Stewardship News | Volume 11, Issue 1 | Winter 2008

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Stewardship News A P U B L I C AT I O N O F A U D U B O N I N T E R N AT I O N A L

Volume 11, Issue 1 • January–March 2008



his past year, one of the most significant environmental reports ever released made its way through the Internet and news outlets of all types. Conclusions from the report are stark. Largely unnoticed by the public, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA Report) examines the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being. It involved the work of more than 1,300 experts worldwide over a four year period, and it provides the most comprehensive scientific appraisal of the condition and trends of the world’s ecosystems and the services they provide. In this document, there is now evidence that many of our ecosystems—the geological, physical, and biological systems that make up life on Earth—are in crisis. What does this have to do with golf? It’s simple. The businesses, landscapes, technology, and people tied to the game of golf touch 25 million Americans directly each year and

countless others through television coverage. We all have a role to play in solving this ecological crisis. A golf facility can serve as a model of sustainable resource and landscape management. Through our Golf & the Environment Initiative, originally launched three years ago, we are affecting change throughout the industry as a means to bring about broader change in the communities where golf operates (see Timeline: History of the Golf & the Environment Initiative). We each have played a role in creating this ecological crisis. We each can help to solve it—even on a golf course.

Water…The Ultimate Indicator One of the most significant and real ecological indicators to impact golf is water—its availability and quality. Communities throughout the United States and worldwide are struggling to find the right mix of policy and

practice to ensure clean and abundant water. This, the most critical of resources for life, is one of the areas of concern discussed in the MEA Report and is the focus area for our education efforts throughout 2008. For the golf community to flourish in the years to come the environment, specifically water quality and water conservation practices, must be the number one priority. For over fifteen years, the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses (ACSP), and later, the Audubon Signature Programs for new developments, has emphasized water quality management and water conservation as two of the critical resource management issues. We know there are numerous practices and policies to employ that lead to less water use and cleaner water—as evidenced in the results of the more than 600 golf courses that have been certified in these programs continued on page 4

Water Leadership by Audubon International Members

Blue Springs Golf Club, Ontario, Canada

When examining water quality and water conservation efforts in a survey of our program members, 89% of golf courses who responded had improved their irrigation system or the way that water was applied to the site. As a result, these golf courses saved an estimated 1.9 million gallons of water per year per course since joining ACSP—totaling over 500 million gallons per year. Likewise, 86% of golf course managers and superintendents have increased efforts to monitor water quality.





Dear Members and Supporters, This issue of Stewardship News launches the first in a series of improvements to the way we communicate with you, our members and supporters. We are making Stewardship News a quarterly publication with each issue emphasizing one of our four strategic Initiatives. As a result, we’ll be free to spend more time communicating through a set of online newsletters and other outlets. We’re excited by this prospect because it will allow us to do more with less. Golf & the Environment is the focus in these pages. As you read this issue, you’ll notice that everything we do takes partners. One kind of partnership is financial. We’re happy to say that The PGA of America has renewed its support of our environmental efforts in golf through their $25,000 contribution. These contributions, along with the more than $1.5 million in support we have received from the United States Golf Association over the past sixteen years, are important and should be recognized. Other organizations, found at, have contributed through our Conservation Country Club as well, helping us to improve the educational service we provide. Yet, there are other ways, beyond financial, to partner with Audubon International. Your membership is a partnership with us and the environment. We’re proud to call over 2,300 of you our partners, and that number is growing. With each new member partner more water is conserved, more habitats are cared for, and more people are educated. And that is the ultimate measure of success. To learn more ways to get involved as a partner of our Golf & the Environment efforts visit or Best,

46 Rarick Road Selkirk, New York 12158 (518) 767-9051 You can reach our staff via e-mail by typing the person’s first initial, full last name @ ADMINISTRATION

Ronald Dodson, President Kevin Fletcher, PhD, Executive Director Howard Jack, Vice President Mary Jack, Executive Assistant to the President Paula Realbuto, Executive Assistant for Operations AUDUBON COOPERATIVE SANCTUARY PROGRAMS

Jennifer Batza, Membership Coordinator Jim Sluiter, Staff Ecologist Joellen Zeh, Program Manager AUDUBON SIGNATURE PROGRAM

Nancy Richardson, Director Linda Snow, Administrative Assistant

Kevin A. Fletcher, Ph.D. Executive Director


Fred Realbuto, Director

In this issue… 4



Greening Golf…Takes Initiative: Audubon International refines Golf & the Environment Initiative and strengthens it focus on water for 2008. Letter from Members: Partnering with Golf Courses—Great Horned Owls at Bethpage State Park—Jim Jones Equipment Wash Rack Upgrade: Learn about this Kansas course and their innovative solution for a new wash rack.


