Pinehurst No. 2 Offers Innovative Model for Ecology and Natural Areas Management

BCS_VerticalLogoNorth Carolina, United States: To help Pinehurst Resort achieve the restoration of course No. 2 to its intended design circa 1948, North Carolina State University (NCSU) and Environmental Science, a division of Bayer CropScience LP, partnered with Pinehurst to help understand the diversity of plant species in reclaimed native areas and the implications for course management.
“America’s golf course superintendents are increasingly being asked to manage their courses in a way that reduces playing time to accommodate busy members, conserves and protects natural resources and lowers operating costs – all without sacrificing playability,” said Bob Farren, CGCS, Director of Golf Course and Grounds Management at Pinehurst.
“The restoration of course No. 2 is about preserving more than just the historic character of the course – it’s about developing new and more sustainable tools and techniques as an industry.”
The restoration of course No. 2 to its intended design called for a return to indigenous native grasses, fewer acres of turf under intensive management and sustainable pest management techniques. To understand the ecological and agronomic implications of this undertaking, Pinehurst solicited support from NCSU.
Tom Rufty, Ph.D, distinguished professor, NCSU, chose to support the research project as an educational opportunity for students and a way to help Pinehurst prepare for the US Open.
Working in partnership with Bayer, NCSU helped Pinehurst develop a seasonal plan that included recommended agronomic practices and products to ensure the appropriate management of native plant species while maintaining the degree of difficulty in play desired.
“We needed to identify more than 75 plant species appearing on the course and provide visual keys that allow the staff to decide which vegetation they wanted to keep and which to exclude,” said Danesha Seth Carley, Ph.D, assistant professor, NCSU, who led the two-year field study.
“It was an amazing project that we hope will help inform other golf managers and clubs about successfully managing natural areas and will encourage them as they seek to merge operations with their native environment.”
Farren and Kevin Robinson, CGCS, superintendent of Pinehurst No.2, managed the US$2.5 million restoration project launched by Pinehurst in 2011. Farren and Robinson brought in course architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw to help restore the natural and historic character of course No. 2, which Donald Ross designed and built in 1907 with the philosophy to provide golfers with strategic choices.
The restoration project included work on every hole. To support the necessary agronomic research, Bayer funded a graduate student at NCSU to conduct the agronomic research under Dr Carley’s direction.
“Pinehurst is a high-profile example of how golf courses are changing – which presents new issues and challenges for superintendents,” said Richard Rees, Ph.D, Senior Principal Scientist for Bayer’s Turf and Ornamentals business. “At Bayer, we see this as an opportunity to support superintendents with new technology and innovative solutions that support their evolving role and needs.”
Pinehurst eliminated from course No. 2 all rough and 35 acres of irrigated turf, which reintroduced natural areas of sand, wire grass, pine straw and a variety of native grasses. More than 200,000 wire grass plants were added.
Restoring the original irrigation design back to a single centreline layout eliminated 650 irrigation heads. This has helped reduce the annual course water consumption from 55 million gallons to 12 million gallons – a savings of more than 78 per cent.
Other course updates included the elimination of overseeding during winter months, increased course length, bunker modifications and alterations to the cart paths. Fairways were widened by as much as 50 per cent, offering more strategic options in playing holes from tee to green.
“More than 72,000 total acres of land in the US – the equivalent of 1,000 new courses – were converted to natural areas over the past few years,” said David Wells, Bayer’s Golf Business Manager. “Bayer is developing holistic solutions to help superintendents navigate natural area weed control with products like Specticle.”

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