3 Planning, Design, and Construction
Building a new golf course or renovating an existing one requires careful protection of natural resources during all phases of planning, design, and construction. Implementing BMPs should result in an environmentally sustainable golf course that operates efficiently and cost effectively.
BMP Principles for Planning, Design, and Construction
- Follow best practices anytime soil is disturbed to avoid erosion and
- Maintain existing habitat to the extent possible during all phases of planning, design, and construction to preserve
- Manage stormwater by implementing a “treatment train” approach to prevent nonpoint source pollution from runoff.
3.1 Regulatory Considerations
Regulations are in place at the local, state, and national levels that impact planning, design, and construction activities on New York’s golf courses. Before beginning any golf course construction or renovation work, consultation with the appropriate regulatory agencies is necessary. For a new golf course development or a renovation project, New York State requires that a licensed golf course designer guide the site analysis process to ensure regulatory compliance. If new wells must be installed, experts should be consulted for proper siting in the design plan, and all setback and other regulatory requirements must be followed.
3.1.1 Stormwater Permits
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) protects streams, rivers, and lakes from construction pollution under the Clean Water Act (CWA). In concert with federal water quality regulations, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) issues individual and general permits for activities associated with stormwater discharges, including construction activities. Construction projects that will involve soil disturbance of one or more acres must obtain coverage under the State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) General Permit for Stormwater Discharges from Construction Activity from NYSDEC. Permittees are required to develop a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) to prevent discharges of construction-related pollutants to surface water. See the New York State Stormwater Management Design Manual, updated in 2015, for more information.
3.1.2 Erosion and Sediment Control
The NYSDEC Division of Water has regulatory oversight of the state’s erosion and sediment control program. The 2016 New York State Standards and Specifications for Erosion and Sediment Control provides standards and specifications for the selection, design and implementation of erosion and sediment control practices for the development of Erosion and Sediment Control Plans for the SPDES General Permit for Stormwater Discharges from Construction Activity.
Activities that impact wetlands are regulated under sections 404 and 401 of the CWA. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) regulates dredging and filling of waters in the United States under Section 404 of the CWA. Article 24 of New York Environmental Conservation Law requires permits to conduct activities within a wetland and an adjacent area bordering a wetland. Physical disturbance, as well as application of chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, even fertilizer), requires an Article 24 permit if the action is done in a state-regulated wetland or within a regulated adjacent area (typically 100 feet from wetland boundary).
3.1.4 Water Withdrawal
NYSDEC requires water withdrawal permits and annual reporting for any system capable of withdrawing more than 100,000 gallons of groundwater or surface water per day. Any withdrawal must also ensure that the existing best use of the waterbody from which the water is taken, such as protection of aquatic life, is not impaired. For more information on reporting and regulations in New York, see the Water Withdrawal Permits and Reporting web page.
3.1.5 Coastal Areas
Land disturbance activities within a designated coastal area may be regulated at the federal, state, and local levels. NYSDEC has two programs focused on the protection of coastal erosion:
- Coastal Erosion Hazard Area (CEHA) permit program, which provides written approval of regulated activities or land disturbance within the coastal erosion hazards areas under DEC’s jurisdiction.
- USACE’s Civil Works Program. DEC works with USACE to study erosion problems along coastlines and to develop solutions.
3.1.6 Listed Species
The State Endangered Species Act (ECL § 11-0535) regulations are codified in 6 NYCRR Part 182 and administered by NYSDEC. The NY Natural Heritage Program, a partnership between NYSDEC and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, provides information on listed species and species of special concern and ecological communities in the state. The Natural Heritage Program should be consulted prior to construction activities.
3.1.7 Invasive Species
Invasive species are non-native plants and animals that may negatively affect the environment, human health, and the economy. The transport and fate of invasive species is highly dependent upon the activities at a site. As they may affect areas beyond a project site, their presence should be considered and managed carefully. Furthermore, NYSDEC regulations (6 NYCRR Part 575) require that “no person shall sell, import, purchase, transport, introduce, or propagate any prohibited invasive species”. The prohibited invasive species list is available from NYSDEC. The disposal of invasive species in a manner that prevents their introduction into the environment is exempt from these restrictions.
3.2 Planning, Design, and Construction Overview
Proper planning is the first step to any construction or renovation project. Good planning also incorporates conservation of natural resources into the project. The design should allow for economic sustainability, while meeting stakeholder needs. Once designed, construction must be carried out in a way that minimizes environmental impacts. Maintaining a construction progress report helps to ensure regulatory compliance. Table 1 summarizes the steps and best practices for each phase of the planning, design, and construction process.
