Xiang Shui Bay Golf Club

GEO Certified® 09/2015
Zhu Zhou, Hunan,
China
Telephone: +8618373328688
North_9_green_club_image

Executive summary (English & local language)

Xiang Shui Bay Golf Club is a 27-hole semi-private golf facility located in the city of Zhuzhou, Hunan province, China. In only its third year of operation, the club is able to implement sustainable practices more easily and quickly than older golf clubs with more established policies and procedures.

Although constructed on relatively flat land, Xiang Shui Bay’s 27 holes feature significant elevation changes with undulating fairways and large contoured greens. Playing challenges were designed with abundant water bodies and bunkering throughout. The course architect, Nelson & Haworth, incorporated the natural terrain and landscape, while creating dimensional interest for the golfer.

Property facilities include a modern two-story clubhouse of English Tudor architecture, three halfway houses, a golf academy with driving range, and an extensive grounds maintenance complex.

In keeping with the club’s high priority to operate sustainably, Xiang Shui Bay has undertaken a gradual, but steady turf replacement program. Areas involving little or no play, such as tee box surrounds and former roughs, are now abundant with maintenance free, drought tolerant native plantings, including bahiagrass, ornamentals, and young trees. Turfgrass selections comprise varieties that are generally consistent with sustainable practices.

Finally, club ownership wanted to create an environmental “sanctuary” adjacent to but away from the bustling city of Zhuzhou. Based on the readily observable mini “preserves” that were created and the serenity one senses while both traversing and playing the golf course, it would appear that the owner’s objective was accomplished.

Nature

Over the gently rolling terrain of the Xiang Shui Bay golf facilities, bountiful flora and fauna is plainly evident. Indigenous birds, reptiles, and small burrowing animals make their home in and around the golf course and peripheral grounds. The non-manicured, unmaintained plant life that the club incorporated in woodlands, scrub vegetation, and sand dunes, as well as at abundant water bodies, form the ecosystems that protect this habitat.

For both landscape heritage conservation and ecosystem protection and enhancement, Xiang Shui Bay consults with the Department of Environmental Protection, Zhuzhou City, Hunan province. Based on these consultations, the club is aware of at least six protected species on the property.

About 75% of habitat and vegetated areas comprise a native and non-native woodlands plus open water features. Remaining habitat areas are found in scrub vegetation, sand dunes, and wetlands. Prior to the commencement of the course architect’s design work, Xiang Shui Bay stated very clearly that protecting and creating these areas were of the highest priority to the owner. The results of this mandate demonstrate very clearly that club ownership and management possess a good understanding of ecosystems, bio-diversity, and ecology. The club did not stipulate formal designations of these habitats.

As with most golf courses in the region, the predominant turfgrass selected for playing surfaces is a strain of hybrid Bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon x C. transvaalensis), commonly called Tifway Bermuda. This variety of turfgrass was selected due to its characteristics of heat and drought tolerance, resistance to common turfgrass pathogens, and versatility in terms of required soil composition.

All putting surfaces (27 holes and practice greens) comprise Creeping Bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera / palustris) and Paspalum (Paspalum notatum). Due to this being a cool-season turfgrass variety, extra care (i.e., more frequent watering) is required to maintain the greens during the hot summers typical in this region of China. In order to minimize stress, heights of cut (HOC) are allowed to be much higher (4.5mm) than during the rest of the year (3.0-3.5mm), which, of course, adversely affects greens speed.

By choosing Bentgrass turf for its greens, Xiang Shui Bay ownership decided it was willing to sacrifice summer greens performance (and more sustainable practices) during the traditional slower summer months in favor of appealing to what they view as a more discerning and higher-paying clientele during non-summer months. These customers come from the north (Japan, Korea, northern China, etc.) and travel south during the winter and prefer to putt on surfaces (primarily Bentgrass) to which they are more accustomed. Clearly, this golfing demographic has not been enlightened about the environmental detriments precipitated by a course attempting to provide more lush, emerald-green playing surfaces on a year-round basis.

With the course’s Bermudagrass going off-color and semi-dormant during winter months, the over-seeded fairways and tees provide seasonal color and texture variations. Although not a sustainability-favored turfgrass choice, the Bentgrass greens maintain their green color twelve months a year.

