GCSAA - What a difference a year makes

After a nearly year-long shutdown and renovation,
Pinnacle Country Club makes changes good for the LPGA
and for water conservation.

Article by Angela Nitz

Pinnacle Country Club, home of the 2009 P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship Presented by John Q. Hammons, is one of a growing number of golf courses that are using recycled water to keep its playing surfaces healthy.

According to data from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America's Golf Course Environmental Profile Water Use and Conservation Practices survey, 12 percent of courses use recycled water. The survey indicates that another 53 percent would use this source of water. However, the infrastructure to deliver it from municipal supplies does not exist.

Water is key to the well being of a golf course, and when the best players in the world are on your fairways, it's an even greater concern. But after undergoing a major renovation, including new irrigation piping and a pump station, Pinnacle country Club and its GCSAA Class A Golf Course and Grounds Superintendent Todd Towery have a little less to worry about.

Although it's the third year for the P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship Presented by John Q. Hammons at Pinnacle, LPGA players were greeted with laser-leveled tee boxes, a longer layout and hundreds of new evergreen trees on the course - along with the irrigation system updates--for the 2009 version.

Other significant changes to the course included the rebuilding of greens throughout the course, many of which were completely repositioned; the addition of greenside and fairway bunkers on some holes and the relocation or removal of others.

"We did not start the renovation talks until February 2008, and that is when we had (golf course architect) Randy Heckenkemper of Heckenkemper Golf Course Design come over for the initial discussion of that we wanted to do," Towery said. "Work began in August 2008 just after the end of last year's LPGA event, and we basically had three different contractors working at mad pace to turn this property back into something that members and guests would enjoy. Randy and I worked closely together during the process until our grand reopening on June 1, 2009. Overall, we got a lot done in a very short amount of time and reopened a great golf course that our members are all proud of."

The fairways, tees and greens were converted to Zorro Zoysia, a grass that a variety that thrives in the Arkansas heat and humidity and requires less water. The new state of the art pump station helps distribute water more effectively and more efficiently. New sprinkler heads operated by a new central controller helps water only the areas that need it, this minimizing water waste through over-saturation and evaporation. In all, the renovation of the championship course cost $6.2 million, but the changes will also bring about savings for the course.

"What used to take us 10 hours to irrigate the course now just takes five to seven hours. As an investment, the new pump station should pay for itself in utility savings alone in six eight years," Towery said.

But even before the renovation, the 20-year-old course benefitted from a design by architect Don Sechrest that allowed for capturing runoff during normal rains from the 550 acres to feed into the irrigation pond to be used to water turf, trees and ornamentals. The course also uses recycled waste water, also known as effluent water, from the nearby Rogers Waste Water Treatment Facility. Effluent water also can provide nutritional benefits to the soil, which may reduce the need for fertilizers. While the use of effluent water forces Towery and his staff to monitor levels of bicarbonate and sodium levels, which can cause stress to the turf if elevated. But this is small price to pay for the cost savings over potable water as well as benefitting the environment through water conservation.

"I really don't believe our water issues are different than any other golf course in the country," Towery said. "I do believe, however, that we are fortunate with where we are located in terms of annual rainfall, active freshwater springs that we have on the property, the ability to capture runoff, and most importantly, the ability to receive effluent from a close source."

Towery has overseen Pinnacle CC for six years and had experience as an assistant superintendent with other LPGA Tour events at Ibis Golf and Country Club in the mid 1990s, and at the 2001 U.S. Men's Open at Southern Hills. He said that while prepping for an LPGA event requires additional work and planning, when it comes to water management, the two actually complement each other.

"I believe hosting an LPGA Tour event almost promotes sounds watering practices these days due to the fact that the players are usually looking for courses to play firm and fast," Towery said. "To achieve that, it requires that we again monitor the plants' needs and maintain soil moisture to an almost drought condition. This way, we give the plants enough water to maintain health. But do not overdo it to create soft, mushy, and extremely lush conditions."

Although the course reopened earlier this summer, its debut to the greater golf audience will be the 2009 P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship Presented by John Q. Hammons, and the course is ready to meet the challenge of hosting LPGA events and of meeting the water issues of the future.

Angela Nitz is the manager, corporate communications for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. GCSAA is a leading golf organization, which has as its focus golf course management. Since 1926, GCSAA has been the top professional association for the men and women who manage golf courses in the United States and worldwide. From its headquarters in Lawrence, Kan., the association provides education, information and representation to more than 20,000 members in more than 72 countries. GCSAA's mission is to serve its members, advance their profession and enhance the enjoyment, growth and vitality of the game of golf. The association's philanthropic organization, the Environmental Institute for Golf, works to strengthen the compatibility of golf with the natural environment through research grants, support for education programs and outreach efforts. Visit GCSAA at www.gcsaa.org.

Photos courtesy of www.pinnaclecc.com.

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