Golf and Your Environment

Golf and the Environment

Joe Perry CGCS

Eagle’s Landing Golf Course

April 7, 2009

A lot has been said about the relationship of golf courses, their management and the environment, almost to the point of sensory overload. Oftentimes it can be hard to distinguish what might just be marketing hyperbole and what are in fact the true impacts of golf course management to the environment. Who are we to believe? Do we, as golfers really care? How does this affect my golf game? These are good questions. As a golf course superintendent with over 25 years of experience in all facets of the industry, I would like to ask you, for the good of the game, to think about those questions some time soon. Try to become more aware and educated about your surroundings while on the course. I think in time, you will develop a new appreciation of the golf course and it’s stewardship by those who manage it.

Audubon International, a leading advocate of environmental stewardship for the golf course industry states, “when properly sited, designed, constructed, and managed, golf courses can be an environmental asset to a community.  By their very nature, golf courses can provide significant open space and opportunities to provide needed wildlife habitat in increasingly urbanized communities across North America.  With nearly 80% of all of the 15,000-plus golf courses in the United States located in urban or suburban areas, opportunities abound for golf courses to provide ecosystem services such as storm water retention, runoff filtration, urban wildlife habitat, wildlife corridors, heat island effect reduction, etc.” They went on to include “like most other businesses, golf courses must also work to address the environmental challenges of water use, water quality, habitat and biodiversity loss, chemical use, waste, energy use, etc” It is hard to argue particularly in the urban setting, golf courses, as a land use, are better than most if not all other uses.

Here at Eagles Landing Golf Course in West Ocean City, Maryland a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, we have a very diverse ecosystem. I truly believe the golf course has improved the land particularly in the areas of plant and animal habitat, stormwater management, biodiversity and economic impact to the area over the previous uses of poultry production and farming. Eagle’s Landing has been recognized several times for its environmental stewardship by the Golf Course Superintendent’s Association of America (GCSAA), Audubon International, USGA and other industry leaders. We have even partnered with county and state agencies to create guidelines for the development of environmentally sound golf course construction and maintenance practices.  As golf course management professionals, superintendents seek out resources in the industry to help us in this effort. Audubon International “works with golf courses to help them provide habitat for a variety of wildlife species and preserve our rich natural heritage by protecting existing habitats and landscaping primarily with native plants.  Collaborative projects between members and local resource agencies or wildlife organizations are encouraged.  The result is tens of thousands of acres of natural habitats and hundreds of species of birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and other wildlife conserved on golf courses across North America and, increasingly, around the world.” 

A lot more can be learned by visiting the GCSAA’s Environmental Institute for Golf at www.eifg.org, Audubon International on the web at www.golfandenvironment.org, the GCSAA at www.gcsaa.org and coming soon your own Eastern Shore Association of Golf Course Superintendents at www.esagcs.org. Drop us a line or visit your friendly golf course superintendent at your local links next time out, to learn more about golf and the environment.