From seeding a new grass to an environmental award: Finca Cortesin

By Alistair February 9, 2020 16:45 Updated

In 2016 a Spanish golf resort decided to go down a more sustainable route and seeded new grass – that requires less irrigation and fewer pesticides – by hand. It has since relayed all the greens and reconstructed its bunkers – leading to an environmental award and widespread praise from golfers.

Finca Cortesin Hotel, Golf & Spa is at the forefront of European golf’s drive to become more eco-sustainable after revealing that it is using up to 30 per cent less water since becoming the first course in Spain to feature a new, environmentally-friendly, variety of Bermuda grass on all its greens.

Ignacio Soto, head greenkeeper at Finca Cortesin Hotel, Golf & Spa

The resort has experienced a number of wide-reaching benefits since installing a more eco-friendly, cost-effective and sustainable greens’ system.

As part of a recent upgrade to the 18-hole championship course – which also featured the reconstruction of all bunkers using the renowned ‘Better Billy Bunker’ system – each putting surface was replaced with a new type of variety of Ultra Dwarf Bermuda grass.

As well as needing less irrigation, the greens require fewer pesticides and staff hours to maintain optimum condition all-year-round, with the new, improved, uniform putting surfaces earning widespread praise from both players and the golf industry alike – including Finca Cortesin winning the 2018 IAGTO Sustainability Award for Resource Efficiency.

Ignacio Soto, head greenkeeper at Finca Cortesin Hotel, Golf & Spa and who supervised the greens conversion programme, said: “The change to this new type of Bermuda grass has surpassed all our expectations and we have received some great feedback from our members and guests who like firm and uniform greens.

“The greens are in better condition than they have been in previous years and we expect them to get even better as they become more established.”

Finca Cortesin began the programme to upgrade its greens in June 2016 at a nursery 600 kilometres away, with Soto and his team taking painstaking care and attention to seed the grass by hand. Having spent 12 months nurturing the new turf under supervised growing conditions, it was transported to the course where the resort’s greenkeeping staff began the meticulous process of relaying all 18 greens and the practice putting green.

But, with the grass having been grown at the nursery, disruption for golfers was kept to a minimum with the course reopening barely a month after work began.

Soto added: “We have experienced numerous advantages since upgrading our greens. The turf was obviously very young but, as we grew it ourselves, it was also, importantly, very clean of weeds which has had several knock-on effects.

“Irrigation has been reduced as much as 30 per cent on the greens’ surface. Apart from water consumption, hand watering in summer time has been reduced to a minimum so, as a result, we are able to save on a lot of labour.

“In general, we are using fewer pesticides. Each green needs very little fertilisation since it uses the nutrients from our regenerated irrigation water in a much more efficient way, while Bermuda grass actively grows for nine months of the year which has helped improve the year-round playability of the course.”

Since its design in 2005 by golf course architect Cabell B. Robinson, Finca Cortesin Golf Club has been committed to working with and protecting the environment.

During the creation of its 18-hole championship course, more than 50,000 bushes and trees were planted in a huge landscape project, using local tree varieties such as olea europaea (Acebuches), pistacia lentiscus (Lenticos) and ceratonia silicua (Algarrobo), as well as bushes including lavandulas (Lavanda), rosmarinus officinalis (Romero), cistus ladanifer (Jara) and nerium oleander (Adelfa).

This job was undertaken by landscape architect Gerald Huggan. At the heart of Huggan’s philosophy was the idea of creating an area linked with the landscape of nearby surroundings. After 10 years of growth, the golf course matured impressively to take on an appearance that belied its tender years.

Apart from installing bentgrass on the greens (agrostis palustris), the rest of the golf course was originally planted with Tifway Bermuda grass – a warm-season grass that has the advantages of being very environmentally-friendly, resistant to diseases and requires very little irrigation. For the last five years, there has been no need to overseed the Bermuda grass for the winter period, which has helped the resort to not only reduce its total water consumption by 30 per cent, but also to use fewer pesticides and have less CO2 emissions.

Huge improvements have also been made on the putting surfaces following the resort’s decision to become the first course in Spain to introduce a new type of Ultradwarf Bermuda grass on all the greens. The main purpose was to grow 100 per cent warm-season grass on the course, thereby becoming even more environmentally sustainable.

The work has not stopped there, though, and the venue is constantly striving to improve the resort’s eco-credentials.

It is  changing all its grass in public areas and gardens to a warm-season grass Zoysiagrass especie, which also requires less maintenance, water and pesticides. In addition, irrigation is being undertaken using 100 per cent regenerated water from the near Village of Manilva.

Wildlife is an important part of daily life at Finca Cortesin Golf Club and is flourishing at the moment.

All kinds of different animals can currently be found in and around the course including different types of migratory birds, eagles, wild ducks, foxes, turtles and badgers.

The venue follows an integrated pest management programme using mainly organic fertilisers and biological fungicides and insecticides, while it has been certified with the ISO 14001 environmental norm.

The par 72 layout has hosted numerous high-profile tournaments including the Volvo World Match Play Championship in 2009, 2011 and 2012.


By Alistair February 9, 2020 16:45 Updated

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