By Ryan G. Leeds
As one of the nation’s premier golf destinations, Trump International Golf Club takes its responsibility for providing an outstanding member experience seriously.
This philosophy was reflected during a recent shoreline restoration project that also involved environmental improvements that golfers might not notice. This work included stabilizing soil, restoring eroded shorelines along the lakes, improving water quality and enhancing the natural habitat, thereby providing a more inviting destination for local wildlife and golfers alike.
The issues experienced by Trump International, located in Palm Beach County, Florida are typical of many courses as they age. Due to fluctuating water levels these courses face loss of land as large pieces of real estate slowly erode into the adjacent bodies of water. This situation results in dangerous conditions for players and maintenance staff. Most important, these waterways lose their original functionality to serve as water storage for irrigation and as storm water drainage systems to prevent severe flooding.
Due to these challenges, Trump International and other clubs are taking steps to stabilize soil and shorelines to provide an enjoyable and safe environment.
One of the major features of Trump International are the plentiful lakes, which, to the frustration of golfers, gobble up balls. The lakes also offer beautiful vistas that can be at risk without proper maintenance.
Golf course architects and developers create lakes as much more than hazards for golfers who hope to avoid deep-sixing balls. While they are attractive, these lakes are actually retention ponds to prevent flooding, giving water a place to go during heavy rains.
Nevertheless, erosion is inevitable and courses can gradually fall into disrepair, resulting in the problems discussed. Course superintendents, members and management understand the importance of taking the proper steps to reestablish and stabilize these shorelines with an environmentally safe and long-lasting solution.
The forces affecting golf courses are also typical of situations in municipalities and planned unit residential developments.
Those charged with maintaining these properties must be proactive and take regular, affordable steps to avoid larger repair expenses. The staff at Trump International recognized that many of these problems can be reversed and that it is possible to subtly support Mother Nature.
Trump International was seeing the effects of fluctuating water levels and how it was destabilizing the ground, resulting in significant erosion. They recognized that unstable land can be dangerous. For example, golfers walking on the shorelines can fall as the land collapses. Likewise, golf cart accidents can also result due to weakened shorelines. Those operating heavy equipment are at risk. Receding water levels can become a haven for burrowing animals and further weaken shoreline properties.
Poorly maintained shorelines can leave drainage pipes, sprinkler systems, and electrical, cable and Internet lines exposed and subject to corrosion and damage. These repairs can be costly.
There are several strategies to control shoreline erosion. Some include installing sandbags, rocks and trees. For the most part, these are short-term attempts to solve a long-term problem.
One long-lasting and eco-friendly erosion-control technology that was selected by Trump International is SOX Erosion Solutions’ DredgeSOX, which can remove sediment from waterways and reclaim shorelines.
In layman’s terms, the DredgeSOX is a huge, technical mesh sock that fills with organic sediment dredged from lake bottoms or from an outside source such as blown in mulch, compost mix or aeration plugs. It is then secured to the shoreline, using a patented anchoring system re-creating the original and now-living shoreline.
A benefit of the dredging process is that it improves water flow, reducing sub-surface and runoff nutrient overload, and creates healthy aquatic and land habitats. It also removes years of accumulated leaves and grass clippings.
The key advantage is that this innovative product allows us to use nature’s ability to stabilize the shoreline by planting and/or sodding directly through the knitted mesh, establishing newly rooted vegetation. It is the most effective way to permanently halt erosion as well as following best management practices.
Another major advantage is that the fully deployed SOX serves as a filter of surface and sub-surface water flow, reducing nitrates, phosphates and other pollutants from entering the water system. This results in cleaner and healthier waterways.
Approximately 18,000 linear feet of DredgeSOX have been installed on multiple lakes at Trump International.
Once the shorelines are stabilized, superintendents can consider a variety of other initiatives that reflect a commitment to the environment that beautify courses. Trump International is implementing a wide range of strategies to insure that this work will be long-lasting.
From a maintenance standpoint, the work really starts once the erosion mitigation and shoreline restoration is complete. For the work to be truly effective, the following should be maintained for long-lasting improvements:
- Maintain a buffer to filter nutrients from storm water run-off
- Reduce frequency of mowing at lakes’ edges
- Direct grass clippings away from lakes
- Practice good fertilizer management to reduce run-off
- Establish a 10-foot “no-fertilizer” zone around lakes
- Encourage native vegetation at the shoreline
- Install aeration systems to increased levels of dissolved oxygen and water circulation
“Controlling and restoring eroding shorelines is an ongoing challenge at all golf courses,” said Andrew Kjos, CGCS, director of agronomy at Trump International. “It is critical as we continually strive to create safe, picturesque experiences for our members and guests. We have researched many strategies and have found that the SOX system is environmentally preferable and easily installed as a long-term solution for erosion. It can also be contoured around trees and landscaping.
“The key advantage is that it allows for vegetation to grow through the system’s knitted mesh, thereby creating a natural, stable shoreline.”
Seagate Golf and Country Club in nearby Delray Beach, Florida, experienced similar success with a soil stabilization program featuring the SOX systems.
A few years ago, the former superintendent at Seagate had the shoreline of a course lake restored naturally with SOX Erosion Solutions and used the system recently to repair the functionality of another lake.
“It’s a stable lake shoreline and a thriving natural habitat,” said Nate Watkins, who worked until recently as a golf course superintendent. “I wanted SOX Erosion Solutions to work its magic on this other affected lake.”
A private club in Greenwich, Connecticut had similar challenges with persistently eroding shorelines. With the system, the club was able to provide strength to protect and stabilize the shoreline; support new and existing vegetation; dewater and retain nutrients upland to maintain new vegetation; contain safe and biodegradable organic material without causing additional contamination to nearby waterways; and filter unwanted nutrients to protect water quality.
By taking some of these steps, Trump International and other clubs are preserving the value and beauty of courses, while providing members with a safe and beautiful experience. Waterways are valuable golf course assets that can enhance profitability but, like any other amenity, they must be maintained responsibly and efficiently.
With regular maintenance these waterways can fulfill their original purpose of minimizing the threat of flooding — while still swallowing up golf balls.
Ryan G. Leeds is managing partner of SOX Erosion Solutions. The firm focuses on erosion control and restoration of living shorelines and hillsides with its patented, bioengineered erosion control products.