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Paradigm Shift

by Douglas J. Hellman

Across wetlands and a lake lies the double green serving the ninth and eighteenth holes. Conservation officials were involved with the expansion and creation of wetlands during the construction process.

A view from behind the seventeenth green shows how the golf course blends in with the broader landscape. Here, the rock outcropping in the foreground provides a stark contrast to the highly manicured turf of the golf course. Possibly the most dramatic view on the course is from the tee at the fifth hole. Wildflowers and native grasses-- including bluestem, side outs gamma, switchgrass and several hard and sheep fescues -- were seeded in extensively throughout the non-play areas to provide wildlife habitat.

Standing on the tee of the downhill par four eighth, golfers have a spectacular view of the entire golf hole. The stone wall on either side of the fairway was preserved during the construction process. Also preserved during construction were mature Maples and Oaks which provide a brilliant fall color background.

The clubhouse perched high above the eighteenth green provides fantastic views of golfers finishing their round. Throughout the course, rock outcroppings dot the landscape and serve as reminders of the site's reclamation. Grass hollows, pot bunkers, and native stone walls-- constructed from the grey limestone that gives the club its name-- are subtle indicators of the site's transformation to a more gentile use. Stately evergreens surround the seventh green, which perches atop a hill approximately forty feet above the fairway.

Since 1990, golf course development has experienced tremendous growth throughout the United States. According to National Golf Foundation (NGF) estimates, an average of 392 golf courses opened annually from 1990-1996. More recently, 429 courses opened in 1997; 442 opened in 1968; and a record 468 courses opened in 1995. NGF research also suggests that an astounding 932 golf courses were under construction at the end of 1997. This boom in new facility development has also spawned a surge in the remodeling and restoration of existing golf facilities. The paradigm has shifted-- owners of existing facilities are being forced to remodel or expand to stay competitive in markets where supply and demand begins to approach a balance. A sharp increase in the development of "alternative" golf facilities has also occurred during this same period. Stand alone golf ranges, golf learning academics, par 3, executive, and pitch and putt golf courses are being developed to satisfy golfer's appetites.

Consequently, the role of the golf course architect in golf course development continues to evolve and expand. Historically, the golf architect was responsible for design of the golf course and may have influenced site selection. Today, golf development like other real estate development is big business and the golf course architect-- often a Landscape Architect-- is usually the lead on the project team coordinating the work of several consultants. Project teams typically include an engineer, agronomist, and environmental/wetlands consultant. A soils engineer, biologist, archaeologist or water resource expert may also be needed.

Ironically, some of the most dramatic golf courses and awe-inspiring golf holes are on land considered undevelopable or too costly for other types of real estate development. Often, a golf course proposed as an amenity in a residential development will accommodate storm water runoff, integrate wetlands or other environmentally sensitive areas, or buffer a disparate use. Herein lies the beauty of golf course design. Golf course design is a truly unique process that allows the designer to integrate a site's attributes and constraints into the design of a golf course. Craig Schreiner, ASGCA, ASLA, President of Craig Schreiner Golf Course Architects and LASN Associate Editor/Golf Course Design, has had the opportunity to work on the design or remodeling of over fifty golf courses. Schreiner suggests that "any and all physiography, once understood, can be integrated, modified or enhanced to augment design of a golf course." Individual holes have the opportunity to enhance, link, bridge or skirt certain elements of a site. Nature has never duplicated itself; therefore each golf hole has opportunity to be truly original."

In 1991, Schreiner was given the opportunity to transform 220 acres of rolling land located near Rochester, New York, into an upscale 18-hole public golf course. Initial investigations revealed a wonderfully diverse site with mature vegetation and dramatic elevation changes, as well as the presence of approximately twelve acres of wetlands. The site's wetlands would require great sensitivity during design and construction of the golf course. The market and demographics were right for an upscale public layout since the area had a wealth of private country clubs, but few public golf courses as envisioned by the developer. "This project had all the right ingredients for success," says Schreiner, "an owner committed to developing a first-class course, market demand, and a site with wonderful natural features."

Schreiner artfully designed Greystone to "lay lightly on the landscape." The site's natural setting and unique features dictated a Scottish-links style of design. Golf holes and individual features blend with the natural terrain, but simultaneously respect mature vegetation and environmentally sensitive areas. Schreiner worked closely with regulatory agencies during design of the course that would fulfill all permitting requirements. The result integrated 5 of the 12 acres of wetlands into the golf course, and ultimately enhanced water quality, indigenous wildlife, and plant habitats at the same time.

Irrigation Consultant Designer Paul Roche of S.V. Moffett Co., Inc. explains, "By observing Craig Schreiner's design of a Scottish links-style course, we came up with a combination single, double row watering system to help delineate between primary areas of play and natural areas." The sprawling site with varying terrain provided a challenging irrigation layout. Mainline pipe was installed in the rough, so that golf course Superintendent Timothy Hahn could install the mainline out of the field of play. Individual head control valve-in-head rotors were used on the very large greens for programming flexibility. Large rotors were used because of spacings that would exceed 80 feet. The dual green of holes 9 and 18 required 11 rotors spaced at 85 feet. 1 1/2" quick couplers were used at all green sites, and at various points across the golf course. In addition, 1 1/2" valves were used to help establish areas out of the normal field of play.

A central irrigation control system, located at the maintenance facility, enables direct communication with nine satellites. Placed at the base of a lagoon system, the pump station helps filter the water prior to reaching the pump intakes. A variable frequency drive vertical turbine system provides the system with 1000 GPM.

"This was a magnificent site for a golf course, but it was not without its challenges," explains Glen Hickey of Heartland Golf, the company responsible for shaping Greystone. "Working around the wetlands and environmentally sensitive areas that bisect the site required special attention during construction of the project." Erosion control was especially important during construction and prior to turfgrass establishment. Several control measures were implemented to control runoff and to prevent siltation of the creek that bisected the site. Approximately 3,400 lineal feet of silt fence was installed along the creek and along steep slopes to control runoff. Hay bales were installed around catch basins immediately after installation to prevent siltation of subsurface drainage lines. Steep slopes in rough areas were hydroseeded and sod was placed on the slopes of tees and faces of sand bunkers to stabilize these areas. Native grasses and wildflowers provide a graceful transition from the manicured bentgrass fairways and Kentucky bluegrass roughs to the wooly quarry areas surrounding the golf course.

Schreiner's environmentally sensitive design philosophy is definitely apparent at Greystone. Every attempt was made to preserve and enhance naturally occurring creeks, native vegetation, wetlands, wildlife habitats, ecosystems, and topography. "We look beyond the maintained turf areas and try to integrate the ecosystems of the entire site. In the broader context, we consider ourselves stewards of the land, and we try to create opportunities to enhance the biodiversity of a site through the creation of native habitat areas," explains Todd Clark, Schreiner's Senior Design Associate.

Golf courses developed in the last decade are among the nation's finest examples of environmentally sensitive design. Greystone is a paradigm of how one team-- by addressing playability, maintainability, and environmental sensitivity-- transformed a site with difficult environmental constraints into a course that fits seamlessly visually, ecologically, and physically with the broader landscape. This same challenge lies squarely with the Landscape Architects of golf as the new millennium approaches. lasn

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October 15, 2019, 10:25 pm PDT

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