Mow strips were observed as being aesthetically appropriate with respect to course contours. These mow lines are rotated on a regularly scheduled basis to provide attractive cross patterns as well as to improve turf cut quality.

To help preserve the course’s natural appearance, on-course directional or other informational signage is kept to a minimum. Only the large native rocks used at tee boxes for hole identification purposes break up the natural environment a golfer or visitor would see while on the course or around the clubhouse. The few man-made surfaces one would notice, golf car paths and pump houses, are screened as well as possible by native plantings.

In addition to preserving and/or relocating native specimen trees on or around the course, Xiang Shui Bay brought in a significant number of additional native trees to further enhance the overall landscape of the club.

Areas bordering playing surfaces that are generally out of play encompass native vegetation that displays attractive foliage and color. These native plantings, unlike turf, are maintenance and input free, depending only on precipitation for periodic watering.

Over the past year, the club has undertaken a significant program of turf removal in such areas as teeing ground periphery, roughs that are well removed from in-play locations, and borders to water bodies that presented maintenance difficulties and expense. As turf is removed in these areas, replacement vegetation comprises native plantings that also are maintenance and input free. This program is both gradual—to avoid unnecessary attention—and ongoing, as many areas that were originally (and unnecessarily) designed for turf will be converted.

Maintenance-free grassy areas, which are out of play, preserve habitat quality. Planted Bahiagrass in lieu of maintained turf helps provide protection of native flora and fauna. A suitable balance of open water and aquatic vegetation makes up the several water bodies on and around the course. During the site visit, an abundance of wild life was observed in these areas.

Water

The vast majority of water usage at golf course facilities is represented by turf irrigation, and at over 85 percent Xiang Shui Bay is no exception. As part of the club’s initial civil design, water-carrying systems were constructed such that course watering would require zero use of potable water. That is, rainwater supplies all of the course’s irrigation needs. Sustainability was also held in high regard when planning the new clubhouse and maintenance buildings. Although supplied by only potable water, those facilities incorporate various water-saving measures, which are highlighted below.

Xiang Shui Bay’s clubhouse and maintenance buildings are 100% sourced with potable water by public services, used in kitchens, bathrooms, showers, and locker room amenities. Since the club opened only within the past two years, usage data is provided only for the prior year (2014). Water-saving fixtures, including low-flow faucets at sinks and showers and low-flush toilets, were installed during construction in all facilities. At the time of the site visit, the club was only partially open to guests; hence, comparable water usage data will not be possible until 2016 at the earliest.

In August 2014, a water audit encompassing surface water and wastewater was conducted by the Zhuzhou Dept. of Environmental Protection. The ensuing results were favorable, as they met the department’s requirement standards.

Golf course irrigation comprises 100% surface water sourced by the area’s plentiful rainfall and designed to be captured in the course’s numerous water bodies and collection ponds. Pump stations efficiently calibrate and distribute the water directly to the irrigation system.

All turf areas, except for roughs, which receive no irrigation, are regularly watered as weather and other conditions dictate. To ensure efficiency, soil moisture readings and weather forecasts are scrutinized daily to ascertain correct watering amounts and frequencies. Evapotranspiration-rate data are generated by the club’s Rainbird controllers and analyzed on a daily basis. During the warm season’s hottest periods, the cool-season Bentgrass greens require daily watering to ensure their survival.

With the vast majority of turf area located on fairways, tees, and semi-rough, the selected Tif-Sport hybrid Bermudagrass performs well as a drought-tolerant variety. Bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum), planted at fairway and tee perimeters, is a maintenance-free performer that requires no irrigation. Wetting agents are regularly applied to greens, while fairways are spot-treated.

Cultural practices including aerating and topdressing are performed on a regular basis in order to minimize thatch and maximize water-absorption in irrigated turf areas.

As referenced above, a continual turf reduction plan is underway, where fairways are being reduced, and other areas previously with turf are being replaced with Bahiagrass.

Low-flow urinals and toilets are installed at the clubhouse, halfway houses (3), driving range, and maintenance facilities. The clubhouse also has deployed low-flow faucets throughout, which operate in conjunction with water-saving awareness signage for guests.

As part of regular maintenance, plumbing is monitored daily, and any observed leaks are repaired the same day.

