Photo by craig hellier on Unsplash
So let’s talk about sustainable golf courses. You wouldn’t think it could, given the pristine fairways and putting surfaces on every course. However folks, golf is going even greener! The rise of sustainable golf courses has been a global movement in recent years. Many new courses are being designed sustainably from the start. So many old courses have spent millions revamping their grounds and processes. All to include sustainable measures.
But what does being sustainable really mean in terms of a golf course? And does it really matter in the greater scheme of things? Let’s explore the rise of sustainable golf courses. Also what we can expect from the sport in terms of sustainability in the future.
What Goes Into Golf Course Sustainability?
Being sustainable is more than just watching your water usage! Even just living a more sustainable life from the comfort of your own home involves many moving parts. Therefore imagine how much more complicated it is to make an entire golf course sustainable!
But it certainly can be done. Also it is being done across the world. The steps that go into creating a sustainable golf course depending on the course. However and as a whole, there are three main points to sustainable golf courses—nature, community, and economy.
In order for a golf course to become sustainable, it needs to be contributing positively to all three of those categories.
This is the easiest one to imagine when it comes to golf courses! By their very nature, golf courses are rooted in nature. Think of a golf course, and it’s quite impossible to separate it from the nature it’s in.
But not every golf course does good for the nature around it. The key to a sustainable golf course is enhancing nature, which has become much more of a theme in recent times.
Golf course designers have always gone to great lengths to shape the landscape around them to create spectacular courses. In some cases, this has required carving holes out of the surroundings. In others, shifting land from one place to build another has led to what we know today as some of the loveliest courses.
But with the rise of sustainable golf courses, golf course architects are rethinking their design plans. Newer golf courses are being routed through and around the existing landscape rather than making changes to the landscape itself… Perfectly preserving nature and the local flora and fauna.
The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf
Many golf courses carry an Audubon International certification. The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf is a certification program that specifically helps golf courses to preserve and protect nature without compromising the quality of their gameplay.
If a golf course meets Audubon International’s Standard Environmental Management Practices, it can be labeled a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. This is in-depth and detailed, involving actions like undergoing a site assessment, listing your environmental resources and liabilities, and developing an environmental plan that works for your course.
The certification is an environmental badge of honor and opens doors to more sustainable ventures for golf courses.
This is truly a win-win situation. Golf courses gain a boosted reputation, and reduced costs thanks to better planning, reduced liabilities, and an increase in environmental quality. And in turn, nature benefits.
Aside from being a very well-planned environmental area, many Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuaries are home to local flora, fauna, and bird life. They’re designed to be safe places for wildlife and plant life to thrive.
This is also where effective water management, turf choice, fertilizer management, and maintenance comes into play. It’s not simply a cost-cutting thing—reducing water, fertilizer, and mechanical equipment usage makes a big difference to the environment.
Community & Economy
These are the parts most people (and businesses) forget when it comes to sustainability. While many golf courses have got it right on the environmental side, the community and economic impact are lacking.
Part of being a sustainable golf course is giving back to the local community and boosting the economy. It’s important not to focus so much on becoming sustainable that the gameplay and customer service get lost. Golfers still need to enjoy a round on the course.
And this is the perfect opening to begin educating others about sustainability. Perhaps with an event like a community golf day, a quiz evening, a golf course picnic, or a bring-your-family golf lesson day. Golf courses that find small ways to give back to the local community are on the right track for both the community and themselves.
As for the economy, with reduced spending, more attractive and eco-friendly golf courses, and extra job opportunities, sustainable golf courses are making an impact.
If the trend in recent years says anything, it’s that the rise of sustainable golf courses is not going to be declining any time soon. Golf courses are in the rare position to be able to make huge and significant changes to the environment while educating golfers about the environment at the same time.
More and more golf courses are taking on the challenge of becoming sustainable, which is an excellent sign for the sport going forward. From design to maintenance, and thanks to initiatives like the National Audubon Society and the zero waste movement, golf is fast becoming the most sustainable sport around.
What Can You Do?
What does this mean for you, though? Well, if you happen to work on a golf course, now may be a good time to start taking stock of your own environmental resources and seeing where you can boost your own sustainability. Not only will it shine up your reputation, but it can save you a good chunk of cash!
If you’re a golfer, we understand that you can’t always travel to golf courses that are certified as Audubon Sanctuaries. Depending on where you are, your only choices may be unsustainable courses nearby. But if you care about the environment, your community, and the economy, you might have more power than you think.
Put together a group of like-minded golfers and brainstorm about how you make the golf courses in your area more sustainable, as per the big three. Petitioning to local councils and raising funds can help every golf course to take positive steps toward being more sustainable!
About the Author
Jordan Fuller is a retired businessman and golfer. When he’s not on the course working on his own game or mentoring others, he’s researching and writing value-packed golf-related articles for his own website, Golf Influence.