Sustainability and eco-system stewardship are core values.
CAMPBELL RIVER, B.C. — It’s a latter-day trend at golf courses in northwestern North America. Got trees? Thin ‘em out, limb ‘em up, cut ‘em down.
Gearhart Golf Links on the Oregon coast took out 400 shore pines, and it turned the oldest club in the Northwest into a new golf course. Sahalee Country Club, east of Seattle, home to three professional majors since 1998, limbed up the course’s famously profuse trees before the Women’s PGA Championship this year, and it opened up sightlines even skeptical club members have learned to appreciate.
Rob Watson knows all that, but more than that he knows his own course: Storey Creek Golf Club, which opened in 1987 here on the central east coast of Vancouver Island.
“We really need to strike a balance,” said Watson, 45, superintendent of the golf course that is among the most honored in western Canada.
Take out a tree, he said, and it affects something else in the ecosystem.
Trees, Watson acknowledges, are “the worst enemies of quality turfgrass,” but they’re also a large part of the reason Storey Creek’s members and the playing public love the place.
“You’ll see when you get here,” Watson said in an interview a week or so before we visited Storey Creek. “There are not a lot of golf courses like this one.”
Many of Storey Creek’s members have ties to the provincial fish and wildlife agency, Watson said. Active salmon spawning streams run right through the property. Ponds are stocked with coho salmon.
Limbing up a tree, then, is not done lightly,
“When you throw in the salmon,” he said, “you really have to be aware of not affecting the temperature of the water.”
Sustainability is a core value here. Watson waters less and uses less fertilizer. And that fits for a club with a smaller budget than many.
Watson studied turfgrass management at the BC Hort Center on the Langley campus of Kwantlen University College, now known as Kwantlen Polytechnic University. He came to work at Storey Creek in 2007 after working as an assistant superintendent at Westwood Plateau Golf and Country Club in Coquitlam, B.C.
“The first time I came out here (to Storey Creek) and toured the site before I applied to work here,” he said, “it had this feel to me of an older classic golf course. It didn’t feel like it was only 20 years old.”
When esteemed golf architect Les Furber designed Storey Creek, his vision didn’t have to wait for the trees to mature. Watson and his crews live with the rugged landscapes and don’t obsess over cut-glass pristine.
“We’re not shooting for perfection here,” Watson said.
At Storey Creek, it all works, perfectly well.
Bart Potter reports from Vancouver Island while he is on “tour.”