We are all aware of that somewhat overused expression “going green”; a worthy cause and noble effort no matter where and/or how it applies. When it comes to golf courses, most would think “what could be greener and more eco-friendly than a golf course?”; and they would be right…to a certain extent. But golf courses and the golf industry, by their very nature should pay closer attention to the land upon which the game is played. As a guide for responsible stewardship of golf course land and environment, The Audubon Society has created the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses.
The ACSP helps golf courses to enhance wildlife habitats and protect natural resources for the benefit of people, wildlife, and the game of golf. The program is concerned with six key environmental areas relevant to golf course management. These components form the basis of the educational materials and are the focal points for achieving certification as an ACSP Golf Course. They are:
Wildlife and Habitat Management
Chemical Use Reduction and Safety
Water Quality Management
Outreach and Education
The average golf course covers 150 acres, yet just 30% is generally used for greens, tees, fairways, and buildings, leaving 70% as rough, woods, water, and other habitats. These non-play areas provide significant opportunities to enhance and protect wildlife and native habitats, filter pollutants, produce oxygen, and stabilize soils. At the same time, golf courses are called to address environmental concerns related to the impacts of water consumption and chemical use on local water sources, wildlife species, and native habitats. ACSP for Golf Courses serves as a blueprint for maximizing environmental assets and minimizing environmental problems on the golf course and the surrounding community.
There are currently hundreds of golf courses around the world that have either been completely certified or are going through the process. Here in Southern Arizona the courses include The Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain, Starr Pass, The Westin La Paloma, and my own course Rio Rico is currently awaiting final certification. One of our first initiatives at Rio Rico is to partner with the local high school shop class and construct birdhouses to be placed around the golf course. That part of the community outreach is perhaps the most rewarding; the kids get a special and meaningful project, the golf course gets to do our part to provide for the wildlife…and the birds get a nice condo with a fairway view. Not that is Going Green!