Think Green for Green Speed: Learn one easy way to improve the environmental performance of your course.


Tear-Out Fact Sheet: What’s wrong with fast greens?


Joshua Conway, Manager of Education and Communications SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES PROGRAM

Peter Bronski, Manager


P.O. Box 1226 Cary, NC 27512 (919) 380-9640 Bud Smart, PhD, President GREEN LEAF ENVIRONMENTAL

11 Membership News: Welcome to our newest members and congratulations to

our recently certified sanctuaries. How can golf trigger community change? Eufaula, AL, Audubon International‘s first Sustainable Communities Member, city leadership became involved with environmental education and sustainable resource management at a community level through a tour of the local golf course.

1280 Old Innes Road, Suite 801 Ottawa, ON K2B5W7 (613) 842-0333 Kevin Gallagher, President




Does Your Golf Course Care About Youth and the Environment?


f the answer is YES your next question should be: are we adopting a school through Audubon International’s Audubon Partners for the Environment Program (APE)? Your golf course and a local school can partner to help the environment. By taking part in this program, you will help to educate youth about the importance of environmental issues and make your community a better place to live, work, and play. So what does it cost? For only $50 a year you will be a leader in showing young people the way to a better future by providing the opportunity for a school to join the APE program. As the adopter, you cover the registration fee for the program, offer assistance with a project at the school, and work together on a joint project at the school, in the community, or at your golf course. Audubon Partners for the Environment is a web-based tool for anyone who wants to do something good for the environment but only has time for a single project. It is also a fantastic way to complete one of your Outreach and Education requirements for the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses Certification. Please take a moment to consider Audubon Partners for the Environment by visiting our website at:

Bird box monitoring can be a great project for the your adopted school!


Green Golfer Challenge Plays Out


s the calendar year draws to a close so has the 2007 Audubon International Green Golfer Challenge. Tallying over 2,000 individual pledges from 54 golf course spread around the world, a green dialogue between golfers and golf course management has been established. The golf courses with the most pledges are: • The National Service Resort and Country Club (Singapore) • Bethpage State Park (NY) • The Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club (Philippines) • Rockland Country Club (NY) • RiverBend Golf Club (Canada) • Pecan Hollow Golf Course (TX) • Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club (FL) • Stone Tree Golf and Fitness Club (Canada) • WinStar Golf Course (OK) To learn how your course can take part in the Green Golfer Pledge read more on page six.

Take the Treasuring Home Pledge!


aluing and caring for the natural resources and unique landscapes in the places we call home is critical to creating a healthier and more sustainable environment for the future…and it all starts in our own backyard. Audubon International’s guide to environmental stewardship for homeowners, Treasuring Home, includes simple indoor and outdoor actions, as well as steps for extending environmental stewardship efforts from households to neighborhoods and communities. Make a commitment to get involved where you live by taking the Treasuring Home Pledge included in the guide. If you would like to obtain a copy of the guide, or purchase multiple copies for distribution, contact Audubon International at (518) 767-9051, extension 13, or email The guide is complimentary to donors to Audubon International’s Earth Fund. Homeowners are also welcome to view the guide and take the pledge online at






History of the Golf & the Environment Initiative 1991

Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary for Golf Courses launched with support from the USGA.


Audubon Signature Program launched to provide environmental assistance in design, construction, and management of new developments.


Began teaching environmental seminars through golf organizations. To date, Audubon International has taught nearly two dozen different seminars to over 10,000 golf professionals.


Published A Guide to Environmental Stewardship for Golf Courses in cooperation with the USGA, golf professionals, university academics, and environmentalists.

