Easing off the Gas
Golf courses are looking to reduce their collective carbon footprints when it comes to on-course transportation. Many courses have a fleet of electric carts that are quieter than their gas counterparts, but still need to be recharged after every round – requiring significant power consumption. But thanks to innovative thinking, there are now options. Nathan Crace, principal at Watermark Golf Management based in Magee, Mississippi, recently converted gas carts and maintenance vehicles into propane-powered machines at The Refuge, an upscale daily-fee course in Flowood, Mississippi. “Propane costs roughly $1.50 per gallon less than gasoline,” said Crace, adding that the propane-powered engines run quieter and more efficiently than their gas counterparts.
Crace can convert each maintenance vehicle in one day, and the cost of doing it is offset by the savings in fuel expenses, maintenance, and efficiency of the equipment, he says. “Our test golf cart has been able to run more than 36 holes on only one gallon of propane, but the canister holds three gallons,” said Crace. “Theoretically, you could play six rounds on one canister. And we can easily convert any gas-powered cart.” A greens mower he converted produced 75 percent fewer carbon emissions than when it ran on gasoline … and without fumes. In February 2013, Crace received an award from the National Golf Course Owners Association, which listed the propane-powered carts as one of the three best ideas of the year.
Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, New York, has used SolarDrive™ solar-powered prototype golf carts for the past four years. Solar panels on the rooftops of the electric carts have made a visual statement. That’s important to club officials at this course, which has earned international certification as a Signature Sanctuary in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf.
Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida, also has solar-powered carts in its fleet, using a brand-new, lightweight solar panel made by SolarDrive. According to the manufacturer, in bright sunshine, the fully charged solar panel can account for up to roughly 55 percent of the power needed to motor through 18 holes. The cart’s electricity is used for the remainder of the round. Suffice it to say, technology will improve over time.
Then there are products like the GolfBoard™, which is essentially a single-rider, high-tech electric skateboard that operates on long-lasting, lithium ion batteries – with little maintenance. Its makers vow that it won’t damage turf. There’s also a golf cart hovercraft being sold by Hammacher Schlemmer – warning, it’s $58,000 – that glides over grass, bunkers, and even water hazards on a cushion of air about nine inches above the land. Windy Knoll Golf Club in Springfield, Ohio, purchased two of them, for golfers to rent for golf rounds. The manufacturer claims the hovercraft has a very low environmental impact. Of course, good old-fashioned walking remains the best environmental mode of on-course transportation.
The plight of some eco-conscious golf facilities also is spilling over into the clubhouse, where incorporating efficient and natural lighting is helping conserve electricity. Tom Hoch, an Oklahoma City-based designer of high-end residential, golf clubhouse, and resort-related projects, specializes in building clubhouses with a “green” aspect. “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) construction coding is a part of our everyday design life,” said Hoch. “The biggest impact we’ve seen is how it affects our lighting design. Every great clubhouse design needs a great lighting design to evoke a particular emotion. New LEED-related energy codes led to the introduction of many new and exciting lighting products, such as LED, that allow us to create dramatic and energy-efficient lighting.” LED lights also emit negligible heat, making them great for hot climates.
Incorporating large windows into the clubhouse architecture helps maximize course views, as well. Some courses are even using exterior glass folding walls, which allow indoor spaces to become engaging outdoor areas. That also lets in a lot of natural light, reducing the amount of necessary electric lighting. Still, too much glass on a building can overlight interior spaces and create uncomfortable glare. Plus, glass is not a good insulator.
A growing number of clubhouse designers also use reclaimed wood in their projects to lend pro shops an organic design element. Hoch said that designing sustainable clubhouse interiors is paramount to “longer building life cycles – rather than designing and building soulless architecture and designs that end up in our landfills.”