Golf Course Landscaping

Working my way up through the ranks has given me a few different points of view when it comes to landscaping around the clubhouse and on the course. Some superintendents have despised and landscaping and avoided flower plantings or anything that added maintenance to the turf crew while others embraced the overall ambiance of the golf course. I have been a superintendent now for over a decade and I have formed my own opinions on landscaping and the importance or burdens that it may impose on the maintenance staff. I also have a couple things that general managers and course owners may need to realize if they want more spectacular or elaborate landscapes on their property.

Recently, articles these days start with the economy and how our hands are tied on what we can do and can’t do. Landscaping seems to be categorized as a luxury item on the course and therefore avoided. In the past, I felt like my skill set was mainly turfgrass management and not landscape management. Therefore, I was lacking in the landscape maintenance do’s and don’ts and I rather avoided the landscaping than doing something wrong to ruin it. The Art of War mentions that making your weaknesses your strengths is how you will prevail. I gained a better understanding of landscapes and how they are built and maintained properly.

I now understand that a well-maintained landscape can do a great job on curb appeal, ambiance and overall course cleanliness. That is one of the many parts of the puzzle to attract new members in a struggling economy. With that being said, there is a cost in maintaining a landscape properly. It is not feasible to keep a crew the same size and then add a landscape that will require work on a regular basis. Once you get behind with the landscape it can cost much more to bring it back and hurt the overall appearance of the club.

We were recently in that position at our club. I have been with the club for just over a year now and the entrance to the club and all the landscape was severely overgrown and basically unmaintained for several years.

The bushes had been deprived of water, and they thinned out and allowed weeds to grow. They were maintaining it by weed eating the tall weeds and grass that had grown up between the bushes throughout the growing season. It was a pretty shabby look for the first impression for the club.

We decided to address the problem by removing all the bushes in the lower area and replace them with turf. We fixed all the irrigation and brought in some fill that we had on property to bring the landscape to grade. The project was relatively cheap and now the members have a much different feeling as they drive into the club. I think potential members are much more impressed with the entrance, as well.

Although turf can become a little more demanding than shrubs, it seemed to fit the club as we have large lawns around the clubhouse itself. We are taking the area step by step and chipping away at the rest of the landscape over the next few years to bring it all together. Now that we are basically starting fresh it becomes much easier to just maintain rather than restore. That is where the issue lies. If you don’t keep the staff in place to do proper maintenance to your landscape, you will most definitely pay for it in the long run.

Justin is the superintendent at Indian Summer Golf and Country Club in Olympia, WA. Check out his blog at

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