Putting Green: Quality Golf Facilities Are Increasingly Maintaining Their Courses and the Environment

By Eleftheriou, Ted | Parks & Recreation, May 2007 | Go to article overview

Putting Green: Quality Golf Facilities Are Increasingly Maintaining Their Courses and the Environment


Eleftheriou, Ted, Parks & Recreation


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There are about 60 acres of naturalized prairie grasses. We have a lot of nest boxes and feeders for songbirds. We have even done butterfly migration studies on Monarch butterflies," Kerry Satterwhite explains. Surprisingly, Satterwhite is not a tour guide describing a wildlife sanctuary or hosting a nature show. In fact, the Certified Golf Course Superintendent (CGCS) is describing The Den at Fox Creek golf course in Bloomington, Ill.

As the superintendent of golf course maintenance for the parks and recreation department for the city of Bloomington, Satterwhite manages three 18-hole facilities, including The Den at Fox Creek. In addition to being an Arnold Palmer Signature Course, the naturalistic course has achieved the distinction of Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.

According to Audubon International, fewer than a quarter of the 2,300 golf courses that are currently striving to earn the certification have fulfilled the requirements. To be a recipient of the certification, golf courses must meet or exceed the standards in six categories: environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, chemical use reduction and safety, water conservation, water quality management and outreach and education.

It was not long ago when golf courses and the environment seemed to be at opposite ends of the conservation spectrum. Environmental concerns of golf course use included the use of chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers; contamination of ground and surface waters; extensive use of water for golf course irrigation; loss of wildlife and wildlife habitats; and loss of natural vegetation. With an emphasis on maintaining pristine playing conditions, golf courses were seen as a threat to the preservation and quality of the environment.

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Today, the United States alone boasts more than 16,000 golf courses serving a population of about 26 million golfers. Both numbers continue to increase as golf courses continue being built and cooperative efforts by the golf industry are being made that are increasing the golfing population.

However, even as growth continues and new concerns arise, a shift in thinking is occurring as well. As conservation awareness and global efforts become more prevalent, golf courses are beginning to be recognized as settings for the protection and enhancement of wildlife and the natural environment. Organizations such as NRPA, the PGA of America, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), and the United States Golf Association (USGA) are offering resources and education programs for their members and the public to promote the conservation of green spaces.

According to an initiative by Audubon International called "Golf & The Environment," nearly 80 percent of all golf courses in the United States are located in urban or suburban areas. As a result, opportunities abound for golf courses to have a positive impact on ecosystems that include storm water retention, runoff filtration, wildlife habitats and wildlife corridors.

The GCSAA's Environmental Institute for Golf offers golf course information gathered from research and shared best practices. The Institute's areas of focus are water management, integrated plant management, wildlife management, golf course sites, design and construction, and energy and waste management. Visitors of the Web site (see the sidebar on page 38) are not only encouraged to view the best practices shared in each category, but to contribute to the growing list of best practices as well.

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Satterwhite is passionate about his involvement with Audubon International and GCSAA. He is always looking to make the golf courses in his city environmentally friendly by determining best practices through trial and error.

Water conservation is one area that he and his team constantly monitor. …

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