Although turfgrass management is the primary job of golf course superintendents, lakes, ponds, and other water features are also an important part of the job. These features help provide irrigation and highlight the natural beauty of the golfscape. Without diligent management, these features can become problems that denigrate the golf experience rather than enhance it. If your ponds and your greens are both green, you have a problem.

Traditionally, algicides and herbicides have been used to prevent aquatic weed and algae overgrowth that can lead to unpleasant odors, poor water quality, and erosion. However, golf course managers and superintendents often choose to avoid using these types of solutions due to turf health concerns or a desire to be more environmentally friendly. The good news is that new technologies and proactive strategies are making managing lakes and outdoor ponds on golf courses without pesticides easier and more long lasting than ever.

What’s That Smell in Your Outdoor Pond?

The most noticeable and overpowering indication of an unhealthy lake or outdoor pond is the smell caused by an overgrowth of bacteria. When you start to notice an odor reminiscent of rotten eggs wafting off a golf course lake or pond, it’s a clear indication that there is a problem. As lakes and ponds age, they store organic matter. This organic matter comes from a variety of sources, including dead leaves, branches, algae, and even pet and wildlife feces. This mix of organic matter eventually settles to the bottom of the body of water, and microns and bacteria go to work breaking it down.

This process produces the unwanted aroma of rotten eggs. The unpleasant odor is not the only result of this process. As the organic matter is broken down, the water quality changes and often causes unsightly algae blooms.

Algae is a plant-like organism that lacks roots or stems but does contain chlorophyll, the substance that plants use to trap light energy from the sun. Although algae grow mostly in lakes and ponds, they can technically grow anywhere in both freshwater and saltwater. Some algae in your lake or pond is a good thing, but too much can be harmful to the lake or pond and its ecosystem.

Another danger to the health of a lake or pond is cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, get their energy through photosynthesis. Their name comes from their color, the Greek word for greenish-blue color. Green and blue-green algae cause the most harm to the ecosystems of lakes and ponds than any other type of bacteria.

How to Avoid Algae Blooms in Golf Course Lakes and Ponds

Avoiding an overgrowth of algae is better than trying to clean up after one. To help limit the overgrowth of algae and keep it from turning into a harmful algal bloom (HAB), there are a few things you can do. Here are some ways to keep algae under control in a golf course lake or pond.

Reduce Excess Nutrients in Your Pond

For a golf course waterbody that has a chronic nutrient problem, phosphorous-locking technologies help keep algae in check. When used by a licensed professional, these products remove free reactive phosphorus from the water and improve the water quality by reducing the amount of undesirable nutrients.

Add an Aeration Device

In addition to reducing excess nutrients in the water, adding aeration with a floating fountain helps keep water circulating and aids in the conversion of phosphorous and nitrogen into nutrients that algae cannot use as food.

Add an EPA-Approved Algaecide

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved types of algaecides made from carbonate peroxyhydrate products. These algaecides keep the algae from blooming by invading their habitat.

Grass Carp for Algae Control in Ponds

Grass carp are native to Asia and feed on algae. They are considered a natural method for controlling aquatic vegetation and micro-algae. They can live for many years and can be farmed to be sterile so that when introduced to a lake to control algae, they do not push out the other fish species.

Regularly Test the Water Quality

An important part of lake management is regularly testing the water quality of the lakes and ponds. A proactive testing program can help alert golf course superintendents about any water quality issues related to too much oxygen in the water as well as pH or nutrient imbalances before they get out of hand. And, over time, water quality data can be used to help predict a bloom and mitigate its impact.

Prevent Invasive and Nuisance Species Growth

Native aquatic plants are an important part of a healthy aquatic ecosystem, but invasive species can wreak havoc on that ecosystem. Invasive aquatic weeds can quickly spread and choke out the beneficial native species that contribute to the health and beauty of a golf course lake or pond at an alarming rate.

In addition, even native plants can become a nuisance. They help control storm-water runoff and reduce shoreline erosion. However, once they grow past the shelf line, they interfere with the view. Our Weedoo shoreline workboat, the TigerCat®, can easily remove overgrown invasive and nuisance plants, keeping the pond or lake healthy and adding to its aesthetic appeal.

Control Shoreline Erosion

One of the most subtle indications of an unhealthy lake or pond is the erosion and eventual collapse of the shoreline. Erosion of the littoral zone – the area where the shore meets the water – reduces its depth and holding capacity and can then lead to flooding and the need for dredging. In addition, shoreline erosion provides a nutrient-rich environment that leads to the overgrowth of aquatic weeds such as hydrilla, water hyacinth, milfoil, and swampweed. This creates a safety hazard for golfers and maintenance crews.

Regular inspections and maintenance of your golf course’s lake and pond shorelines makes the difference between healthy, thriving, beautiful water bodies and smelly, algae overgrown monstrosities. Scheduled water quality testing and annual inspections by a lake management professional ensure that your golf course’s lakes and ponds stay in good condition, and let you know if any potential issues are on the horizon so that they can be addressed before they turn into a bigger problem.

Eco-Friendly Methods for Controlling Erosion

The introduction of innovative Shoresox® erosion control technology controls shoreline erosion. A solution that is 100% biodegradable and eco-friendly, Shoresox is ideal for Florida golf course lake management. It does not rely on commercial chemical solutions that can be just as harmful as the erosion itself. Once the barrier is in place, native vegetation, grasses, and deep-rooted plants can be installed, forming an aesthetically pleasing natural buffer.

Lake management on golf courses can be a complex, delicate process, but the new technologies and tools available are making the task more efficient and the benefits more long-lasting. Lake and Wetland Management, Inc. is the sole distributor of the Shoresox erosion control solution in the state of Florida. If you need the shorelines on your property restored, contact us for a free survey or call us at 855-888-LAKE today!