3.3 Planning and Design Considerations
In some instances, wetlands and streams can be improved or restored during golf course construction. For example, a highly degraded stream or wetland can sometimes be reshaped, rehabilitated, or replaced entirely to meet project goals and improve ecological function. Qualified environmental consultants can evaluate the overall benefit of stream enhancement or restoration and assist with permitting issues, which may include a federal 404 permit and/or state 401 certification.
3.3.2 Constructed Wetlands
Constructed aquatic ecosystems simulate the role of natural wetlands with respect to water purification. Like natural wetlands, they feature poorly drained soils and rooted emergent hydrophytes. which simulate the role of natural wetlands in water purification. These structures efficiently remove certain pollutants (nitrogen, phosphorus, metals, sediment, and other suspended solids) and can treat wastewater, such as discharges from equipment wash pads before the water enters streams, natural wetlands, or other surface water. Once these areas are constructed, however, they are considered wetlands and regulated as such.
Any substantial disturbance to a floodplain, including clearing and grading, generally requires an engineering analysis to demonstrate minimal impact on the base flood elevation in accordance with local ordinances. Depending on the complexity of the encroachment, this analysis may be as simple as a comparison of cut and fill quantities within the floodplain or as complex as a detailed floodplain model of the entire watershed. A complex analysis may require a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) review along with potential revision to the floodplain mapping. See NYSDEC’s Floodplain Management web page for more information and links to other sources of information.
Table 1. Best practices for golf course planning, design, and construction
|The team should include, but not be limited to, a golf course architect, golf course superintendent, clubhouse architect, irrigation engineer, environmental engineer, energy analyst, economic consultant, civil engineer, soil scientist, golf course builder, biologirst or ecologist, and a legal team. For new golf courses, a licensed golf course designer is required by law to guide the site analysis process.
|Identify realistic goals, formulate a timeline, etc.
|Conduct a Feasibility Study
|Evaluate finances, environmental issues, water availability and sources, and energy, materials, and labor needs. Identify applicable government regulations.
|Select and Analyze Site
|Site should meet project goals and expectations. Identify all strengths and weakness of each potential site. During site selection, any site constraints, such as the presence of listed species, valuable habitat, or invasive species should be identified. New York State requires that a licensed golf course designer guide the site analysis process to ensure regulatory compliance.
|Retain a Project Manager/Superintendent
|This person is responsible for integrating sustainable practices in the development, maintenance, and operation of the course.
|Design the Course
|Existing native landscapes should remain intact as much as possible. Consider supplemental native vegetation to enhance existing vegetation alongside lengthy fairways and out-of-play areas. Nuisance, invasive, and exotic plants should be removed and replaced with native species adapted to the area.
|Structural BMPs: Incorporate structural BMPs into the design plan, identifying opportunities to detain stormwater and to improve water quality through stormwater volume reduction, filtering, and biological and chemical processes.
|Greens: Should have plenty of sunlight and be well drained. Greens should be big enough to have several hole locations that can handle expected traffic.
Root zone material should be selected with United States Golf Association (USGA) specifications in mind, as published in A Guide to Constructing The USGA Putting Green. Physical testing of these sands by an accredited laboratory prior to use is recommended.
|Grass Selection: Species should be selected based on climate, environmental, and site conditions and species adaptability to those conditions, including disease resistance, drought tolerance, spring greenup, and traffic tolerance.
|Bunkers: The number and size of bunkers depend on considerations, such as the resources available for daily maintenance. For each bunker consider:
|Vegetative Filters: Vegetative filters (conservation buffers, vegetated filter strips, swales, etc.) can be used throughout the golf course to act as natural biofilters to reduce stormwater flow and pollutant load. Turf areas are also effective filters.
|Design Irrigation System
|Hire a professional irrigation architect, if possible, to design the irrigation system. Keep in mind the different water needs of greens, tees, fairways, roughs, and native areas. Consider the topography, prevalent wind speeds, and wind direction when spacing the heads. Choose the most efficient type of irrigation system considering available resources.
|Select Qualified Contractors
|Use only qualified contractors who are experienced in the special requirements of golf course construction, such as members of the Golf Course Builders Association of America.
|Follow all design phase plans and environmental laws. Soil stabilization techniques should be rigorously employed to maximize sediment control and minimize soil erosion. Temporary construction compounds and pathways should be built in a manner that reduces environmental impacts. Prevent the spread of invasive species.
|Install Irrigation System
|Installation should consider the need to move equipment and bury pipe while maintaining the original soil surface grade to minimize the potential for erosion.
|Turfgrass establishment methods and timing should allow for the most efficient progress of work, while optimizing resources and preventing erosion from bare soils before grass is established.
