Spotlight: Golf Summerlin Superintendent Hero Brian Bagwell

Las Vegas, Nev. (Aug. 17, 2016)–It’s a dilemma owners and managers of every golf course face: golfers love lush courses but lush courses require lots of water while at the same time water is expensive and a limited commodity so saving and conserving water is always a top priority. Golf Summerlin Director of Agronomy Brian Bagwell has some of the answers that make it all possible and has been very successful keeping everyone satisfied during his award-winning career. For he and his team’s efforts, Golf Summerlin has earned a Las Vegas Water Hero Award in addition to other recognition. –By Bill Bowman.

Bagwell has been the Director of Agronomy for the Golf Summerlin family of courses for the past 10 years. In that time, the three courses (Eagle Crest, Highland Falls and Palm Valley) have cut down water usage in a way that hasn’t hampered the growth or play-ability of the courses. The main savings came from eliminating some of the turf, turning it into desert landscaping. But Bagwell has used his expertise and experience to help preserve every ounce in others ways by utilizing the latest technology as well.

“We’re doing everything we can to help with the conservation of water,” he said.

It’s not easy. With more than 460 acres of turf to worry about on the three courses, the starting point was crucial in making sure the courses and the budget were both taken into account, which is easier said than done. First, Bagwell and staff converted about 80 acres of turf to desert landscaping among all three courses. To add to the savings, they also reduced the amount of overseeding on all three courses–a major drain on water and water costs.

To put the turf changes into perspective, Bagwell points out they literally took away an amount of turf–those 80 acres–that would almost cover the entire Eagle Crest Golf Course, which covers 100 acres.

About Golf Summerlin:

Eagle Crest is an executive course that will let players focus on short game prowess. The par-60 layout reaches 4,067 yards. The par 3s (12 of them) range 115 yards to a jaw-dropping 224 yards.

Highland Falls is a 6,512 yard beauty that incorporates severe elevation changes, water features and gorgeous bunkering that will test players’ accuracy.

Palm Valley stretches out to 6,900 yards. The opening and closing holes are both par 5 and lets players start and finish the round with great scoring chances.

“Brian has always been a great leader and is a past president of the Southern Nevada Golf Course Superintendents Association and has always been at the forefront of water conservation issues for the industry,” Southwest Field Representative of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America Jeff Jensen said. “He and his team have done a wonderful job at Golf Summerlin minimizing the amount of acreage that needs irrigation while also maintaining quality playing conditions for the members and other golfers. Brian has also implemented other best practices to conserve water and is always willing to share his knowledge with fellow superintendents throughout Southern Nevada and the west. His impact has been more than impressive during a challenging time.”

Bagwell and his team have been honored with numerous water saving awards. One of the latest was in Dec. of 2015 when Golf Summerlin earned a Las Vegas Water Hero Award. The award was handed out to area businesses that combined to save our precious resource. By itself, the three Golf Summerlin courses are saving more than 172 million gallons of water annually. Some of those savings came with turf reduction plans, but a good portion came from smarter watering habits.

“There is less mowing and less watering but it’s a little more labor intensive with the landscaping with the plants as well as plant replacement,” he said. “It creates a little more workload but it’s definitely worth what it saves in water.”

The Las Vegas Sun once described Bagwell thusly: “In his nine years as director of golf course maintenance at Golf Summerlin, Brian Bagwell has become a wizard of water efficiency, a guru of Bermuda grass, a zealot for xeriscape landscaping and an expert in space-age irrigation. Bagwell is an unsung hero in the turf wars that are reshaping the terrain and complexion of golf courses across the Southwest as the worst drought on record persists with no relief in sight.”

The three golf courses at Golf Summerlin are available for both visitor and local play and tee times can be made at GolfSummerlin.com.