Laguna Niguel golf course replacing turf with drought-tolerant plants

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A golf course in Laguna Niguel is setting an example for other golf courses in drought-stricken California. (KABC)

Golfers are seeing a little less green at El Niguel Country Club in Laguna Niguel.

Drought tolerant plants and mulch are going in where lush turf used to grow.

"It was kind of ugly to watch the work in progress, but once it was done, it turned out to be very attractive," said Bruce Tester, who has golfed at El Niguel for several years.

Dozens of workers are removing 22 acres of turf and digging holes to put plants in place.

The turf removal project started last August with the help of $2.2 million in rebates from the Moulton Niguel Water District, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Municipal Water District of Orange County.

"What we've done is remove the turf, and it's out of an area that we don't think many golf balls will go in there," said the general manager of El Niguel Country Club, Eric Troll.

Troll also says instead of sprinklers that use up to 60 gallons of water a minute, they're installing drip irrigation that puts out a gallon or two a minute.

The changes are timely after Gov. Jerry Brown's strict order to cut water use.

"The governor made it more urgent to get it done, but it's already part of our master plan; we were already moving in that direction," said Troll.

El Niguel Country Club was one of the first golf courses in California to start using reclaimed water -- going back to the 1970s.

In 2008, the golf course put in a weather station that can monitor the amount of water evaporation. It also has a state-of-the-art irrigation system.

With the turf removal, Troll says they'll save 12 million gallons of reclaimed water and 2 million gallons of fresh water a year.

Golfers will see the course completely finished late next week. At the same time, Troll says the entire outdoor area of the golf course will be using 100 percent reclaimed water.

He says he's received calls from other golf courses wanting to learn more about the changes they've made at El Niguel.

Experts say in California, the average golf course can cover more than 100 acres and uses enough water each year to fill more than 130 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Related Topics:
businessdroughtgolfbeat the droughtLaguna NiguelOrange County
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