Every day is Earth Day at TPC Louisiana, host of Zurich Classic
April 20, 2020
TPC Louisiana can’t host the Zurich Classic this year, but it’s ready to celebrate Earth Day 2020. See how sustainability is cultivated at the golf course.
Maybe it’s no coincidence that Earth Day, April 22, falls on the week that the TPC Louisiana golf course was scheduled to host the 2020 Zurich Classic of New Orleans. The tournament, like so many events around the globe, was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Although 160 PGA TOUR golfers, including Zurich Ambassadors Billy Horschel, Collin Morikawa and Justin Rose, won’t be vying for a Zurich Classic trophy this year, TPC Louisiana is nevertheless brimming with activity. Situated on 250 acres of wetlands along the Mississippi River delta, the course’s location is home to a vast array of wildlife, including great egrets and coyotes, barn owls and wild boars, kestrels and water moccasins – and yes, alligators. The animals and birds, along with the native vegetation growing in the naturalized areas, underscore the role that sustainability plays on this golf course.
“They like being here, but they’re probably not noticing the $2 million renovation we undertook for six months last year,” said Luke Farabaugh, General Manager of TPC Louisiana. “When we reopened on November 1, the golf course was in the best condition coming into winter.”
Making a commitment to the environment
In addition to following best-management principles, TPC Louisiana is one of 825 golf courses nationwide that is certified by the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program (ACSP) for golf courses, a nonprofit environmental and certification program. It has been an ACSP member since it opened in 2004.
“From a public perspective, the certification tells everybody that we are committed to being stewards of the environment,” said Brandon Reese, Director of Golf Course Maintenance Operations at TPC Louisiana. “We’re doing what we can to reduce the use of fertilizers and chemicals as much as possible. We are always looking for products to use that are more environmentally friendly. We also are respectful of the natural areas beyond the fairways and greens, and the wildlife and native plants that exist there. This is something we are constantly on top of, and we work with a lot of university agronomy departments to re-evaluate our programs from year to year.”
This ecological approach aligns with Zurich’s commitment to being environmentally focused, says Ben Harper, Head of Corporate Sustainability at Zurich North America.
“Whether it’s a golf course in Louisiana or a global corporation like Zurich, it’s important to make decisions that can have a favorable impact on the planet,” Harper said. “It also shows that these smart choices are within everybody’s control. We’re proud that the host course of the Zurich Classic values sustainability as much as we do.”
“As an ACSP-certified golf course, TPC Louisiana must adhere to six environmental components,” explained Frank LaVardera, Director of Environmental Programs for Golf at the ACSP. “They include environmental planning and site assessment, wildlife and habitat management, chemical use reduction and safety, water conservation, water quality management, and outreach and education.”
Renovating for resilience and sustainability
TPC Louisiana’s 2019 renovation included replacing existing turfgrass with Celebration Bermuda Grass on the fairways and TifEagle Bermudagrass on the greens. These are hardier grasses that can better cope with Louisiana’s wet, rainy and cloudy weather, Farabaugh said.
Installing new grasses meant removing thousands of square feet of existing turf. Instead of discarding it, TPC management adopted a sustainable approach by putting it to work to raise spectator-viewing areas on the 14th, 15th and 17th holes, as well as to improve drainage in certain areas.
“If we hadn’t gotten creative about reusing it, that turfgrass would have gone in a landfill somewhere, no question,” Reese said. “To be able to utilize that material onsite, which would also benefit the tournament, seemed like the right thing to do.”
In addition to improving turf conditions, the renovation project included restoring bunkers with new drainage and rebuilding them to their original size and design concept. Greens at holes 2 and 14 also had minor reshaping to allow for more hole locations during the tournament.
Farabaugh and Reese emphasized that the course design by legendary golf course architect Pete Dye, who passed away in January 2020, remains intact. The improvements are focused on firmer, faster playing conditions and a better experience for all golfers, professional and recreational alike, who play at TPC Louisiana.
Although Farabaugh is as disappointed as anyone that the Zurich Classic had to be canceled, he wholeheartedly supports the reasons behind the PGA TOUR’s decision.
“No question the Zurich Classic is the pinnacle event that we work year-round on,” Farabaugh said. “Whenever we have an opportunity to showcase this facility to the world of golf, it’s an extra layer of excitement for us. But canceling the tournament was the right thing to do, and the coronavirus crisis is teaching all of us lessons in resilience. TPC Louisiana will be more than ready for the 2021 Zurich Classic.”
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