2 Planning, Design, and Construction
The construction phase of any industry’s infrastructure poses the greatest risk of ecosystem alteration. With proper planning and design, golf facilities can be constructed and maintained with minimal impact on water quality and other natural resources. Additional information about incorporating water quality protections into the planning and design phase is found in the “Surface Water Management” and “Maintenance Operations” chapters.
2.1 Regulatory Considerations
Early engagement among developers, designers, local community groups, and permitting agencies is essential to designing and constructing a golf facility that minimizes environmental impact and meets the approval process. Federal, state, and local regulations apply to activities involved in construction activities on golf courses.
During the planning phase, the boundaries of any tidal or non-tidal wetlands or 100-year floodplains on the site must be identified because activities taking place within these boundaries may require permits. On-line mapping tools can be used to view wetlands and more information on Delaware’s wetlands can be found on the Delaware Freshwater Wetland Toolbox website.
Delaware wetlands are regulated at both the state and federal levels. At the federal level, wetlands are regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The USACE is primarily responsible for regulation of non-tidal wetlands in Delaware. At the state level, wetlands are regulated by the Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC).
State regulation is restricted to tidal wetlands or freshwater wetlands of at least 400 acres in area. USACE and DNREC protect such waterbodies from loss and degradation through the regulation of the draining, dredging, and filling of tidal and non-tidal wetlands, of the non-tidal wetland buffer, and of waterways, including the non-tidal 100-year floodplain.
While there are some exemptions from permitting requirements for certain activities, permits or letters of authorization from the state are generally required if a property owner plans to undertake an activity that results in the draining of or the addition of fill materials to a federal or state-regulated wetland or waterway. Delaware wetland regulations and information on permitting, and permit applications are available online. Federal permits can be obtained from the USACE Philadelphia District Regulatory Program.
Any activity associated with construction or renovation, including grading and filling, within the 100-year floodplain zone (non-tidal or tidal) requires a permit issued by the local regulatory authority (county or town) in keeping with local ordinances. Development in a floodplain is permitted at the local level for incorporated areas and at the county level for all unincorporated areas. DNREC has developed four model floodplain management ordinances, which meet all state and federal regulations and contain recommendations for improved management of floodplains. The DNREC Flood Tool is an interactive web map application designed to provide information about the degree of flood risk for a specific area or property. Map features are connected to geospatial databases that can be queried to obtain pertinent information by which to make informed decisions. If state and federal permits are required, development may not begin until all necessary permits are issued. More information on floodplain permitting is available on the DNREC Drainage and Stormwater webpage.
2.1.3 Erosion and Sediment Control
DNREC has implemented a statewide Sediment and Stormwater Program to control runoff from land disturbing activities in accordance with 7. Del. C. Ch. 40 and 7 DE Admin Code 5101 Sediment and Stormwater Regulations. However, program implementation may be delegated to local agencies, like the conservation districts. Current delegated agencies are listed on the Sediment and Stormwater Program website.
These regulations establish criteria and procedures to enhance erosion and sediment control practices, improve the water quality of construction site runoff, and help maintain surface water quality. The Delaware Erosion & Sediment Control Handbook provides guidance in support of the Sediment and Stormwater Regulations and serves as the official guide for erosion and sediment control principles, methods, and practices. Counties and municipalities may adopt an erosion and sediment control ordinance that meets the intent of Delaware’s sediment control laws and regulations.
2.1.4 Listed Species
In addition to the requirement to identify wetlands or floodplains before construction, any federal- or state-listed species or species of concern potentially present on the site should be identified in consultation with the DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife. Delaware maintains a state endangered species list, a rare plant list, and a Wildlife Action Plan that provides a comprehensive overview of species conservation needs in the state.
2.2 Planning, Design, and Construction Overview
Proper planning minimizes expenses resulting from unforeseen construction requirements. Good planning provides opportunities to maximize/integrate environmentally favorable characteristics into the property. This often requires the involvement of experts in a number of fields.
