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Photos: Marty Moore


Santa Barbara, California

Golf course architect:

Dr. Michael Hurdzan, ASGCA Fellow,

Hurdzan Golf Design

Project summary:

With drought in the

southwest United States forcing golf

courses to reduce turf areas, Birnam

Wood GC took a highly scientific

approach to identifying a water

conservation strategy that would be

100% sustainable.


Dr. Robert Carrow, University

of Georgia (Ret.); Dr. Van Cline, The

Toro Company (Ret.); Michael Huck,

Irrigation & Turfgrass Services; Marty

Moore, Superintendent, Birnam Wood

GC; Andy Powell, Birnam Wood

Green Chairman


ith California in a four

year drought, golf courses

throughout the state are

facing significant reductions in water

allocation. Elite Santa Barbara club

BirnamWood was no exception,

finding its allocation cut by 60

percent, from a maximum of 400,000

gallons per day (gpd) to 150,000 gpd.

With the possibility of the drought

lasting decades, the club turned to

Dr. Michael Hurdzan, ASGCA Fellow,

of Hurdzan Golf Design for a water

conservation solution that would be

fully sustainable.

Hurdzan Golf Design adopted a

scientific approach to the problem

called ‘Precision Turf Management,’

hiring a team of experts comprising:

Dr. Bob Carrow from University

of Georgia for soil and water

conservation consultancy; Dr. Van

Cline from Toro, who undertook

precision GPS/GIS mapping of soil

moisture, soil salinity, topography

relief, compaction and turf quality

on five foot centers; and Mike Huck,

a Certified Golf Course Irrigation

Auditor (CGCIA).

Working closely with Superintendent

Marty Moore, the team thoroughly

mapped and analyzed the entire golf

course for opportunities to conserve

water and enhance turf quality. They

also worked alongside the club’s Green

Chairman Andy Powell to identify

patterns of play among golfers.

Having gathered and analyzed this

information, 25 of the 75 acres of

irrigated turf were identified as less

essential, and subject to removal.

A separate study was then

conducted to identify the best

material to replace this turf, with

pine straw from Georgia chosen to

replace it, something almost no other

California golf course has used.

Concurrently, a third study saw

test plots constructed with various

warm season grasses to see which

would perform best with the Santa

Barbara soils, climate and water

quality, with the limited water sources

in mind. After six-to-eight months of

observation by the team, Santa Ana

Bermuda grass was selected for the

fairways and 419 Bermuda grass for

roughs, with the entire 50 acres of

remaining turf regrassed accordingly.

“The members love the new look,”

says Hurdzan. “The playing surfaces

are vastly improved, and the course

can be sustained with the limited

current and future water supplies.”

25 acres of turf have been

replaced with pine straw

Birnam Wood GC

Using water wisely

Design changes lead to dramatic water savings at Birnam Wood