By Julia Pine, Web Content Manager
Owning prime California coastline is a responsibility The Resort at Pelican Hill does not take lightly. The 504-acre resort, located in Newport Beach and home to two 18-hole Tom Fazio-designed golf courses, went through a two-year redesign to ensure that its impact on the environment was minimal.
“We wanted to make sure the facility can be enjoyed in the way it was intended for generations to come,” said Vice President of Golf Steve Friedlander.
With that in mind, the resort set out with a project focused on protecting the area’s most important asset: the Pacific Ocean. A number of factors needed to be addressed. First, the facility wanted to decrease the amount of contaminated water running off into the Pacific, water that not only came from the golf course, but also from adjacent neighborhoods. Secondly, Pelican Hill wanted to ensure that water was not wasted.
The result was one of the most advanced, environmentally-friendly water management systems a green golf resort has ever built. Five underground rainwater runoff collection cisterns were installed to collect as many as 1.25 million gallons of water, water that can be recycled to irrigate vegetation throughout the course. A water quality manager was installed to reduce debris and contaminants from the water, which in turn limits the pollution from the water that eventually makes it to the ocean, as the cisterns are emptied 10 days after each storm to guarantee it never fills up.
“The water captured can be pumped into ponds around the golf course or reused as irrigation water. In addition, because the water is not saturating the soil in the area, it will prevent this land from ever sliding into the Pacific. It’s incredibly rewarding to be a part of a project that will make such a positive impact for so many generations,” said Friedlander.
The most important part of this project, however, might be the more large-scale impact it will have on other oceanfront golf resorts. According to Friedlander, properties that sit that close to the ocean will likely one day be required by government agencies to implement methods similar to those Pelican Hill have established.
“Other courses may eventually have to do this, stop contaminants from entering the water” said Friedlander. “Why not get ahead of the game and do it on your own terms?”
But by no means is this the type of project a facility can go into half-heartedly. Pelican Hill, in addition to losing two years’ worth of golf-course revenue when the 36 holes were shut down during the implementation of this endeavor, also had a mountain of expenses that went along with it. However, since the cisterns were built, the resort has saved upwards of 50 million gallons of water each year, a cost-savings initiative that can’t be overlooked.
“It’s a significant expense,” said Friedlander. “You are putting a substantial amount of money into an already fully-functioning golf course. The return on investment from the entire project could honestly take up to 50 years, but it’s the right thing to do,” said Friedlander.
But there are other things the resort did to cut some costs and make back some of the money spent on the environmentally-conscious project. In addition to the water quality management implementations, the facility has also adjusted its turf grass to limit the amount of water and other supplies needed throughout the course. Pelican Hill’s 36-holes are now filled with a hybrid bermudagrass, which is drought-safe. Using the correct type of grass for its climate saves Pelican Hill a substantial amount of money on seeds, labor, water and chemicals.
“I can understand facilities having fears about undergoing a project like this, but they should get over those,” said Friedlander. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun to be involved in a project so special.”
When asked about the stigma golf courses often receive for being harmful to the environment, despite undergoing initiatives like this, Friedlander admitted that the industry is partially to blame.
“I think golf courses, and their impact on the environment, are misunderstood. But I also believe that we haven’t told the story as well as we could,” he said. “I encourage people to spend time talking to people who work at golf courses. These people don’t want high water and chemical costs.”
Friedlander went on to mention that golf courses act as sanctuaries for wild life. Pelican Hill itself is home to a number of animal species, and cameras have been set up throughout the course to capture information being used for a bobcat study. Coyotes, bobcats, hawks and many other animals have been seen throughout the grounds.
For more on Southern California golf courses and what they are doing for the enviroment, visit the SCGA's "Green Issue" of FORE Magazine here.