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From flooding to flourishing: Potomac golf course restoration, reforestation changed the game

TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm is such a beautiful course, but it has been through some trials and tribulations when it comes to dealing with Mother Nature.

WASHINGTON — EDITOR'S NOTE: WUSA9 is the media sponsor of the 2022 Wells Fargo Championship, hosted at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farms.

TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm redesigned elements of its course in the early 2000s and the resulting restoration has proved to be a game-changer for both golfers and the local environment.

The course in Potomac has a lot of down-sloping land and, at the base of it all, a stream that runs through it and into the Potomac River about two miles away. So during heavy rain events, the course has a lot of water to manage. But back in 2008, TPC Potomac and PGA worked with an ecological restoration firm called LandStudies on a major renovation and restoration.

Rock Run, the aforementioned stream, is a gorgeous part of the golf course, but it used to cause a lot of grief.

"There would be silt deposited on the fairways, branches, debris," explains Tim Connolly, director of Golf Course Maintenance at TPC Potomac. "Everything upstream would basically get dumped on the golf course before the water left the property."

But together, PGA designers and LandStudies created a solution that provides stormwater management, reforestation and wetland mitigation.

Ward Oberholtzer, who was the design engineer from LandStudies on the project, says it took a lot of work, but it all paid off.  

“When you do get any precipitation, it flows easily across the wetlands and the floodplain without affecting the areas of play in the golf course," he said.

The floodplain restoration resulted in 16 acres of wetland throughout the property. This means Rock Run can overflow its banks into the naturalized floodplain without impacting the course or causing damage. The project also included 7,800 linear feet of stream restoration along with the planting of 1,200 trees and 60,000 plants and shrubs.

Before:

Credit: LandStudies
Photo provided by LandStudies

During:

Credit: LandStudies
Photo provided by LandStudies

After:

Credit: LandStudies
Photo provided by LandStudies


Not only does all of the added vegetation reduce the likelihood of future flood events, but it also provides a healthy ecosystem in the floodplain and filters runoff - ultimately improving water quality that stretches all the way to the Chesapeake Bay.

Kelly Gutshall, the president of LandStudies, said that “because they're stream banks, the stream is now reconnected with the floodplain. We don't have erosion occurring, which was adding sediment and pollution to the system before restoration. So now we have a stable and very functional floodplain that is not contributing to pollution within the watershed.”

During the wetland restoration project, TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm redesigned the full course which resulted in more than 60 acres of naturalized meadows. This means they don’t receive any fertilization, irrigation or landscaping. Not only do they look nice, they also improved wildlife habitats.

"From an environmental standpoint (and) from a wildlife management standpoint, it's really been a huge win for us," Connolly said.

"In a round of golf, you may come across foxes running across the fairways or white-tailed deer grazing or birds of prey flying through the corridors of the golf course. It really has enhanced the experience here," he explained.

And this is just one example of how the crew here at TPC Potomac is committed to serving the environment. They are also Audubon-certified for continuing their efforts toward protecting wildlife and the ecosystem.

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