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Golf Courses Could Model Ballyneal

Linda Langelo, GPA Extension AgnetLinda Langelo, Horticultural Program Coordinator - Golden Plains Area
Date: 1/25/2010
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Written by: Dave Hensley, Ballyneal Golf Course
Water use at Ballyneal Golf Club in Holyoke, CO has been a hot topic to those involved in the project since the idea was created in 2002. Ballyneal is built in the inland Sand Dunes of Northeastern Colorado and the sand profile is deeper than you can dig. Its grassing choices which consist of Fine Fescues, Colonial Bentgrass, and Kentucky Bluegrass present a surface that mimics the traditional playing surfaces of golf. The primary grass, a mix of five Fine Fescues, generally likes a Mediterranean climate but can be very heat and drought tolerant. We have sowed approximately ten different varieties of the Fescue giving our turf stand many characteristics that thrive at different times of the year.

Although we work hard at all aspects of stewardship our biggest challenge is water conservation. The choice to use our water wisely challenges the maintenance staff at Ballyneal to learn and practice watering techniques that will ultimately present the best playing surface while conserving our water inputs.

The irrigation system is equipped with individual head control and a winter watering system. We continually monitor turf conditions not only by aesthetic appearance above ground but also by what the soil is telling us underground. The deep and infrequent irrigation philosophy is our goal. We very rarely use over head irrigation if it is not a scheduled irrigation event and never use over head irrigation on the greens to spot water. We use soil probes that show what the soil needs in order to provide the plant the water it needs to survive, not the amount it needs to stay green. This is a science and we spend a lot of time training our employees what not to water.

We have also spent a lot of time “tweaking” and auditing our irrigation efficiency with individual heads and our computer control system. We make changes daily in the field by adjusting run times for areas receiving too much water. We can change percentages of run time in our control system and this has greatly reduced water usage in areas that do not require or were at one time over watered. Our irrigation heads also have adjustable arcs and angles of throw so we can control wasteful watering into native areas. We have recently done a thorough audit of each sprinkler head to adjust the gallon per minute, radius, and the arc and angle. In 2008 we conducted a nozzle inspection and conversion to control drift from the winds we experience at Ballyneal.

We implement all drought management strategies, these include; the use of wetting agents, eliminating irrigation in select areas, reducing rough irrigation, hand watering, adjusting fertilization practices, reducing fairway and tee irrigation, increasing mowing heights, and modifying irrigation control systems.

It has been a challenge and although we have had success we have also had some setbacks. As our turf ecology grows water use will decline on the short grass we have currently. We are proud of what we have achieved in the growing seasons of 2008 and 2009 as we have applied approximately a third less water each year than what we have used in each of the previous three years.

We are currently members of the Audubon Society and sponsor the 4th Grade class at Holyoke Elementary School in their efforts in the Audubon Society and educating about the environment. We welcome the opportunity to show off our property and would be happy to give you a tour of our stewardship efforts, our native habitat, or our gardens. We are also constantly looking for volunteers to help with bird and wildlife watching and inventories. Please call Dave Hensley (davehensley@ballyneal.com) at (970) 571-3901 with any inquiries.