Jul 02, 2019

Storm Water Tee Off

Golf course implements sustainable design to better manage storm water & control erosion

Golf course implements sustainable design to better manage storm water & control erosion

The city of Elgin, Ill., utilized “smart growth” initiatives to develop its Comprehensive Plan and Design Guidelines that would ensure growth that harmonizes with the environment and ensures a high quality of life for future generations. Located within the “immediate growth area” designation on the Comprehensive Plan is the 607-acre site for Bowes Creek, a planned community designed with a philosophy of sustainability. The intention was to seamlessly integrate clustered residential enclaves around an interconnected open space system that included the recreational focal point: Bowes Creek Country Club. 


The Design

Prior to any physical planning for Bowes Creek Country Club, a strategic alliance of multi-disciplinary professionals assembled to clearly articulate the complexity of existing conditions. The integrated planning and design approach commenced with a natural resource site inventory that identified critical ecological hubs and linkages that are essential to support biodiversity. This interconnected system of wetlands, creeks, ponds, floodplain, woodlands and highly organic soils formed the foundation for the project open space system. The planners, golf course architect, and engineers proceeded with a design concept that introduced active and passive recreational uses as a transitional buffer between the built environment and the environmentally sensitive natural resources located within the open space system. An alternatives analysis explored numerous design options for routing the golf course within the transitional buffer zone. A final site-sensitive solution evolved that integrates the golf course within the open space network, while promoting synergy between all components of the Comprehensive Master Plan.

The design character for the golf course was inspired by the vernacular prairie and savannah landscape of the region and the project’s overlying objective for sustainable development. Large masses of native grasses incorporated into the design emulate a prairie theme that seamlessly weaves throughout the golf course as the unifying element while providing wildlife habitat. Fescue grasses accent the sand bunker edges and accentuate the contrast of colors and textures, resulting in a naturalized appearance that compliments and reflects the natural surroundings. Bold landforms were shaped to frame the golf holes and reflect the broad scale of outdoor spaces in a “prairie” setting. Tees, greens, fairways and all ancillary golf course features are designed with quality to provide a “country club for a day” golf experience. Residential development is positioned at higher elevations, providing panoramic views of the golf course and green open space while preserving the integrity of the prairie setting philosophy.

Only 89 acres of the 248-acre golf course corridor are maintained as manicured turf.
Only 89 acres of the 248-acre golf course corridor are maintained as manicured turf.

The Bowes Creek corridor that bisects the property was identified as the defining element of the site with inherent natural beauty and environmental significance that must be preserved. Stream crossings were kept to a minimum, and where necessary, bridges and boardwalks span the main channel flow to maintain hydraulic integrity. Buffer zones adjacent to the creek were planted with native prairie grasses to filter surface runoff. In locations where golf holes play over the creek, the creek banks were restored with native vegetative plantings to reduce existing erosion.  

A complex golf course earthworks design in the floodplain of the creek required varying compensatory storage ratios for the 10- and 100-year lens for storm water management.  An interconnected storm water management system collects runoff and recycles the water back onto the golf course through the irrigation system. Excess storm water is circulated through a treatment train that utilizes a series of grass swales, infiltration basins, pipes, detention ponds, riprap outfall structures and natural vegetation conveyance swales to enhance the water quality as it follows the progression from the built environment, through the golf course and into the creek. These design solutions exploit the art and science of Golf Course Architecture and engineering to preserve the valuable Bowes Creek corridor.


Environmental Considerations

Sustainability was the guiding principle throughout the golf course design and implementation processes. Site-sensitive design resulted in more than 40 acres of jurisdictional wetlands being preserved as the anchor of the green open space system. An excess of 26 acres of wetlands and waters were enhanced and mitigated with vegetative plantings of native species. Approximately 36 acres of ponds were created as a functioning component of the site’s hydraulic infrastructure. Mature stands of oak, hickory and walnut were preserved and individual specimen trees highlighted within the aesthetic context of the golf course. These natural and built ecological systems were elegantly integrated into the golf course design and strategy of individual golf holes. The result was that only 89 acres of the 248-acre golf course corridor are maintained as manicured turf.

A treatment train filters and manages storm water runoff at the site.
 A treatment train filters and manages storm water runoff at the site. 

Environmental stewardship also was exhibited during the construction of the golf course. The installation of silt fences, diversion swales, sediment traps, riprap and erosion control matting all were part of the comprehensive erosion and sediment control plan. Utilities were bored under the creek to minimize impact in this ecologically sensitive corridor. Un-developable areas of highly organic soils were reclaimed for golf course use by utilizing innovative engineering techniques to stabilize soils with layers of geotextile fabrics and engineered substructures to support storm drainage piping. Golf cart paths transitioned from impermeable asphalt to permeable crushed granite in stream buffer zones. Best management practices were followed throughout the development process.

The long-term management and operations of the facility follow the principles of environmental, fiscal and social sustainability. The golf course management team adheres to integrated best management practices. The maintenance facility uses the “green” approach with waste recycling, rinse water recycling processing and onsite weather station data to closely monitor microclimatic conditions and reduce the frequency of chemical applications on the turf. In an effort to maximize return on investment, the golf course construction cost was derived from a combination of construction bids, bid alternates and value engineering. The un-compromised quality of the finished product resulted in a unique golf experience that has generated revenues upon opening that exceeded projections for the golf facility and the real estate development.

About the author

Rick Jacobsen is president of Jacobsen Golf Course Design. Jacobsen can be reached at [email protected]