3.3.4 Pond Location and Design
Designing a new pond requires considerations such as the size of the drainage area, water supply, soil types, and water depth. In addition to potentially serving as an irrigation water source, ponds support aquatic life. Therefore, construction of ponds should consider the needs of aquatic ecosystems, such as discouraging excessive growth of aquatic vegetation, supplying sufficient dissolved oxygen (DO) to support aquatic species, etc. Careful design may significantly reduce future operating expenses for pond and aquatic plant management. In addition, water resources should be managed to control or limit the spread of aquatic invasive species, such as submerged plants, fish or invertebrates.
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3.3.5 Habitat Conservation
In addition to adhering to regulations that protect listed species, maintaining habitat to the extent possible during all phases of planning, design, and construction helps maintain biodiversity. Natural habitats provide food and shelter for numerous species, including mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, insects, and native plants. A number of golf course management activities can maintain and enhance habitat, such as the following:
- Retaining natural buffer areas around wetlands and watercourses preserves habitat while protecting water quality for aquatic species.
- Planting native species provides food for animals and insects.
- Retaining dead trees to serve as nesting areas and providing nest boxes for birds, bees, and bats also enhances habitat quality.
- Removing exotic and invasive species improves habitat as well. The New York Invasive Species Information website provides lists of invasive species and species profiles which include control strategies.
- Consider consultation with local Partnerships for Invasive Species Management (PRISMs) for practical advice and region-specific recommendations.
- Creating corridors to connect natural areas (both on and off property).
The “Pollinator Protection” and “Landscape” chapters of this document provide additional recommendations and BMPs for enhancing habitat on the golf course.
3.3.6 Invasive Species
Invasive species should be managed to prevent their spread or where practicable to eradicate them from sites. Areas infested with invasive species should be delineated and monitored whenever construction occurs. Whenever possible, native plants should be used to revegetate disturbed areas.
3.4 Stormwater Management
The movement of water across the land surface (i.e. runoff) from either precipitation or irrigation that does not infiltrate into the ground is the conveying force behind nonpoint source pollution. In this section, stormwater management refers to the management of runoff from precipitation but applies to irrigation runoff as well. Stormwater management is the control and use of stormwater runoff and includes planning for runoff, maintaining stormwater systems, and regulating the collection, storage, and movement of stormwater. Principles of stormwater management on golf courses includes the following:
- Keep stormwater close to where it falls.
- Slow down stormwater runoff.
- Allow stormwater to infiltrate into the soil.
Stormwater management is best accomplished by a “treatment train” approach in which water is moved from one treatment to another by conveyances that themselves contribute to the treatment. These treatments include source controls, structural controls, and non-structural controls. An example of this treatment train approach is as follows: Stormwater is directed across vegetated filter strips, through a swale, into a retention pond, then out through another swale to a constructed wetland system.
3.4.1 Source Controls
The first car of the BMP treatment train are source controls to help prevent the generation of stormwater runoff or the introduction of pollutants into stormwater runoff. For example, during construction or redesign activities, strict adherence to erosion and sedimentation controls helps to prevent, or at least minimize, the possibility for sediment and nutrients to impact water quality through runoff. After construction, reduction in the use of pesticides through an IPM program reduces the potential for off-site movement of pesticides.
3.4.2 Structural Controls
Structural controls are often the next car in the treatment train and are design and engineering features of the course created to remove, filter, retain, or reroute potential contaminants (e.g. nutrients, pesticides) carried in surface runoff. Descriptions of structural controls commonly used on golf courses and an evaluation of the effectiveness of each can be found on the NYS BMP Structural Controls web page. Periodic inspection and maintenance of all structural controls are essential to ensure they function as designed; inspection and maintenance guidelines are published on the NYS BMP Maintenance of Structural Controls web page.
