Golf gets greener in the Vail Valley |

Golf gets greener in the Vail Valley

Sarah Mausolf
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail DailyVail Valley: Sprinklers water the green at Country Club of the Rockies in Edwards. The course recently built a new pump station and plans to replace its sprinkler system with a more environmentally friendly model.

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – Vail Valley golfers have been warming up to a new trend on the green: less green.

“The thing now in golf is: a little bit of brown is OK,” said Kevin Ross, director of golf course management for the Country Club of the Rockies in Edwards.

In an effort to conserve a little water, golf course officials across the country have been coaxing players to think outside perfect, lush turf, he said.

“That movement is starting to come around a little bit,” Ross said.

If some yellow or brownish grass creeps in, that’s not necessarily a bad thing – in fact, grass that’s too lush can slow down the golf ball or leave mud on it, he said.

Golf courses may be notorious for using large amounts of water, but local greens have been doing all sorts of things to save H20.

Locals can learn more about it when representatives from three golf courses deliver a presentation Wednesday (April 28) at an Eagle River Watershed Council event. Folks from the Vail Golf Club in Vail, Country Club of the Rockies in Edwards and Red Sky Golf Club in Wolcott will deliver presentations.

At the Vail Golf Club, a new sprinkler system should save millions of gallons of water, course superintendent Steve Sarro said. It actually has more sprinkler heads than the old system, but each sprinkler spits out less water, he said.

The sprinklers are strategically placed to cover just the grass that needs watering – no water goes to waste on pavement or native areas.

The golf course finished installing the $2.5 million system in August, but this year will mark the first full season it will be in effect, Sarro said.

On average, the course uses 40 million gallons of water from Gore Creek each year to water the 115-acre course, he said. The new sprinkler system should cut that figure by 10 percent.

Country Club of the Rockies also plans to replace its 25-year-old irrigation system, Ross said. He expects to break ground on the bulk of the $4.5 million project within the next few years. Like the new system in Vail, the country club’s sprinklers will be targeted.

“We want the water to hit exactly what needs to be watered and no overspray hitting anything else,” Ross said.

New sprinklers should reduce the total amount of water the course uses by 17 to 21 percent and narrow the amount of land watered from 90 to 75 acres, he said. The golf course uses 35 to 50 million gallons of water each year from the Eagle River and McCoy Creek, he said.

Because the Red Sky Golf Club is relatively new, it already has a targeted sprinkler system, Director of Golf Course Maintenance Michael Miner said.

Golf managers don’t just guess whether the grass needs water.

They use a combination of weather stations and sensors buried in the soil to measure how much wetness has evaporated into the air. That information helps them pinpoint how much water the grass needs.

This spring, new programs will send that information straight to the golf manager’s iPhones or Blackberries – giving them instant feedback about which sprinklers need to be adjusted.

“It makes changes immediate so there’s less of a chance of any kind of waste,” Miner said.

In general, golf officials say, they’re sensitive to conserving water.

“We run a business and we are a large economic engine for the valley in the summertime but we are part of the community and we don’t waste water,” Sarro said. “We’re very careful about how we use it.”

Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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