May 12, 2017

Cole Handley: Be Innovative When It Comes to Water Conservation

Cole Handley, the Vice President of the Monterey Bay Chapter of the Northern California PGA Section, is the Head PGA Professional at Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, California.

Cole Handley on the importance of being innovative when it comes to water conservation:
As many of you probably know, we faced a severe drought in California that required everyone – from the average homeowner all the way up to major water-usage businesses like golf courses – to rethink how they utilize this vital resource. When Poppy Hills undertook our renovation three years ago, many thought we did it to get the pros back, as we were a part of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am rotation for years. That wasn’t it, though. Simply put, we needed to save water. We were running a golf course with an irrigation system that was over 30 years old, and while it did the job there was a ton of room for improvement in both water savings and overall turf conditions.

Cole Handley on the business impact of being innovative when it comes to water conservation:
What we did was wide-ranging and it’s had a huge effect on our bottom line. We installed 1800 special individually controlled sprinkler heads, designed to use 1/3 less water while achieving the distance and reach of more conventional nozzles. Now our superintendent can literally control each individual sprinkler with a touch of a button, making sure water is only used where needed and only the minimum amount needed is used. We then installed a wireless soil monitoring system, which wirelessly monitors and measures soil moisture, salinity, and temperature and reports back to the superintendent in real time so we have an up-to-the-second pulse on the health of our turf. This system also tells you where you need to water and where you don’t, providing Poppy Hills with the most consistent tee-to-green turf conditions in the state. Finally, we partnered with the Pebble Beach Company to treat all of the waste water from the local community and reuse it on the course, providing a perfect and safe habitat for wildlife and a beautiful place for the community to enjoy. These efforts have led to $85,000 per year in saved water costs in just the first three years, savings we’ve put towards better equipment and more labor in the maintenance staff to take our product to the top level. Additionally our drought resistant turf (fine fescue/rye blend) has allowed us to you far less water on the range as well while still maintaining a green and high quality product you’d expect of a facility in our zip code.

If you would like to email the author of this Best Practice directly, please email