Northern California's best golf resorts work hard to preserve their local environments.
As you've probably seen on the national news in recent months, their natural environments are under assault from Mother Nature. They are as fragile as they are beautiful, prone to devastating floods, drought and wildfires.
Although Earth Day is April 22, you could say that many of these resorts treat every day like the official holiday.
The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa will celebrate Earth Day with what it calls “Eco-Gestures.” Employees who donate $10 or more to the California Coastal Commission can wear jeans to work Friday, April 20. During "Earth Hour" on Earth Day, the resort will serve up a signature cocktail with proceeds going to a local charity. All day, the lights in the lobby will be dimmed, replaced by lit candles.
Since California often sets the bar in the U.S. for green initiatives, we thought we'd share just a sampling of how various golf resorts in the NoCal region give back to Mother Earth. The Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz isn't a golf resort, but it made a commitment to sustainability as big as any NorCal resort has in recent memory, driven at least partially by survival.
The semi-private club built a $9-million wastewater treatment plant behind its 13th green, opening it last fall. For the next 30 years, the facility will use recycled water from the city of Scotts Valley previously pumped into the ocean for much of its irrigation needs. The move not only will save the club hundreds of thousands of dollars in water costs, it sends a clear message to other prominent clubs throughout California that they need to be proactive to combat California's water woes.
Maybe these policies will inspire other courses and resorts around the country, or even bring more awareness to how you run things in your own home:
Pebble Beach Resorts
Of course, Pebble Beach is a leader in the clubhouse for sustainability. The Pebble Beach Company takes great pride in environmental stewardship of its 5,300 acres within the Del Monte Forest and adjacent coastline along 17-Mile Drive. The resort is cognizant that these efforts are vital to saving this sensitive ecosystem for future generations.
The International Association of Golf Tour Operators recognized Pebble Beach with the 2017 IAGTO Sustainability Award for its wastewater reclamation program that provides reclaimed water for all the irrigation needs of its four courses, and a new solar power initiative at the Pebble Beach Golf Links maintenance facility.
The wastewater system has saved more than four billion gallons of potable water since its inception in 1994. The solar energy project installed in 2015 offsets 73 percent of the maintenance building’s annual electricity usage. The project provides a 25-year carbon footprint reduction equivalent to planting 59,000 new trees to soak up greenhouse gases or removing 335 cars from the road annually. The 25-year cost saving is projected to be more than $900,000.
The resort has its own Green Team, a group of employees dedicated to improving upon and implementing other environmentally conscious programs. Its recycling efforts annually divert more than 6.46 million pounds of green waste, plastic, glass, metal, cardboard, paper, batteries, tires, paints, paint thinners, used carpets, oil filters, oil, chemicals and more from area landfills.
For more, visit the resort's website.
Silverado Resort & Spa
Silverado, partially owned by NBC Sports Golf Analyst Johnny Miller, barely escaped the Napa wildfires that killed more than 40 people in October 2017 the night after the 2017 Safeway Open.
It's policies aren't unlike most other eco-friendly hotels, but everything adds up. It is conscious about towel and linen reuse in guest rooms. It recycles and composts 1,093 tons of waste annually. Water is only served when requested in restaurants and there are water stations for meeting attendees to avoid waste.
Being in California, home to Tesla, there are two Electric Vehicle (EV) recharging stations on property. Paper recycling, LED bulb replacement programs and re-useable cutlery and table ware cut down on further drains on the environment.
Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay
The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay is one of my favorite hotels in golf. Its setting on seaside cliffs an hour south of San Francisco is truly one of a kind.
The resort has replaced approximately 4,800 square feet of traditional turf grass with a drought-tolerant, no-maintenance grass. All guestrooms and guest corridors feature low energy LED bulbs. All divisions of the hotel follow an aggressive recycling and composting program. Bed linens are changed every other day and towels are only replaced upon request. Water is conserved through the use of low-flow showerheads, faucets and water closets throughout the resort.
The resort sources a majority of its food from local farms and fresh fish from nearby Pillar Point Harbor, and grows its own baby greens for its menus at a local aqua-ponics farm. The Ouroboros Farms uses a sustainable, soil-free farming method that combines aquaculture (a system of growing fish) with hydroponics (a system of growing plants without soil). Produce is grown in recycled water using 95 percent less water than traditional soil farming. That's huge in a state still in the throngs of a catastrophic drought, despite wet winters the past two years.
Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa
The Fairmont sent me an impressive document with 37 bullet points on its commitment to sustainability. Obviously, that's too much to digest here, so I've pulled out a few highlights.
Groups can sign up for green meetings and conferences. Forget white. Brides can go for a green wedding.
Like the Ritz and Silverado, the Fairmont is careful about its linen and towel reuse. The property has recently undergone a 3,000-lightbulb retrofit. A paperless checkout is a wise choice.
The property is 99 percent pesticide-free and herbicide-free. The plant species used for landscaping encourage both bird and butterfly populations. It even releases beneficial insects to control harmful insect populations.
Its "Green Cuisine" includes an herb garden and the use of Lochdart certified fresh and sustainable farmed fish. Purchasing locally made, biodynamic wines is a breeze in California wine country. Used kitchen oils and grease are recycled into bio-fuels, encouraging alternative fuel use.
Employees pitch in monthly with a "Do Not Drive to Work Day".
Quail Lodge & Club
I was one of the first golf writers to experience the modernized Quail Lodge & Golf Club after the course reopened in 2015. The work by Todd Echenrode not only made the course more playable, it became more drought-friendly.
A more efficient irrigation system and the removal of 15 acres of turf, as well as replacing several leaky lakes with native no-mow areas, has fostered a 20-percent reduction in water use. That equates to huge savings on water costs.
Carmel Valley Ranch
Golf Advisor's Mike Bailey wrote about Carmel Valley Ranch's apiary for Earth Day 2016. Guests can get to know the resort's world of bees with a 90-minute tour dressed in full beekeeper garb. Or for those who visit from August to September, they can harvest the honey.
On the golf operations side of things, Carmel Valley Ranch's Pete Dye design requires up to three times less fertilizer and pesticides since being regrassed in 2007 with T-1 bentgrass. This type of grass also grows laterally, meaning diesel-powered mowers now use two-thirds less gas to maintain proper grass height on tees, greens and fairways. The course and resort landscaping is irrigated with waste water from homes, resort and buildings that is treated at the property's wastewater treatment plant.
All of these policies cost money and require a commitment from management and employees, trickling down to guests. It takes a concerted effort to maintain NorCal's dreamiest golf destinations.