Natural & Cultural Stewardship

A New Look at a New Golf Course

Thu, 21 Nov 2013 15:23:00 CST  — by: Vincent Leray, C'13, Sustainability Post-Baccalaureate Fellow

Sewanee's newly-renovated golf course, which opened in early June, has gotten a lot of praise.

The original course, designed in 1915, impressed a certain Gil Hanse, widely acclaimed golf-course architect now involved with the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic games and Donald Trump's Dubai golf club.  With Hanse's work and the generosity of the Sewanee alumni, The University of the South is understandably proud of its golf course. 

golf1However, a conversation with Steven Ventola, Golf Course Superintendent, shed a new light on the golf course's renovation.  Eight retention ponds dot the course's landscape to catch water run-off into Shakerag Hollow.  These have been seeded with local, wetland species and work is being done to make these ponds as robust and resilient as possible.  In addition to stemming the run-off, these ponds offer a well used refuge for birds, small mammals, amphibians, and a host of insects. Another design feature of the course's renovation are the buffer zones, areas of subtle, graduated change between the forest and the course.  Again, these areas provide cover for local wildlife, vertical striations in the habitat, and allow the golf course to blend aesthetically with our beloved forests as opposed to having been dropped into the middle of them.

There are also management strategies in place that make the green... well.. "green". Much of the grass on the course is local and has been seeded and cut in such a way to decrease the need for watering.  Moreover, the grass will be allowed to wilt before watering and the schedules are flexible around inclement weather.  The golf course staff is also working towards a wash-water recycling program and finding a sustainable solution for the grass clippings around the course.  Finally, we are pursuing an Audobon Certification, which requires us to meet certain sustainability and management benchmark on a revolving basis. 

The Sewanee golf course is striving for a natural, rugged, minimalist feel as seen by its architecture and management.  According to Steven Ventola, this is the direction that golf course are moving and Sewanee is ahead of the game.


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