*Superintendents/USGA Take Home Ideas
*Audobon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses
*CMAA's Environmental Resources
*New Jersey Water Usage
*Environmentally Responsible Golf Course Design and Renovation
Association conducts inaugural Environmental Conference
By Craig Ammerman
Suggestions on how to cost-effectively manage golf facilities while being the best-possible steward of their environments highlighted an Environmental Conference sponsored by the Golf Association of Philadelphia. One hundred and twelve persons registered for the day-long session held on Oct. 10 at Philadelphia Country Club.
A panel of four agronomists – two regional directors from the USGA Green Section (Dave Oatis, northeast, and Stan Zontek, mid-Atlantic) and two course superintendents (Chris Carson, Echo Lake Country Club, and Jerred Golden, Hershey's Mill Golf Club) – presented 18 “take home ideas.” These ranged from a recommendation to use lower-cost fertilizers because “the grass plant does not recognize the difference between a high-priced fertilizer and lower-cost” products to performing audits on irrigation systems and energy use to make sure your course is getting what it needs in the most cost-effective way.
The first recommendation from this panel was to join the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary program, because it “raises awareness, encourages environmentally responsible management and helps publicize positive things golf courses provide.” The second program of the day featured Jim Sluiter, an ecologist from Audubon International, which manages the Cooperative Sanctuary programs, and Jim Roney, superintendent at Saucon Valley Country Club, a participant in those programs.
Sluiter described Audubon's Cooperate Sanctuary program, in which about 2,300 courses nationwide are enrolled. In Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, 318 courses are participating and 45 have earned certification. Participation comes at a low cost ($200) and, for those who take it seriously, can deliver strong results: a survey showed that, among participating courses, 75 percent reduced pesticide use and costs and 89 percent ‘improved cultural control methods to decrease the need for chemical use."
The six areas that the Audubon Sanctuary Program focuses on are environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, chemical use reduction and safety, water conservation, water quality management and outreach and education.
Other programs presented during the day focused on responsible environmental management of portions of golf facilities beyond the course, the future of water use on golf courses in New Jersey and environmental challenges that arise when a new course is built or an existing one is modified.
Jim Singerling, chief executive officer of the Club Managers Association of America (CMAA), spoke of dangers to golf's and a club's reputation that can occur when other parts of the facility are not managed correctly. These include the kitchen, the cart barn and the maintenance buildings and equipment. In cooperation with the USGA and Audubon International, the club managers created a software program that leads clubs through recommended management procedures for these non-golf areas of a facility. The program is free of charge to clubs that go onto the CMAA Web site, and is easy to use.
Fred Sickels, assistant director for water supply permitting of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), described work his department has done to understand where the water comes from for 292 golf courses it has identified. Some of these courses are being pushed to use non-potable sources (effluent or stormwater) to take pressure off the acquifer. In certain areas of the state, Sickels suggested those would be the only sources available to a new course. He also said that sewage authorities in some parts of the state will be required to reduce release of effluent into bodies of water by selling it for use on places such as golf courses.
Bill Love, a golf course architect who is the author of a book called An Environmental Approach to Golf Course Architecture, spoke on the need to be very environmentally aware when building a new course or restoring an existing one. In the latter case, much as with working on existing buildings, when you begin a restoration you may be subject to regulations that didn't exist when the course was built. A course preparing for a restoration should carefully check federal, state and local environmental issues, Love said.