More sustainable golf course management
At Northlands, finding eco-friendly solutions for course maintenance and operations has become par for the course.
Last year the District-owned public course purchased two new energy-efficient hybrid fairway mowers to add to its greenskeeping fleet, which already includes a battery-powered greens-mower.
It’s the latest move by the Northlands team to reduce carbon emissions and take climate action measures at its facility.
“With the carbon reduction goals set by the municipality, we knew that going electric or hybrid was the way to go,” says Gary Nedergard, section manager, golf services. “We have another electric greens-mower already ordered.”
Unlike electric-powered mowers and trimmers used for residential yards, maintenance equipment for golf courses – especially mountainous landscapes like Northlands – needs more power and cutting range.
“Now the technology and industry are catching up, so we’re continually converting all our equipment to hybrid or electric where it’s feasible. As a result, we’re reducing our carbon footprint,” says Nedergard.
Many of the golf course’s smaller leaf blowers have also been replaced with electric units, with only a few gas-powered blowers remaining to tackle the carpet of leaves and other debris left behind after severe windstorms.
Since its inception, Northlands has used electric golf carts and today has a fleet of more than 60 and a large indoor charging area beside its golf shop.
Nedergard notes that Northlands’ focus on making its operation more sustainable goes well beyond its power maintenance equipment and its e-fleet of carts.
No wasted water or energy
“One of the main things we did when we started looking at going greener was our sprinkler heads,” he says.
Older technology made it impossible to control the sprinkler heads, which sprayed water in a full circle. “If twenty percent of that water was shooting into the tree lines, it was just being wasted.”
So, they switched to new sprinkler heads programmed to only water targeted areas, saving a valuable resource and cutting operating costs. To further reduce watering and other maintenance, areas of the course that don’t come into play for golfers have been left to revert to a natural state.
Northlands was also one of the first District facilities to utilize the sun as an alternative energy source. “I believe we had solar panels installed on our clubhouse roof in 2009,” he says. “We’ve never been shy about making changes or trying new things. If our facilities department ever needs a test site for innovative technology, we raise our hand.”
Other changes at Northlands in recent years include installing heat pumps and high-efficiency furnaces to replace original units as they reach end-of-life, replacing gas-water heating with electric and converting outdoor lighting to LED.
Celebrating 25 years
The focus on more sustainable practices hasn’t impacted the quality of the picturesque golf course or its popularity with golfers from the North Shore and beyond. In fact, Northlands, celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2022, enjoyed record attendance last year.
Despite COVID-19 protocols requiring reduced numbers of golfers on the course and working around some extreme weather events and flooding, golfers played more than 58,600 rounds in 2021.
“Northlands is well-known throughout the Lower Mainland and Metro Vancouver as one of the top public facilities. We’ve got dedicated and long-serving staff, and we are proud of it,” says Nedergard. “We want people to experience playing here. Our commitment to sustainability benefits the environment and reduces operating costs.”
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