Water conservation and reduced inputs at Stone Creek Golf Club

The course’s new construction plan is both budget and eco-friendly.

David Phipps, Golf Course Superintendent
Stone Creek Golf Club, Oregon City, Ore.Stone Creek Golf Club

Stone Creek Golf Club is a municipally owned18-hole course designed by Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy. The course offers spectacular views of Mount Hood. It is laid out over 120 acres of land with old-growth Douglas firs, lakes, four wetlands, and 43 bunkers.

From the onset of construction we knew that water was going to be a valuable commodity. Our irrigation water sources were limited. We could draw from a local creek, but only enough to keep two cubic-feet per second passing by our water diversion. That meant that by July 1, we were done diverting water.

Well wishesStone Creek Golf Club

Our second source of water is a deep well that pumps 230 gallons per minute. The well is our only water source from July-October.

The well pumps 331,200 gallons of water to the irrigation pond during a 24-hour period. Given pond seepage and evaporation, the water is limited to 280,000 gallons on a high water demand night.

Out of a 120 acre site roughly 90 acres of turf is irrigated. In 2009, we pumped 121 acre-feet, which is 1.34 acre-feet per irrigated acre.

According to the Golf Course Environmental Profile, Water Use and Conservation Practices Survey, the Pacific Region uses an average of 158 acre-feet per 18-hole facility. That equates to 1.9 acre-feet per irrigated acre.

The driving range is one of our biggest areas of water savings. It is shut off as soon as we start drawing water from the well. This saves us in excess of 30,000 gallons a night which can be better used on other places. Fescue species help so that it rapidly recovers upon the onset of the first fall rains. Many would think that a golf course in Oregon would receive plenty of rain throughout the year, but within the July-October time frame we are lucky to see an inch. 

Seasonal changesCaseStudy-StoneCreek-WaterConservation-pic3

Stone Creek offers distinct seasonal conditions. Golfers love the additional bounce and can enjoy the game the way it was played 100 years ago. As the fall rainy season begins, the course transitions in almost a week’s time back to green. We are always amazed at how fast the fescues recover.

Water woes

We designed an irrigation system and a turfgrass management plan that would accommodate our ongoing water issues. Our tee boxes were irrigated block style to keep all of the water on the tee tops. This allowed the grass to go dormant around the tee tops in the summer.

The turfgrass used was a combination of fine fescues with 40% perennial ryegrass. These species were planted wall-to-wall with the exception of the tees and greens.

Over the last nine years, the natural areas between the holes have predominately become a stand of fine fescue. The roughs that receive limited irrigation in the summer are also primarily fescue as well. The fairways maintain a combination of rye and fine fescue.


Fine fescue

Fine fescue thrives on limited fertilizer. The outer rough receives zero nitrogen, remains thin, and is mowed only in the fall. Our regular rough receives from .75 to 1.5 lbs of nitrogen. Our fairways receive 2.5 lbs. of nitrogen. We have also transitioned to a 90% methylene urea slow release product. This gives us a slow and safe release curve that prevents runoff, and feeds the grass all season long.

Spend more, save money 

Even though we had to spend a little more for higher quality fertilizer, we were still able to realize cost savings by avoiding a mid-summer application.

We discovered that if we substitute an early spring fertilizer application and apply a high-quality calcium product, we get the same amount of green-up, without the risk of a soluble fertilizer. Managing the course in a drier condition has also reduced the amount of insect and disease pressure.


It is hard to estimate the overall cost savings. Since this was the first construction of its kind, we never had data to make comparisons. The money saved has allowed us to increase our budget and maintain the course at a high standard.

Dollars are able to go toward cultural practices such as a fairway topdressing and growth regulators. We can also now employ additional staff throughout the year that allows us to get many projects completed during the offseason.

The benefit is realized by the 60,000 plus rounds that we see each year, and the net income which offsets the county park’s budget. The input reductions have not prohibited us from providing a marketable playing experience for our golfers. Our course has been recognized with several industry awards, including:  

  • Golf Digest Best Places to Play (4 Stars) 2006-2007
  • Voted #1 Best Value in the Pacific Northwest - Brainstorm Magazine 2004
  • Voted #6 Best Public Course in Oregon - Golfweek 2004
  • Golf Digest Four Star Course -2004
  • Voted in the top 10 environmentally friendly golf courses- Links Magazine 2009
  • Environmental Leaders in Golf Award, National Public Winner 2008.
  • Environmental Leaders in Golf Award, Chapter Public Winner, 2005, 2006, 2007.
  • Environmental Leaders in Golf Award, Merit Public Winner, 2004.
  • Cooperator of the Year - Clackamas County Soil and Water Conservation District 2004-2005

From the onset of the design phase we realized that we were saving money and creating optimum playing conditions. Our water conservation issues forced us to change how we operated. And now our course is both environmentally and budget friendly.

Learn more about Stone Creek Golf Club.