Environmental Golf Courses #2 – Belas Clube de Campo, Portugal

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This 18-hole course in drought-prone Portugal is recognized by sustainability experts at the Golf Environment Organization (GEO) as one of the most innovative in water management.

The course and resort at Belas Clube de Campo excel at recycling and reusing irrigation water, explains GEO’s Jonathan Smith.

The 136-acre property offers mountain views, as well as 49 acres of preserved woodland that connects to the surrounding wilderness.

Belas selected turfgrass species—Agrostis stolonifera and a mix of Lolium perenne and Poa pratensis—that help minimize water use because they tolerate the region’s cool and humid winters and warm and windy summers.

Irrigation water is drawn from wells on-site, and the run-off from the course is diverted to lakes on the property, which are tapped as an additional irrigation source for up to 34 percent of its water needs. Groundwater levels are meticulously monitored and have remained stable for the past nine years, according to course officials.

The property uses about 89 million gallons a year for irrigation, and has switched to more precise sprinkler systems to avoid watering areas that don’t need it.

An outstanding environmentally friendly course, explains CEO Smith, will clean water instead of polluting it with pesticides and fertilizers.

Sometimes changing grass species and irrigation patterns means losing the bright green associated with a good course. “One of the biggest challenges is changing golfers’ perceptions … golfers often have an embedded preference for lushness,” Smith says. “I think [turfgrass] color has become directly associated with quality. That’s something that the golf industry needs to detach, because the two aren’t always correlated.”

Over the last five years the GEO has certified 50 courses worldwide, many of them in Europe.

Tasha Eichenseher (source – National Geographic – “National Geographic News series on global water issues.