In and around the clubhouse and other structures, opportunities to slow down the movement of water from impervious surfaces and allow for infiltration should be identified. For example, runoff from gutters and roof drains should flow into permeable areas. Rain gardens near these areas can be incorporated into the landscape design. Maximizing the use of pervious pavements, such as brick or concrete pavers separated by sand and planted with grass, allows stormwater to infiltrate into the soil as opposed to running off. Crushed stone and other permeable products are available for cart paths or parking lots.
3.4.3 Non-Structural Controls
Non-structural controls are the last car in the treatment train. Non-structural controls often mimic natural hydrology (e.g. constructed wetlands), hold stormwater (e.g. constructed wetlands and wet retention basins), and filter stormwater via vegetative practices (e.g. filter strips and grassed swales). Turfgrass areas are extremely effective in reducing soil losses compared to other cropping systems, due to the architecture of the turf canopy, the fibrous turf root system, and the development of a vast macropore soil structural system that encourages infiltration rather than runoff. Additionally, turf density, leaf texture, rooting strength, and canopy height physically restrain soil erosion and sediment loss by dissipating impact energy from rain and irrigation water droplets. A description of specific types of vegetative practices that serve as non-structural controls on golf courses is published on the NYS BMP Vegetative Practices web page.
Adequate drainage is necessary for healthy turfgrass. The drainage system should be part of the stormwater management approach, incorporating the containment and treatment features described above.
Subsurface drainage directs stormwater and can reduce runoff and leaching. Subsurface drainage is also installed to control a water table or to interrupt subsurface seepage or flow. Wherever possible, direct this drainage into vegetative areas for biological filtration or into infiltration basins to help control the potential loss of nutrients and pesticides from the golf course.
Drainage is only as good as the system’s integrity. Damaged, improperly installed, or poorly maintained drainage systems negatively impact play and increase risks to water quality. The drainage system should be routinely inspected to ensure proper function. Roots and animal activity can easily clog drains and prevent proper functioning. This is the area to paste text. All section headlines are already linked up to the left side navigation. This is the area to paste text. All section headlines are already linked up to the left side navigation.This is the area to paste text. All section headlines are already linked up to the left side navigation.
3.5 External Programs
Golf courses can gain valuable recognition for their environmental education and certification efforts. Examples of external designations include Audubon International’s Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf and the Groundwater Foundation’s Groundwater Guardian Green Site program.
3.6 Planning, Design, and Construction Best Management Practices
Planning, Design, and Construction Activities
- Retain riparian buffers along waterways to protect water quality and provide food, nesting sites, and cover for wildlife.
- Rigorously employ soil stabilization techniques to maximize sediment control and minimize soil erosion.
- Maintain appropriate silt fencing during construction to prevent erosion and sedimentation in accordance with the SWPPP.
- When constructing drainage systems, pay close attention to engineering details such as subsoil preparation and the placement of gravel, slopes, and backfilling.
- Identify, delineate, and list aquatic and terrestrial invasive species on the property, and report the presence of any invasive species to iMapInvasives.
- Wash soils, seeds, and plant propagules off of all construction equipment prior to entering a site and before leaving areas infested with invasive species to prevent the spread beyond a construction zone.
- Install retention basins to store water and reduce flooding at peak flows.
- Install vegetated swales and slight berms around water edges, including retention basins, to slow water and allow for infiltration.
- Discharge internal golf course drains through pretreatment zones and/or vegetative buffers to help remove nutrients and sediments. Do not discharge directly into an open waterbody.
- Conduct an initial evaluation of the rate of dewatering of structural controls after large storms and the depth of sediment buildup for each structure.
- Monitor each control structure regularly, at least once per year.
- Maintain an inspection log for each control structure.
- Remove sediment buildup, clean the inlets, and mow as needed to maintain performance of structural controls.
- Inspect filter strips annually and examine for damage from foot or vehicle traffic, encroachment, gully erosion, or evidence of concentrated flows through or around the strip.
- Maintain dense grass cover on grassed swales by mowing, spot-seeding, controlling weeds, and watering as needed.
- Use depressed landscape islands in parking lots to catch, filter, and infiltrate water, instead of letting it run off.
- Use elevated stormwater drain inlets in parking lots for hard rains. Such inlets can hold the treatment volume and settle out sediments, while allowing the overflow to drain away.
- Maximize the use of pervious pavements, such as brick or concrete pavers separated by sand and planted with grass. Consider using crushed stone or other permeable products for cart paths or parking lots.
- Eliminate or minimize directly connected impervious areas.
- Ensure runoff from gutters and roof drains flows onto permeable areas, allowing the water to infiltrate near the point of generation.