Proper design meets the needs of the stakeholders, protects the location’s environmental resources, includes site-appropriate drainage features, and is economically sustainable. Design also includes the selection of site-appropriate turf cultivars that ideally require less input to maintain a healthy and diverse turf. For more information, see the Cultivar Selection section of the “Cultural Practices” chapter of this document. Environmental issues concerning construction need to be addressed during the design phase. Detailed plans, such as the erosion and sediment control plan and the stormwater management plan, will be used by a qualified course builder to construct the facility. Environmentally sound construction methods and management that follow the construction plans and specifications can prevent environmental impacts to the site. For more information, see An Environmental Approach to Golf Course Development. 2008. American Society of Golf Course Architects.
More information on the steps involved in the planning, design and construction phases is provided in Table 1.
Table 1. Best practices for golf course planning, design, and construction
|Assemble Team||The team should include, but not be limited to, a golf course architect, golf course superintendent, clubhouse architect, irrigation engineer, environmental engineer, energy analyst, economic consultant, civil engineer, soil scientist, golf course builder, and a legal team.|
|Define Objectives||Identify realistic goals, formulate a timeline, etc.|
|Evaluate finances, environmental issues, water availability and sources, and energy, materials, and labor needs. Identify applicable government regulations.|
|Select Site||Site should meet project goals and expectations. Identify all strengths and weakness of each potential site. During site selection, any site constraints, such as the presence of listed species or valuable habitat, should be identified.|
|Retain a Project Manager/Superintendent||This person is responsible for integrating sustainable practices in the development, maintenance, and operation of the course.|
|Design the Course||Existing native landscapes should remain intact as much as possible. Should consider adding supplemental native vegetation to enhance existing vegetation alongside lengthy fairways and out-of-play areas. Nuisance, invasive, and exotic plants should be removed and replaced with native species adapted to the area.|
|Greens: Should have plenty of sunlight, be well drained, and have plenty of airflow. Greens should be big enough to have several hole locations that can handle expected traffic.
Root zone material should be selected with United States Golf Association (USGA) specifications in mind, as published in A Guide to Constructing The USGA Putting Green.
|Grass Selection: Species should be selected based on climate, environmental, and site conditions and species adaptability to those conditions, including disease resistance, drought tolerance, spring green-up, and traffic tolerance.|
|Bunkers: The number, size of bunkers depends on considerations, such as the resources available for daily maintenance. For each bunker consider:
New bunker construction techniques can also be researched to see if they satisfy stakeholders’ needs.
|Design Irrigation System||Hire a professional irrigation architect, if possible, to design the irrigation system. Keep in mind the different water needs of greens, tees, fairways, roughs, and native areas. Consider the topography, prevalent wind speeds, and wind direction when spacing the heads. Choose the most efficient type of irrigation system considering available resources. The “Irrigation” chapter provides detailed information on irrigation-related BMPs.|
|Select Qualified Contractors||Use only qualified contractors who are experienced in the special requirements of golf course construction. Members of the Golf Course Builders Association of America make great candidates.|
|Safeguard Environment||Follow all design phase plans and environmental laws. Soil stabilization techniques should be rigorously employed to maximize sediment control and minimize soil erosion. Temporary construction compounds and pathways should be built in a manner that reduces environmental impacts.|
|Install Irrigation System||Installation should consider the need to move equipment and bury pipe while maintaining the original soil surface grade to minimize the potential for erosion.|
|Establish Turfgrass||Turfgrass establishment methods and timing should allow for the most efficient progress of work, while optimizing resources and preventing erosion from bare soils before grass is established.|
2.3 Erosion and Sediment Control
Sediment (loose particles of sand, silt, and clay) and soil can be transported off-site by flowing water and blowing winds. When sediment or eroded soil reaches surface waters, they can degrade water quality by increasing turbidity, harming aquatic plants, and impairing habitat for fish and shellfish. In addition, soil contaminants, such as pesticides, may be transported with eroding soil. These issues are of special concern to the Delaware Inland Bays and their tributaries. Therefore, erosion and sediment control are a critical component of construction and grow-in of a golf course. Regulations and best management practices can be found in the Delaware Erosion & Sediment Control Handbook.
Erosion- and sediment-control regulations require developers, designers, and plan review agencies to consider runoff control from the start of any land development design process. A plan describing how erosion and sediment control will be integrated into the stormwater management strategy must be approved by DNREC. The plan must provide sufficient topographic surveys and soil investigations to identify any limitations that would be imposed on any grading operations. It should also provide a detailed sequence of construction that describes how the grading unit restriction will be met. Adhering to the planning principles should result in development that better fits existing site conditions and reduces both the extent and duration of soil disturbance during construction.
