Golf Course Sustainability Through Rainwater Harvesting

It’s been joked about in environmental circles that a golf course is nature under totalitarian rule. While many people might agree or disagree with this statement, the fact remains that traditionally golf courses have been viewed by environmentalists as not only being huge consumers of resources, but an environmental burden as well. Maintained turfgrass, by nature, requires quite a bit more water than the native vegetation that golf courses replace, especially in dry, arid climates. It’s no wonder why water consumption is perhaps the most heavily criticized aspect of golf course management. In areas that water demands are projected to exceed existing supplies in the coming years, golf courses are going to be forced to cut back on irrigation. Not to mention the current decline of the amount of people golfing due to the slumping economy. Add to that the rising costs of municipal water and it’s enough to make any golf course superintendent quiver in his khakis.

One answer to this dilemma has been found in the practice of rainwater harvesting.

The idea is very simple. Take what falls naturally from the sky, store it, and use it to irrigate when needed. This method,  already widely popular in many European countries, has had a slow start here in North America. In fact, in some western states the practice of rainwater harvesting was illegal until legislation was recently relaxed. Some states, such as Utah and Colorado, considered rainwater as state property, explaining that rainwater fed state waterways and recharged underground aquifers. In the past, homeowners risked a citation for collecting and storing the rain from their roofs! Illogical or not, these laws kept part of the U.S. from even considering rainwater harvesting methods. This all changed in 2010 when rainwater harvesting was legalized in Utah, although they still set restrictions on the amount of storage containers and holding capacity of the containers. Colorado has relaxed their laws regarding rainwater harvesting as well.

The implications of rainwater harvesting reach far beyond residential use. Golf courses are embracing  this idea as a way to supplement their existing irrigation systems. Courses that rely on municipal water supplies or a well can benefit especially from this alternative water source, as many times restrictions are placed on local water supplies and wells can sometimes experience fluctuation in the amount of groundwater available. The most common way golf courses make use of rainwater is with collection ponds. By strategically placing these ponds in areas that are naturally lower in elevation, it is possible to use gravity to drain the excess rainwater off the course and into these collection ponds. There it can later be pumped out and used for irrigation during times of limited rainfall. Brad Rozzelle, superintendent at the Spring Mill Country Club, explains how he has implemented this style of rainwater collecting.

“We do not have any creeks or streams running through the course,” Rozzelle explains. “We have one  well and use rainwater runoff to fulfill our H2O needs. We have drains on five holes which feed directly into the pond.” Rozzelle, like many other superintendents, has seen the benefits of rainwater harvesting first hand. Along with storage ponds, other courses have experimented with collecting the rainwater from their clubhouses and storage sheds. This rooftop runoff can be channeled into cisterns that can hold anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand gallons at a time. This free water can then be used for everything from washing golf carts, irrigating practice greens, and even for flushing toilets in the clubhouse.

As rainwater harvesting becomes more popular in the coming years, it’s important to evaluate the  unique conditions, climate, and irrigation supply and demand factors of your course to see if this  practice could be beneficial. Many times the energy and water saved in the long run outweigh the initial  installation costs, not to mention the community support that a project like rainwater harvesting at the local golf course generates. The challenges facing the golf industry are not going away anytime soon. In a sport heavily influenced by tradition, it will take creative, ingenious, and sustainability-minded individuals to lead the way. The future of golf depends on it.


 From his earliest days growing up in a small northern Utah town, Skylar could always be found in the great outdoors. He developed a great love of nature and appreciation for beautiful landscapes, both natural and manmade, which led him to pursue a career that would allow him to spend as much time outdoors as possible. With an educational background in Horticulture from Utah State University, Skylar’s many years of experience in the landscape/turf industry has taught him much about working with nature. This in turn led him to realize that the future of this industry rests upon sustainability and responsible agricultural practices. He works for, a company that believes strongly in the principal of sustainability.


I visit Mill pond
only when there is an event. I will see if they have this
rainwater harvesting system next time I visit there. 

Hi Abby, I'm not sure they have it there but from what I can tell, the mill pond country club utilize sustainable ways to maintain the beauty of that place. Anyway, thanks Skylar for pointing out the importance of harvesting rainwater for conservation. This is really an interesting piece of write-up. Cheers!

harvesting is the hole-in-one – hitting directly the heart of all the
commotion. This would definitely put an end to all golf disapprovals. A golf
course is a huge expanse of land which needs loads of water to keep in great
condition. This water conservation system will surely meet the main concerns
like cost-efficiency and sufficiency. It rains periodically, and letting a
large amount of rainwater just evaporate back to the sky would be unwise.

Very nice post here thanks for it I always like and search such topics and everything connected to them. Keep update more information..

Stormwater Consulting Chennai
Transportation Consulting Chennai
Civil Engineering Consultants
Office Interiors in Chennai
Rainwater Harvesting chennai