Energy

During the site visit, it was evident that, since design and construction, Xiang Shui Bay has had energy savings as a top priority. In addition to installing current technology in mechanical and electrical systems that are designed to reduce power consumption, many features of the clubhouse were designed with sustainability in mind. Advantageous building orientation, operable windows, ceiling light panels and openings, zoning of air condition and lighting controllers, and efficiencies integrated into staff dormitories all were implemented during construction of the new club two years ago.

Energy sources and uses at Xiang Shui Bay include the following:
Renewable sources – on-site solar is used to power hot water heaters in the dormitory facilities; pursuant to the gathering of appropriate data, other potential expansion of solar power will be explored.
Non-renewable sources –
• Diesel: various turf equipment and transport vehicles
• Petrol: automobiles, motorcycles, and various small course maintenance machinery
• Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG): kitchen stoves and hot water in changing rooms
• Electricity from grid (China Southern Power Grid Co.): all lighting and air conditioning

With the exception of the 300 square meters of solar panels installed at the staff dormitories to power water heaters, energy diversification has been limited to LPG. Given the very young age of the club, subsequent attempts to diversify energy supply will take more time and usage data.

Summarizing the club’s initiatives to reduce energy consumption and carbon:
• All clubhouse air-conditioning systems have government’s energy rating label, which indicates meeting low-usage criteria.
• HVAC controlling thermostats are set at highest (or lowest) possible settings until conditions necessitate adjustment
• Solar panels are installed at staff dormitories and supply energy usage for water heaters. After historical energy-savings data has been evaluated, more wide-spread use of solar power will be considered.
• When weather conditions permit, operable windows and doors are left open to generate natural ventilation.
• Clubhouse and back-of-house office design encompassed significant use of fenestration, which provides natural lighting and reduces the need for constant artificial lighting.
• Clubhouse lamps all contain government-rated, low-energy bulbs.
• Motion-sensing devices control stairwell lighting in the clubhouse and at dormitories. Additional use of these devices is being contemplated for other suitable areas.
• Employees are encouraged to use the club-owned shuttle bus instead of private transportation to commute to the course and to local areas outside the club.
• Educational postings about reducing energy usage is prominently posted throughout the staff dormitories; periodic training for employees is conducted, demonstrating the club’s commitment to sustainability and energy reduction.

Supply Chain

Xiang Shui Bay has been an operating golf club for about two years, during which time its staff has adhered to purchasing policies that include buying from local resources whenever feasible. The city of Zhuzhou, with approximately 4 million inhabitants, has many purveyors of products to which the club avails itself to the extent possible.

Food items and other small products (light bulbs, detergents, etc.) are generally produced and/or distributed locally, and none of those suppliers are located outside of a 100-mile radius. Another purchasing policy is to request from suppliers that they use recycled or recyclable materials for packaging and to bulk-package goods as feasible. Currently, this is a significant challenge in China. Additionally, purchasing certified products and from accredited suppliers, such as those with ISO certifications, is attempted on a consistent basis.

Due to the club’s maintenance strategies of employing only high-grade turf inputs (i.e., fertilizers and chemicals) and key tool implements, as well as the local market’s poor reputation for manufacturing such critical products, Xiang Shui Bay only purchases such materials from domestic suppliers if they are government and/or ISO certified.

Xiang Shui Bay, as part of its routine IPM programs, manages turf as sustainably as possible. The club’s choice of turfgrass for tees, fairways, aprons and approaches, and roughs, Tif Sport Bermuda, is both drought and disease tolerant. As discussed above in Nature, Creeping Bentgrass was the selected turfgrass for putting surfaces. Unfortunately, this decision is not so consistent with the club’s attempts to facilitate a sustainable IPM program. However, typical cultural practices, including seasonal aerification, vertical mowing and topdressing, are regularly employed to minimize thatch, wear and tear, and surface water accumulation. These same practices help to maximize enhanced soil structure and disease prevention. Of particular note is the club’s reliance on trained professionals—soil laboratories and consultants—to provide guidance in their turf management practices.