Wetlands act both as filters for pollutant removal and as nurseries for many species of birds, insects, fish, and other aquatic organisms. When incorporated into golf course design, wetlands should be maintained as preserves and separated from managed turf areas with native vegetation or structural buffers. Constructed or disturbed wetlands may need to be permitted to be an integral part of the stormwater management system as discussed in the Regulatory Considerations section of this chapter and in the “Surface Water Management” chapter.
Adequate drainage is necessary for healthy turfgrass. A high-quality BMP plan for drainage addresses runoff containment, adequate buffer zones, and filtration techniques. Drainage of golf course features is only as good as the system’s integrity. Damaged, improperly installed, or poorly maintained drainage systems negatively impact play and increases risks to water quality.
2.6 Habitat Considerations
In urban and suburban environments, a golf course may provide the best habitat for many species. A number of golf course management activities can maintain and enhance habitat, and provide food and shelter for numerous species, including mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, insects, and native plants (Figure 1). Examples of ways to maintain and enhance habitat include:
- identifying and preserving wildlife and migration corridors to help maintain populations at sustainable levels
- retaining natural buffer areas around wetlands and watercourses to preserve habitat while protecting water quality for aquatic species
- planting native species to provide food for animals and insects
- retaining dead trees to serve as nesting areas
- providing nest boxes for birds, bees, and bats
- removing exotic and invasive species to improve habitat
The “Pollinator Protection” and “Landscape” chapters provide additional recommendations and BMPs for enhancing habitat on the golf course. The Delaware Invasive Species Council provides lists of invasive species found in Delaware. Delaware’s Wildlife Action Plan can also help guide efforts to protect natural habitat areas on your course.
2.7 Turfgrass Establishment
Turfgrass establishment is a unique phase in turfgrass growth, which can require greater quantities of water and nutrients than established turfgrass. To this end, the establishment phase should be considered carefully to minimize environmental risk (Figure 2). Adequate nitrogen and phosphorus are critical for rapid turf establishment and prevention of soil erosion; therefore, soil testing should be conducted before grow-in to determine the amount of nutrients needed. Long-term problems, such as weed encroachment, diseases, and drought susceptibility can be reduced with proper seedbed fertility. More information can be found in Nutrient Management Guidelines for Commercial Turfgrass Seeding. 2005. University of Maryland.
2.8 External Certification Programs
Golf-centric environmental management programs or environmental management systems, such as Audubon International and the Groundwater Foundation’s Groundwater Guardian Green Sites program, can help golf courses protect the environment and preserve the natural heritage of the game (Figure 3). These programs help enhance the natural areas and wildlife habitats that golf courses provide, improve efficiency, and minimize potentially harmful impacts of golf course operations. Golf courses can gain valuable recognition for their environmental education and certification efforts.
2.9 Planning, Design, and Construction Best Management Practices
Planning Best Management Practices
- Assemble a qualified team, with all the necessary experts represented.
- Determine objectives and complete a feasibility study (considering finances, environment, water, energy, labor, materials, and governmental regulatory requirements/restrictions).
- Select an appropriate site capable of achieving project goals.
- Identify strengths and weakness of the selected site.
- Identify any rare, protected, endangered, or threatened plant or animal species on the site.
Design Best Management Practices
- Retain a qualified golf course superintendent/project manager at the beginning of the design and construction process to integrate sustainable practices into the development, maintenance, and operation of the course.
- Design the course to retain as much natural vegetation as possible. Where appropriate, consider enhancing existing vegetation through the supplemental planting of native species next to long fairways, out-of-play areas, and water sources.
- Design out-of-play areas to retain or restore existing native vegetation where possible. Nuisance, invasive, and exotic plants should be removed and replaced with native species adapted to that particular site.
- Select a greens location that has adequate sunlight and air movement to meet plant-specific needs and that provides sufficient drainage.
- Choose a green size and sufficient number of hole locations that can accommodate traffic and play damage but are not so large that they are unsustainable.
