Water Wisdom at The Resort at Pelican Hill

Golf courses across the Southland are more than ever instituting plans that promote sustainability, decrease maintenance and give a renewed sense of helping the environment. The Resort at Pelican Hill’s water management plan began even before its two 18-hole courses were remodeled nearly three years ago, which gave the club a leg up in making the most of the concept.

The Newport Coast resort was in its early construction stages when property owner and operator The Irvine Company installed a state-of-the-art water system that would regulate the amount of water the Tom Fazio Ocean North and South Courses, and the Italian Renaissance-inspired resort itself, would receive. Orange County Coastkeeper, which consulted with Pelican Hill during the planning process, said the system is the most advanced the organization has seen on the California Coast, and they anticipate that it will become a model for the rest of the state.

“Our mission since launching Pelican Hill’s green initiatives several years ago was to improve upon and provide long-term sustainable practices for the 504 acres surrounding The Resort at Pelican Hill, including everything we do on our two Tom Fazio-designed courses,” says Pelican Hill’s General Manager of Golf Steve Friedlander. “Consistent with the history of Irvine Company programs, we are committed to being ‘stewards of the land,’ so that 150 years from now, our land remains in the same pristine condition as it is now.”

When Fazio redesigned the Ocean North and Ocean South Courses during the resort’s construction, fairway grasses were changed to a Hybrid Bermuda, which in conjunction with the new irrigation and water management system saves more than 50 million gallons of water per year. Planters are extra-absorbent, acting like sponges and filtering storm water.

The golf courses have their own on-site weather stations, which measure rainfall, temperature, humidity and evaporation rates and transfer the information to the computerized irrigation system. The golf club also has a staff of irrigators who handprobe the soil to determine which areas need water.

All of this is possible by the water system’s three key points of focus: conservation, reducing water’s debris and contaminants, and capturing and recycling runoff — all of which help keep the nearby Pacific Ocean clean. Mimicking nature’s own process of water collection and filtration, Pelican Hill’s water management system utilizes a sophisticated labyrinth of filters, underground cisterns and catch basins to trap and treat all runoff from both the resort and golf courses, preventing it from entering the ocean. Those underground cisterns collectively hold nearly 1.2 million gallons of water, which are recycled and used as reclaimed irrigation water.

In addition, the resort has a green committee headed by Water Quality Manager Mike Ahmer, with volunteers from various departments. The committee focuses on ensuring the resort’s environmental compliance and stewardship, recycling and sustainability; implementing additional environmentally-friendly operating practices; and organizing beach and state park cleanups, as well as other events, to help give back to the local community.

--From FORE Magazine, January/February 2010