The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) celebrates Earth Day April 22 by highlighting the various golf course management activities its members are doing to foster environmental stewardship and sustainability.
According to the GCSAA Golf Course Environmental Profile, the average 18-hole golf course covers 150 acres, approximately 100 (67 percent) of which is maintained turfgrass. Approximately 11 acres of water are common, and there are an additional 24 acres of non-turfgrass landscapes such as forests, grasslands, buffer strips and riparian areas. Non-turfgrass landscapes have increased in approximately 44 percent of 18-hole golf facilities since 1996, by an average of 9.8 acres.
"Intuitively, golf course superintendents are stewards of the land," Greg Lyman, GCSAA environmental programs director, said. "They not only professionally manage the turfgrass as a playing surface, but are responsible for many areas of water, wetlands, forests and other habitats. Together these properties present numerous values to local watersheds and communities."
Brian Green, GCSAA certified golf course superintendent at Sunset Valley Golf Course in Highland Park, Ill., collects storm water for irrigation. More than 70 percent of Sunset Valley's 100 acres is floodplain and 12 acres of bioswales help collect flood waters and filter the overflow before it returns to the Chicago River. Green has created native vegetation buffers around ponds and he has helped Sunset Valley receive funding from the Illinois EPA for a demonstration of streambank restoration, effectively stopping erosion, filtering debris, and avoiding sedimentation of downstream areas.
Green and Sunset Valley worked with the parks department and natural areas coordinator on another project funded by a grant from the Illinois EPA to install a rain cistern and rain garden system that collects 4,800 gallons of rainwater per month from the maintenance building roof, stores it for use in watering greenhouse plants, and channels runoff through a rain garden into a pond by the first hole. Green and his staff also maintain a 4-acre butterfly garden and a bluebird trail with 27 boxes throughout the golf course, in addition to vegetation surrounding the irrigation pond which is listed by the Illinois Audubon Society as a bird watching site within the Lake Michigan flyway.
Dean Graves, CGCS at(Md.) Club, has significantly increased the acreage dedicated to wildlife habitat, converting out of play areas of traditionally mowed turfgrass to lower maintenance vegetation mixes and instituting a bird-nesting program. He is also working directly with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, state agencies and golf industries to develop practical nutrient management policy as part of future regulatory demand on states within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Todd Bunte, GCSAA Class A superintendent at TPC Jasna Polana in Princeton, N.J., uses moisture probes to determine irrigation needs. The irrigation pump station utilizes variable frequency drive technology, a more energy efficient system that only provides the electric motors the amount of power necessary to meet the demand for water. The Stony Brook, which is a state protected trout stream, forms the northern border of the golf course property and two of its tributaries flow through the course. The woodlands and wetlands areas serve as wildlife corridors and understory vegetation is protected for habitat preservation. Bunte has TPC Jasna Polana certified as a River Friendly Golf Course and an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.
Chris Flynn, CGCS at Marriott's Grande Vista in Orlando, Fla., has grown 10-feet-wide buffer strips of native grass along the in-play shorelines of the ponds protect the water, which he has tests to ensure maintenance practices are not negatively impacting water quality. Located at the headwaters of the Florida Everglades ecosystem, Grande Vista features 30 acres of native area, 10 acres of wetlands and 40 acres of ponds. Grande Vista is a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary and has partnered with the South Florida Water Management District to develop and build a nature trail that connects the resort to the adjoining conservation lands. Flynn also developed an initiative to become a designated property in the Department of Environmental Protection's Florida Green Lodging Program.
In 2008, Tom Vlach, CGCS, and his staff at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., added a transfer line from the reservoir lakes to the irrigation pond, virtually eliminating the facility's use of well water from the Florida aquifer. The reservoir lakes collect drainage water from surrounding communities that would have previously drained into the Atlantic intercoastal waterway. TPC Sawgrass is a member of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program and Vlach and his staff work closely with the St. Johns County wildlife management department, as well as Beaches Emergency Aid and Kare Sanctuary.
GCSAA member David Cole, superintendent at Loch Lomond Golf Club in Alexandria, Dunbartonshire, Scotland, works closely with the national park authorities and the Scottish Natural Heritage to effectively manage the parkland course located in a national park and guarded on three sides by the legendary banks of Loch Lomond. Vegetative buffer zones are managed along the shores and Cole is pursuing a grant from the national park authorities for erosion control measures to protect the Loch shore from high water levels. Cole has worked with the Scottish Forestry Commission to successfully increase the habitat for barn owls and bats, installing boxes for both throughout the property.
Graves was the winner of the 2011 GCSAA President's Award for Environmental Stewardship, and Green, Bunte, Flynn, Vlach and Cole were the national winners of the 2010 GCSAA/Golf Digest Environmental Leaders in Golf Awards.
GCSAA is a leading golf organization and has as its focus golf course management. Since 1926, GCSAA has been the top professional association for the men and women who manage golf courses in the United States and worldwide. From its headquarters in Lawrence, Kan., the association provides education, information and representation to 19,000 members in more than 72 countries. GCSAA's mission is to serve its members, advance their profession and enhance the enjoyment, growth and vitality of the game of golf. The association's philanthropic organization, The Environmental Institute for Golf, works to strengthen the compatibility of golf with the natural environment through research grants, support for education programs and outreach efforts. Find GCSAA on Facebook, follow GCSAA on Twitter, and visit GCSAA at www.gcsaa.org.