- Select an appropriate root-zone material for the site.
- Consider the number of bunkers as related to resources available for daily maintenance.
- Select cultivars based on an evaluation of the site and climate conditions.
- Consider bunker entry and exit points. Consider wear patterns and create adequate space for ingress/egress points on greens, tees, fairways, and bunkers.
- Select the proper color, size, and shape of bunker sand to meet needs.
- Define play and non-play maintenance boundaries.
Construction Best Management Practices
- Use a qualified golf course builder, such as a member of the Golf Course Builders Association of America.
- Conduct a pre-construction conference with stakeholders.
- Construction should be scheduled to maximize turfgrass establishment and site drainage.
- Use soil stabilization techniques to minimize soil erosion and maximize sediment containment.
- Maintain a construction progress report and communicate the report to the proper permitting agencies.
- Temporary construction compounds should be sited and built in a way that minimizes environmental impacts.
Erosion and Sediment Control Best Management Practices
- Develop a working knowledge of erosion- and sediment-control management.
- Develop and implement strategies to effectively control sediment, minimize the loss of topsoil, protect water resources, and reduce disruption to wildlife, plant species, and designed environmental resource areas.
- Construct in accordance with the approved Sediment and Stormwater Plan, implementing all prescribed BMPs in accordance with the construction sequence established on the approved Plan.
- Hydro-seeding or hydro-mulching offer soil stabilization.
Wetlands Best Management Practices
- Ensure that proper permitting has been obtained before working on designated tidal or non-tidal wetlands or 100-year floodplains.
- Ensure that wetlands have been properly delineated before working in and around them.
Drainage Best Management Practices
- When constructing drainage systems, pay close attention to engineering details such as subsoil preparation, slopes, backfilling, and the placement of gravel.
- Surface water runoff and internal golf course drains should not drain directly into an open waterbody. Instead, they should discharge through pretreatment zones and/or vegetative buffers to help remove nutrients and sediments.
- The drainage system should be routinely inspected to ensure proper function.
Habitat Considerations Best Management Practices
- Identify the different types of habitat specific to the site.
- Identify the habitat requirements (food, water, cover, space) for identified wildlife species.
- Identify species on the site that are considered threatened or endangered by the state or federal government
- Preserve critical habitat.
- Consult with the DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife to identify and preserve regional wildlife and migration corridors.
- Remove nuisance and exotic/invasive plants and replace them with native species that are adapted to a particular site.
- Maintain clearance between the ground and the lowest portion of a fence or wall to allow wildlife to pass, except in areas where animals need to be excluded.
- Retain dead tree snags for nesting and feeding sites, provided they pose no danger to people or property.
- Construct and place birdhouses, bat houses, and nesting sites in out-of-play areas.
- Plant pollinator habitat in out-of-play areas or around the clubhouse and consider participating in Monarchs in the Rough program to provide monarch-specific plantings.
- Retain riparian buffers along waterways to protect water quality and provide food, nesting sites, and cover for wildlife.
Turfgrass Establishment Best Management Practices
- The area to be established should be properly prepared.
- Ensure erosion and sediment control devices are in place and properly maintained.
- Conduct a soil test before seeding to determine nutrient needs.
- Sprigs should be “knifed-in” and rolled to hasten root establishment.
- Sod should be topdressed to fill in the gaps between sod pieces and seams. This hastens establishment and provides a smoother surface.
- Use appropriate seeding methods for your conditions and ensure good seed to soil contact.
- When using sod, delay nutrient applications until sod has sufficiently rooted.
- When using sprigs, application rates for nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium should correspond to percent ground cover (i.e. increasing rate as ground coverage increases).
- Slow-release nitrogen or light, frequent applications of soluble-nitrogen sources should be used during grow-in.
- Apply nutrients to the turf surface. Incorporating nutrients into the root zone does not result in more rapid establishment.
- Mow as soon as the sod has knitted-down, i.e. when sprigs have rooted at the second to third internode and seedlings have reached a height of one-third greater than intended height-of-cut. This will hasten establishment.
External Certification Best Management Practices
- Obtain and review materials to ascertain whether the facility should seek certification.
- Work with staff to establish facility goals that lead to certification.
- Establish goals to educate members about the certification program.