The Presidio golf course is one of the Presidio’s greatest attractions, with amazing panoramic views and a rich history. But, now the world is honoring the course for being a leader in environmentally sensitive golf course management. By capturing the highly-regarded Turfgrass Excellence Award in the public category of the Golf Superintendents Association of Northern California, course superintendent Brian Nettz can say with confidence that the greens at the Presidio course are truly greener.
The Presidio was built in 1895, making it the second oldest in Northern California. But by using technologies perfected in 2010, the course is running a sustainable, green and clean operation. More than 60,000 rounds are played there every year, so maintaining the course is a huge undertaking. Keeping the course green, neatly trimmed and ideal for top-flight golfers is a 24/7 job, but Nettz and his 17-member crew are up for the task.
“This award shines brightly not only on the work of Brain Nettz and his crew,” said Jeff Deis, the Presidio Trust’s Chief Operating Officer, the organization that oversees the entire Presidio. “But it also showcases the Trust’s commitment to sustainability and reflects on the golf course as a whole, given its unique position in a National Park setting.”
By taking a preventative approach to pest control and focusing on natural alternatives to pesticides, the Presidio golf course has been able to cut its pesticide use in half within the last decade and now uses 70-85 percent less pesticide than the majority of private courses in San Francisco. With fewer insects, the only thing bugging your game at the Presidio golf course might be your handicap.
Instead of teeing up, the groundskeepers at the Presidio golf course “tea up” by spraying a “compost tea” instead of chemical pesticides on their greens. This solution is made by soaking compost in water to extract the nutrients from the compost. It’s just one of the methods the course is using to control disease while promoting overall turf health.
“We use seaweed and the compost tea in conjunction to fight insects that would otherwise destroy these greens, for example,” Nettz said. “Once we get the tea, we have to apply it to the grass within 24 hours or it will lose its effectiveness. It contains beneficial microbes and they eat the bad microbes existing on the course. We’ve been on the compost tea bandwagon for a while now, so we’ve really begun to see better and better results. It’s an accumulative process and the fact that we’ve stuck with it has really paid off.”
Nettz and his crew have also adopted “cultural control” techniques such as aerating and over –seeding fairways and increasing drainage to create conditions more favorable to turf and less favorable to weeds. Groundskeepers have changed the type of turf throughout sections of the course and trim tree branches to reduce shade on certain holes to control the invasive, worm-like nematode, which sounds more like a Star Wars-like alien created just down the road at George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic.
Nettz was surprised and pleased about the award. “We’ve been stressing sustainability and avoiding the use of toxic chemicals in every case,” he said. “We’re always balancing between providing our golfers with conditions they prefer, while being committed to developing non-invasive methods for maintaining the course and providing a safer working environment for our employees. ”
Do golfers who play the Presidio yell “Fore” in response to a greener approach to the game? “Several of our regular golfers and club members have congratulated us for the award,” Nettz said. “In the end, they want to be able to play a quality 18 holes and go home to their families, but I believe they respect the fact that we focus on doing the right thing for the environment and making it a priority.