Fertilizer usage in 2014 encompassed strictly inorganic products, most of which were applied to greens. In most cases, Bentgrass greens require higher volumes of nutrients, particularly Nitrogen, than do hybrid (or ultra-hybrid) Bermuda-grass greens. With Bentgrass as the selected turf variety for Xiang Shui Bay’s greens, volumes of N are predictably high.

Amounts of N and K applied to fairways are considerably less than those applied to both tees and semi-roughs, which account for much less area. Semi-rough areas, in general, received relatively high amounts of fertilizer during the year.

In general, pesticide usage across all categories appears reasonable for normal turf management.

In optimizing pesticide use, only government-certified and approved herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides are applied. The club applies no broad-spectrum chemicals; rather, only those that are pest-specific are purchased. Using all new turf equipment, sprayers are shrouded with anti-drip nozzles. To reduce herbicide volume, the club employs additional labor to hand-pull weeds at certain times and areas.

Xiang Shui Bay exercises diligence in minimizing waste and taking advantage of recycling and reuse opportunities. Applicable staff members are trained on established policies and procedures for managing waste, whether they include recycling of materials or reuse of organic debris.

Although China does not yet require various industries to package products in recycled or recyclable containers; however, the club makes it a habit to request such containers or minimal use of packaging materials. For those items that are recyclable, the club uses designated bins for collection and contracts with a local recycler that collects such items and disposes of them appropriately. In addition, the club incorporates materials manufactured from or including recycled products—cloth for machinery cleaning and plank wood for cabinetry.

The club recycles organic waste (clippings, trimmings, debris, etc.) in various ways: greens clippings are deposited into lakes for carp feeding, collected cores and turf are used to reinforce or repair eroded banks on water bodies, and wood/timber is used for wooden pilings at steep slope areas to prevent erosion. Paper and cardboard is collected by a certified agency for recycling.

The club has a well-organized, comprehensive set of waste management policies and procedures, which are incorporated into each department’s training of staff.

Pollution Control

Club management places particular emphasis on taking measures to minimize, or eliminate, polluting elements that are often typical in golf course operations.All applicable government regulations are being met, and the club is committed to abiding by any subsequent requirements that may occur.

As stated above in the Water section, chemical and biological monitoring of inflow, outflow, and on-site water is performed twice annually by an approved local government agency. In addition, these three sources of water locations are visually observed by course management on a daily basis.

Clubhouse and facility waste water discharges to municipal sewer mains, while golf course irrigation water discharges to on-course reservoir systems. Waste water generated from equipment washing at wash pads also flows into sewer mains.

As a new club, Xiang Shui Bay’s modern facilities include secure building space with impervious floors where all materials associated with hazardous use are stored. After hazardous materials are used, empty containers are similar stored in a designated secured space with impervious floors and are then collected by registered uplift.

The club’s maintenance facility was designed and constructed to include designated secured storage rooms for hazardous products and equipment. All maintenance equipment and machinery is stored in enclosed, well-organized, clean, and secured maintenance facilities, which include impervious flooring.

All chemical and fertilizer mixing is conducted in a dedicated covered area over impervious surfaces and is located within the maintenance facilities complex. Machinery and equipment are re-fueled at a designated station inside the maintenance facilities complex. Fuel containers are below-ground tanks. Secondary fuel tanks meet local government regulations.

As part of the club’s activities to prevent pollution on the golf course, nearly all water bodies are buffered with added vegetation, which acts as a filtering agent prior to water infiltration. Erosion potential is managed with plantings of various vegetation on and around the course. Except for its policy of keeping Bahiagrass areas free of all input application, no other pesticide-free zones have been established as of the site visit.

The club has very specific policies and procedures, which apply to all known or anticipated issues relating to emergency spillage. This topic is also covered in the club’s staff training.

Community

Xiang Shui Bay ownership and management are in constant contact with local municipal officials, as they are presently hashing out some past land use challenges that affect part of the golf course. The club is actually using this as an opportunity to further strengthen its ties with local officials--hand-in-glove arrangements have resulted in the club's strong employment of local talent, internships with a local university, and other community-bonding programs which promote the club's sustainability initiatives.

During club and course construction, Xiang Shui Bay thoroughly engaged the local community by providing substantial employment opportunities. And via continued employment, the club makes a substantial commitment at both the municipal and provincial levels, with over 50% from Zhuzhou and 80%, from within Hunan province.

