Wednesday, February 13, 2008
I'm normally not a big golf fan. With apologies to those who love the game - and they are legion - I've tried it and it's just not a sport I enjoy playing or watching. Most of my experience with golf course construction involves somebody ripping up a perfectly beautiful piece of land, moving piles of dirt, planting grasses that were never meant to grow where they are which leads to the heavy use of chemicals, fertilizer and irrigation.
That said, there are exceptions and one of the most amazing exceptions is right here in Isabela. A friend of ours from California is designing several courses on a big, incredibly beautiful piece of land along an ocean bluff. While on the whole I prefer a nature preserves, this is second- and third-use land, much of it old cow pasture. There really isn't much about it that lends itself to nature preserve. It does however lend itself very well to huge concrete condos,which have been proposed for the site. The owners are developing the golf courses as a way to preserve as much of the land as possible in an economically viable way. The golf courses keep the land (mostly) green and not covered in concrete.
The design and development of the courses incorporate all local vegetation - grasses, trees, etc. The only imported grass is for the greens. Everything else is being grown in an on-site nursery from seeds harvested on the property. Since all the plant material is native, it doesn't need the chemical boost necessary on other courses. Irrigation currently comes from wells, but eventually will come from lakes and catch basins on the courses.
As much of the building material as possible is coming from the property, keeping the need to import materials to minimum. David (our friend the designer) designs each hole individually using the existing contours of the land and only moving as much dirt as necessary to make a challenging, playable course. As much as possible of what exists on site is retained. For example, one hole, named "Hurrican," has two big, living almond trees that were blown over in previous storms. These living trees are now features of the fairway. In the photo above, the rock wall (built by local artisans with stone from the site) surrounds a beautiful old tree. The "local rule" says no ball that lands inside the stone wall can be played out. Rather it is removed and dropped, without penalty, all to protect that tree.
So, in spite of my golf course prejudices, I am impressed with what these people are doing. If it has to be a golf course, David and Stanley and Charlie (the owners) are doing it right. It's obvious talking to them they really love this property and protecting it is important. There are some spectacular views of the ocean. And we're in favor of almost anything that preserves green and keeps out concrete.