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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Tough Turf

By Hal Paco Clark

The desert of northwest Mexico around the upper Sea of Cortez is a unique and hostile environment. In it’s natural state this beautiful meeting of land and sea is relatively inhospitable to man and his attempts to change this landscape. While the ports of San Felipe and Puerto Penasco were primarily known for their commercial fishing, they have spawned a rapidly growing tourist industry. Some of the more challenging of the new developments are golf courses.

It may be surprising to many that this harsh desert setting is extremely sensitive to man’s presence and more so that Mexico has taken a strong position in establishing high environmental standards to preserve and protect the land and sea. A natural concern in the desert is water conservation and the use of pesticides that may be potentially harmful to the eco-structure. In meeting these challenges golf course designers and developers have focused on a new variety of grass. This grass is called Seashore paspalum and is widely used in the newer golf courses in Mexico.

A newly released hybrid of Seashore paspalum is called SeaDwarf® paspalum. As a golf course turf the developers of SeaDwarf® claim it’s characteristics are unsurpassed. The blue-green color provides excellent striping with varied mowing patterns, its density allows quick recovery from divots and traffic and perhaps most importantly the new grass is drought and salt tolerant. It’s high level of saline tolerance means the golf course can use non-potable saline water and preserve the local fresh water resources. The high salinity of the water used for irrigation also minimizes the need to use potentially harmful pesticides. Those of you familiar with golf courses in other desert areas of the US southwest know that they require winter over seeding, another major benefit is it’s cold weather tolerance and color retention eliminate the need for winter over seeding. This not only saves the golf course operation time and money but also saves the golfer the inconvenience and disruption of play that results from annual winter over seeding.

Two courses using this grass include Las Caras de Mexico in San Felipe, Baja California and The Links @ Las Palomas in Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico. Both of these courses face extremes of high salinity, water shortages, high desert temperatures, high humidity and strong winds.

The developers of Las Caras de Mexico participated in the research and development of SeaDwarf®, and make this comment regarding their selection:

“Being in a desert Biosphere Reserve zone here at San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico; we had no choice but to use a paspalum grass. We chose to use SeaDwarf® wall-to-wall on our new Las Caras de Mexico (the Faces of Mexico) golf course, because of its’ unique and environmentally friendly characteristics. We are very happy with our accomplishment (the first golf course in San Felipe) and also very proud to be a part of the new environmentally aware Mexico.”

This thoughtful interaction with our planet will allow all of us to live in joy and harmony.