Corica Park Courses Earn Kudos

The South Course was honored for redesign and innovation in sustainability, and the Mif was named one of the best par 3 courses in America.


Photo courtesy Chuck Corica Park

Nearly a year after the renovated South Course at Corica Park reopened to much fanfare in June 2018, it has been honored with two awards, one for its redesign and one for its innovative sustainability practices.

For its redesign, the South Course won Golf Magazine’s 2018 Best Municipal Golf Course Renovation of the Year Award. It’s an approbation that gives a nod to its redesign by famed golf architect Rees Jones to the 62-year-old track that limped its way to closure in 2014. At its height, in the late 1990s, it had approximately 100,000 rounds played on it each year, but less than 19,000 rounds were played on it in 2013. It was the course that players forgot, a dried out, grassless wasteland on some holes that most golfers only played if Corica Park’s greener, park-like north course was too busy.

It earned a second award, an inaugural Water & Sustainability Award from Ewing Irrigation and Landscape Supply and Audubon International, for the way the South Course’s new incarnation has reduced its water usage, used recycled materials, lowered its impact on the environment, and helped restore the land and achieve a holistic approach that may be the first of its kind in the country.

In Phoenix in February, Ewing Irrigation & Landscape Supply and Audubon International presented the inaugural award to Corica Park’s South Course chief agronomist, Marc Logan, and its management firm, Greenway Golf, who beat out 600 other entrants nationwide.

A turf expert with two master’s degrees in horitculture and botany, Logan has reworked golf courses on many continents, including on the driest continent in the world — his native Australia. Logan had a plan to transform the South Course into a Sandbelt course by placing a foot of sand underneath its surface for easy irrigation and to plant California native grasses and trees that were drought resistant.

Jones’ redesign wouldn’t have been sustainable without the fundamental changes to the course from the ground up with a complete redo following his DIME (shorthand for design, infrastructure, maintenance, and environment) model. “All four elements were thought about and all interlinked so that they could ultimately reduce the burden on the impact of the environment.”

“We developed the Water & Sustainability Innovation Award to bring focus to the increasingly prevalent water challenges we are facing,” said Warren Gorowitz, Ewing’s vice president of sustainability.

Logan had a multifaceted plan to decrease the South Course’s water usage, which is an existential issue California’s 850 golf courses are facing in terms of money spent to purchase water — something that can cost upwards of $700,000 a year per course — and to meet former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2008 mandate that all courses reduce their water consumption 25 percent by 2020.

First, Logan planted new, climatically suitable grasses that require 50 percent less water than the patchwork of grasses and weeds on the old course that needed daily watering. He planted Bermuda grass on the fairways, bentgrass on the greens, and fine fescue for the approaches and rough that provide the desired sandbelt characteristics with distinct dry and firm surfaces. Their evapotranspiration rates are much lower than the previous grasses, and they don’t need to be watered more than several times per week in summer. “The grasses we’ve planted will use 50 percent less water. It’s a win-win for the environment and the golf course,” said Logan.

Secondly, Logan installed 770 water catch basins underneath the course’s fairways, bunkers, and cart paths and nearly 34 miles of storm drainage to capture rainwater. The system includes 160 catch basins in the cart paths and underneath the 113 bunkers. “There’s a total now of 2,418 percent increase in total [water] storage on the property. The ponds/wetlands system are all interconnected by pipes from the south to the north and vice versa. So, the whole property is linked together, where, before it had none of it.”

The measure of the new course’s water capture came pouring in from its first winter in operation in 2018-19. In a rainy season that has seen 36 inches of rain fall on the course through the end of March, the new system has captured $380,000 worth of water, so the need to buy any water to sustain the course for the remainder of the year has been eliminated. “When, eventually, we reopen all 45 holes and are no longer under construction, we will have a small amount of water we’ll need to purchase, but the majority of it will be captured and reused on the golf course from the winter months,” said Logan.

Lastly, Logan installed a unique Target Specific Irrigation System that consists of more than 6,000 sprinklers — the average course has 2,000 sprinklers — to deliver water exactly where he wants it on the four miles of the course.

Another key component to sustainability was Logan’s acquisition of 220,000 tons of recycled dune sand from San Francisco to create a 10-inch sand cap layer underneath the course’s surface that allows plants and grasses to have deeper roots, which will allow for faster drainage and less water needs overall.

In total, the grass selection and maintenance practices will save 34 million gallons of water per year. He said the system will be able to sustain the course during extreme weather condition of drought or flooding. “We have insulated ourselves from extreme weather and thus financial viability due to water needs,” said Logan.

Another byproduct of the success of the new water capture and drainage for the winter of 2019 has been it hasn’t been closed at all due to flooding, unlike the old South Course, and many Bay Area courses such as Metropolitan by the Oakland airport and Monarch Bay in San Leandro.

“I was excited to see the thorough and thoughtful approach to this renovation at Corica Park. Greenway Golf’s work is a terrific example of designing sustainability into a project from beginning to end,” said Christine Kane, CEO at Audubon International.

 “We’ve integrated the golf component into the environmental aspect,” said Logan.

Logan said no one in country has done the level of reuse and recycling that Corica Park has done with the South Course. “Nobody has used this type of grass anywhere in this region in California, and even outside of the state, no one has done a water recapture like we’ve done here for the simple fact that nobody’s thinking about it.”

And that’s been the downfall of golf courses around the country, according to Logan. “There’s been so much focus on the aesthetics that the infrastructure basically cripples the golf course when the periods of inclement weather are upon us. We know that as climate change does occur, the biggest single impacts are extremes of weather. Extreme moisture, extreme drought. Everything’s to the extreme, so building a golf course to survive and to prosper in those extremes, is really the way of golf course development in the 21st century.”

One byproduct of the course’s fitting into its environmental surroundings better has been the appearance of new wildlife. California brown frogs, fish, and crustaceans have all taken up residence in the marshy areas and water ponds. “All the water moves now, so there’s fresh water flowing in. It’s provided a habitat for them that didn’t exist before. Golf when done properly can be a positive impact on the environment,” said Logan.

One of the innovative reuses of material was Logan’s acquisition and use of the Oakland Raiders’ old artificial turf from its nearby practice fields used to line the course’s 113 bunkers, which also helps protect the integrity of the sand and kept the turf out of the landfill. “It’s a great reuse of a material,” he said.

Logan also used 10,000 tons of recycled asphalt and concrete to construct the new cart paths, which saved an estimated 8,562 tons of new concrete production, which saved about 7,706 pounds of CO2 from going into the atmosphere.

But the biggest CO2 reduction came from the trips saved from trucks bringing the recycled soil to Corica’s South Course instead of its original destination, or 42 miles per truck. Logan’s calculated 3, 822,000 miles were not driven; therefore, 477,750 gallons of fuel were saved and 10, 692,045 pounds of CO2 were not emitted into the atmosphere. This is the equivalent of CO2 savings of the 30-year lifespan of a Boeing 747’s CO2 emissions that flew 54,000 hours.

Logan’s work for revamping the Mif Albright Par 3 course to much acclaim in 2014 also got some recognition as Golf Magazine named the Mif one of best 13 par-3 courses in America in 2018.

With the South Course reopened, the North Course will now get a facelift, too. Nine holes of it closed in June 2018 as the South Course reopened. The work won’t be as extensive as the South Course’s but will cost approximately $6 million and take three years. Logan hopes to have the first nine holes completed and open in early 2020.