Environmental training is a key element of human resources at Xiang Shui Bay. All new staff members become engaged with the concept of sustainability during their earliest on-site training regimens. During the first two weeks of orientation, every employee receives standard job training, which includes environmental protection topics. Maintenance workers, for example, go though two major training sessions annually with accompanying exams and significantly include all related environmental issues they are certain to encounter as they perform their normal tasks.

The club first assigned representatives from every department to coalesce as a single sustainability task force. The interest became so great, however, that now staff volunteer to be involved in the group so that involvement is on a rotating basis across all departments.

Contacts with local government include the Department of Environmental Protection of Zhuzhou City and the Department of Water Resources. To these agencies, the club makes known its efforts to ensure that environmental issues are being addressed and that, overall, is attempting to dispel the widely held notion that golf courses are negative contributors to the environment.

Since inception, Xiang Shui Bay has been a valuable member of the community by offering about 70 internships, which mostly involve the Hunan Sports School.

Updating employees and club members on the club’s environmental efforts take place via posters and signs around the clubhouse as well as through the use of the social media site “Wechat,” which is the most widely used form of electronic communication in China.

Adjacent to the club’s maintenance facilities is a land parcel designated for crop and native plant production, the yields of which are for staff consumption and course augmentation, respectively. For both, organic farming methods are employed.

Other recreational opportunities provided by the club include fishing outings and photography sessions for members and their families.

Updating employees and club members on the club’s environmental efforts take place via posters and signs around the clubhouse.

Via the social media site “Wechat,” the most widely used form of electronic communication in China, all announcements, notices, educational information, and club events are communicated both internally and externally.

Documentation Reviewed

Conclusion

Xiang Shui Bay Golf Club demonstrates a keen desire to become known as a leader in sustainable golf course management in China. Club ownership initiated this objective during the design and planning phases of the clubhouse and the 27 holes of championship golf. With its adjacent proximity to the city of Zhuzhou’s (and Hunan province’s) primary waterway, the Xiangjiang River, and the many man-made bodies of water on the course, wildlife habitat abounds throughout the property.

In the relatively brief time since the club and course opened, management has implemented sustainability practices that are both commendable and admirable. And what may be the most impressive is the level of commitment and understanding of such sustainable practices throughout the ranks of those employed at the club. Certainly, Xiang Shui Bay’s training and indoctrination of the importance of each staff member’s contribution to sustainability has been the key to the club’s “walking the walk” in terms of long-term environmental stewardship.

Every golf property pursuing a sustainable management regimen requires continual improvement and additional course of action—some more significant than others. While one of those significant improvements may be necessary for this club to achieve re-certification in three years’ time, I am pleased to recommend Xiang Shui Bay for initial GEO Certification.

Certification Highlights

Via several design and maintenance strategies, club ownership and management have exhibited proficiencies in golf course sustainability practices. Members and guests of the club practically have to trip over information that states the club’s commitment to environmental friendliness. While detailed in applicable sections above, the club’s sustainability efforts and achievements are too numerous to list in a summation section.

From its turf reduction and height-of-cut programs that contribute to input decreases, to zero potable water usage for irrigation, management has built, in effect, a sustainability “taskforce” amongst its employees, who by nature look for opportunities to curtail the club’s carbon footprint. Even at the risk of displeasing the course architect, management has taken post-design and post-opening voluntary measures to reduce conventional, but non-sustainable, maintenance practices: elimination of mechanized maintenance at sensitive water boundaries; reduction or elimination of unnecessary fairway heights of cut without changing hole design or playability; termination of mowing in non-play areas; installation of native grasses requiring no irrigation of inputs; and addition of native flora as filtering systems to allow flourishing of habitat and erosion mitigation.

During the site visit, it was plainly evident how much thought, planning, and expense went into clubhouse design elements that reduce energy and water usage. Operable windows are present throughout the building; motion sensors and zone controls activate lights and air conditioning only when necessary; roof penetrations provide for natural light and add to energy savings; and low-flush and low-flow fixtures are installed throughout lavatories and locker rooms.

In final summation, Xiang Shui Bay has done an excellent job balancing the first-rate club experience it provides its members and guests via premiere facilities with going to significant extent of being environmentally responsible.