The world's resources are becoming more scarce by the day, including the very keys to life -- including water -- that have long been crucial to the conditioning and upkeep of golf courses. However, there are increasing numbers of golf facilities and resorts that are embracing doing more with less.
Les Bordes Estate is a luxury community and resort in the Loire Valley in France, 90 minutes south of Paris. The estate features two courses, including the Gil Hanse-designed New Course.
Lee Strutt is the golf superintendent and estates manager for Les Bordes. He has been involved with golf course construction, projects and agronomy since the early 1980s, working with architects such as Donald Steel, Mackenzie & Ebert, David McLay Kidd and Gil Hanse, passionately applying science to produce great playing surfaces. He answered our questions about the Les Bordes approach to sustainability over email.
GNN: What example does Les Bordes hope to set for the golf world with its sustainable approach to the New Course, as well the estate's other two courses?
Strutt: Water in any part of the world is a very precious resource. The New Course is designed to have firm and fast playing surfaces, which means very careful use of water in our turf management practices. The benefits of this practice have also been successfully applied to the Old Course and the Wild Piglet.
GNN: Does a sustainable approach also require some outreach and education to golfers who may have come to associate a particular aesthetic with luxury and world-class courses?
Strutt: All facilities at Les Bordes are about offering the very best for both members and guests. Our sustainable approach is about ensuring that all of our resources are not wasted and these resources are monitored to achieve the best results. However, there will be a playing difference between each of the golf courses to give players variation and difference. This will be part of our outreach education about the design and playability differences.
GNN: Golfers have long thought of ideal conditions as brilliantly green and somewhat lush, but those attitudes seem to be changing. Is that true for Les Bordes golfers?
Strutt: Hard to tell, as not many members have had the opportunity to attend the club due to the Covid situation. Personally, I think golf has moved past the ideal of a great golf course because it is lush green. Les Bordes is primarily pursuing the enjoyment of the game, this achieved by focusing on what counts, playability and presentation.
GNN: By creating less of a maintenance burden, does that create the opportunity for an additional benefit to golfers and members in terms of experience or service?
Strutt: The maintenance at Les Bordes is about focusing on areas that matter and maintaining high standards on a daily basis. Meeting the needs of our members and making sure every reasonable request is met is how we operate at Les Bordes. This is achieved by carefully planning and freeing up resources to make sure that details can be made.
GNN: How is a sustainable approach to golf-course maintenance able to more broadly benefit the estate?
Strutt: Les Bordes aims to produce consistent quality, making sure every member and guest experience is as good as the last and making sure the next visit is deeply satisfying as well. Les Bordes has taken the same approach from the golf courses to the estate. Green waste (i.e. grass clippings, leaves, etc.) from the golf courses are processed to produce compost. The compost is used around the estate for general landscaping and improving our horse paddock. Waste has been converted into a resource, which improves the estate both visually but also environmentally.
GNN: What does the addition of the Hanse-designed New Course mean to Les Bordes in attracting the attention of world-traveling golfers?
Strutt: Our ambition at Les Bordes is to become one of the world’s best 36-hole golfing experiences. With the addition of the new Gil Hanse design alongside the Old Von Hagge masterpiece we certainly have the opportunity to be in the conversation. Our membership base is very broad demographically with only 20% being from France and the rest being made up of British, American and a spread around Europe. We believe this is so due to the options of golf we have on the estate.