Aug 12, 2020

Soil Stabilization Restores Environmental Focus at Golf Courses

Soil stabilization efforts aid various golf courses in restoring their shorelines and water quality.

The DredgeSOX project at Trump International Golf Course is completed with sod planted through the mesh and shoreline fully restored
The DredgeSOX project at Trump International Golf Course is completed with sod planted through the mesh and shoreline fully restored

During recent repairs and environmental improvements at Trump International Golf Club, golfers may have noticed the aesthetics but may not have noticed the environmental benefits.The restoration work involved stabilizing soil, restoring eroded shorelines along the many 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 this golf club 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 body of water or sometimes large areas. This situation results in dangerous conditions for players and maintenance staff. Most importantly, 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 Golf Club and many others are taking steps to stabilize soil and shorelines to provide an enjoyable and safe environment. One of the major features are the plentiful lakes, which, to the frustration of golfers gobble up balls. The lakes also offer beautiful vistas, which can be at risk without proper maintenance.

1.      Before the DredgeSOX restoration project began, there was significant shoreline erosion at Trump International.
Before the DredgeSOX restoration project began, there was significant shoreline erosion at Trump International. 

Golf course developers create lakes as much more than hazards for golfers who hope to avoid deep-sixing balls. While they are attractive, these waterways have a greater purpose than offering scenery. These lakes are actually retention ponds to prevent flooding, giving water a place to go during heavy rains. 

Nevertheless, erosion is inevitable and without taking these steps, 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 recreate 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 and other clubs recognize that many of these problems can be reversed and it is possible to subtly support Mother Nature. 

Trump International was seeing the effects of fluctuating water levels and how it was de-stabilizing 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. Receding water levels also can become a haven for burrowing animals and further weaken shoreline properties.  

Poorly maintained shorelines can leave drainage pipes, sprinkler systems and electrical, cable/Internet lines exposed and subject to corrosion and damage. These repairs can be costly.

Fortunately, 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 eco-friendly erosion control technology is SOX Erosion Solutions’ DredgeSOX, the alternative selected by Trump International and numerous courses nationwide. It is an effective way to remove sediment from waterways and reclaim shorelines. 

In layman’s terms, SOX is filling a huge, technical mesh sock with organic sediment that is dredged from lake bottoms or brought in from an outside source, such as blown in mulch, compost mix or aeration plugs. It is then secured to the shoreline, using SOX patented anchoring system re-creating the original and now living shoreline. 

A benefit of the dredging process improves water flow, reducing pollution and creating healthy aquatic and land habitats. It also removes years of accumulated leaves and grass clippings. 

The key advantage is that this innovative product allows nature’s natural ability to stabilize the shoreline by planting and/or sodding directly through the knitted mesh, establishing newly rooted vegetation. It is an most effective way to permanently halt erosion as well as following best management practices.

Another advantage is that the fully deployed SOX serves as a filter of surface and subsurface 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 has 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 runoff
  • Reduce frequency of mowing at lake’s 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
During the Trump International project, sediment is pumped into the mesh product that lines the shoreline.
During the Trump International project, sediment was pumped into the mesh product that lines the shoreline.

“Controlling and restoring eroding shorelines is an ongoing challenge at all golf courses,” said Andrew Kjos, CGCS, director of agronomy at Trump International Golf course. “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 SOX systems knitted mesh, thereby creating a natural, stable shoreline.”

Another private country club in south Florida, Seagate Golf and Country Club, 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,” says Nate Watkins, a Class A member of the Golf Course Superintendent Association of America, “I wanted SOX Erosion Solutions to work its magic on this other affected lake.”

A private club in San Antonio, Texas had similar challenges with persistently eroding shorelines. With the SOX system, the club accomplished the following:

  • 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, clubs are preserving the value and beauty of courses, while providing members with a safe and beautiful experience. Waterways are valuable golf course assets which can enhance profitability, but they, like any other amenity, must be maintained responsibly and efficiently.

With regular maintenance, these waterways can fulfill their original purpose of minimizing the threat of flooding while, of course, swallowing up golf balls.


About the author

Ryan G. Leeds is managing partner of SOX Erosion Solutions. He can be reached at