Signature Sanctuary. TPC Scottsdale (, Camelback Golf Club (, Kierland Golf Club (, Talking Stick Golf Club ( and Troon North Golf Club ( were listed as Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuaries. In addition, Scottsdale-based Troon Golf Management entered into a partnership with Audubon International to have all 190 of its international golf properties certified through the Audubon International Cooperative Sanctuary Program.

Thanks to tournament’s conservation-minded practices, the Waste Management Phoenix Open ( held at TPC Scottsdale is known as the “Greenest Show on Grass.”  The tournament’s GREEN OUT is a great example.  For every person who wears green to the tournament on Thursday, Waste Management and The Thunderbirds donate ‘green’ to three local non-profit environmental organizations: Waste Not, Arizona Chapter of the Solid Waste Association of North America, and Arizona Recycling Coalition.  In 2015, that “green” added up to $75,000.  The GREEN OUT has grown each year since it began in 2011, raking in a combined $290,000 to help the environment.  

The tournament also supports other sustainability initiatives such as the Zero Waste Challenge.  The goal is to control materials brought into the event and educate vendors and patrons about proper disposal, so that zero tournament waste is sent to the landfill.  The 2013 event marked the first year the event accomplished this goal.  Given that the event caters to more than 500,000 patrons during tournament week, this feat is nothing less than extraordinary.


Laura McMurchie, Vice President of Communications
Tel: 480-429-2253

Megan Neighbor, Director of Communications
Tel: 480-889-2716

Stephanie Pressler, Communications Manager
Tel: 480-889-2719 E-mail:
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Jerry Rose, Vice President of Communication Links
Tel: 480-348-7540

from Official Travel Site for Scottsdale, Arizona |

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