Greening Golf...Takes Initiative

Participated in the Center for Resource Management’s Golf and the Environment Conference resulting in the Environmental Principles for Golf Courses in the United States. 1997

Certified the 100th golf course in the ACSP.


Received an “Environmental Quality Award” from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for environmental improvements in golf.


Launched the Fifty in Five goal—an effort to involve 50% of all U.S. golf courses in an Audubon International programs by 2007—later evolving into the Golf & the Environment Initiative. Named a “PESP Champion” by the EPA’s Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP). This distinction was earned in 2003 and 2005 as well. Given a “Most Valuable Pollution Prevention Award” from the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR)—a panel of stategovernment environmental department administrators.


Certified the 500th golf course in the ACSP. Held the first of two “Golf and the Environment Summits” leading to the creation of Audubon International Golf Advisory Council. Tenth anniversary of the Audubon Signature Program—150 properties, including 57 certified golf courses have been designed, built, and managed under the strict environmental standards of the program.


Distributed an educational CD Rom to nearly 10,000 golf course superintendents and professionals with support from The Toro Foundation.


Launched an effort to understand and uncover the “Business Value of Environmental Stewardship for Golf Courses” as a result of the 2004 member survey. Co-hosted the “Florida Sustainable Communities Summit” in partnership with the University of Florida’s Program for Resource Efficient Communities. Launched the ACSP “site visit protocol” using third-party local environmental experts to help verify certification requirements on the ground.


Launched an effort to educate golf course superintendents and professional about Environmental Management Systems (EMS) and their usefulness as a tool for golf course operations.


Launched the Audubon Green Golfer Pledge as an education campaign for golfers.


Year of Water—Audubon International refines it educational focus to target the world‘s water crisis by partnering with the EPA’s WaterSense Program and other environmental groups.

The Golf & the Environment Initiative is a collaborative effort led by Audubon International and depends on the input, participation and funding from the entire golf industry.

(see Box: Water Leadership by Audubon International Members). Yet, our efforts and impacts in the golf sector, while significant and sizable, are minor compared to the environmental impacts and opportunities of the more than 14,000 other golf course facilities. The time has come to take action. If a small set of golf courses can reduce water use by 20-50% as a result of working through the ACSP, consider the cumulative potential of those remaining 14,000 golf courses. Continuing to expand the conservation results of Audubon International members, annual water reductions could top 3 billion gallons per year. This is why we continue to work to have more golf professionals to become part of the Golf & the Environ-ment Initiative.

Continuing the Initiative With ongoing input and help from colleagues in the environmental community, Golf Advisory Council members and program members, Audubon International has continued to work on a set of key action areas under our Golf & the Environment Initiative, including: Facilitating Best Practices: We are assisting

golf courses and golf course developments to provide wildlife habitat, protecting water quality, and improve overall environmental performance. This includes


Continued from page 1

both working with current members, while also bringing in new members to our programs. Therefore, we continue to enhance our educational tools, availability to staff, site visit capacity, all while also emphasizing program growth through partnerships and creative promotional efforts.

Green Golfer Challenge Tips


publicizing the environmental, economic, and social outcomes of environmentallyresponsible golf course development and management as a model for change in other business sectors. We continue to build our set of environmental fact sheets, improve the communications efforts through our, and collect, track, and report all types of data from our members. A special emphasis is being placed on capturing the Business Value of Environmental Stewardship on Golf Courses. A research report on this topic will be available in early 2008. Likewise, we are launching a free e-newsletter in 2008 that will highlight leadership efforts in this area

s a golfer, golf course professional, or club manager, preserving the game of golf is of utmost importance. It is for that reason alone that we all must play a key role in ensuring that golf courses strive to preserve the nature of the game for present and future generations. Through the Green Golfer Challenge, Audubon International has provided a way for golf courses to allow their golfers to take part in their environmental efforts. Golf courses were asked to educate their golfers about green golf practices and solicit Green Golfer pledges. The Green Golfer Pledge is a set of action items that golfers can use to improve the environmental impact of their golf courses. Many courses involved with the Green Golfer Challenge found unique ways to encourage their golfers to take the pledge. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind for next year’s Green Golfer Challenge:

Offering New Solutions: We are growing

National Service Resort—The Green

Driving Change: We are documenting and

the market for eco-responsible golf by collaborating with industry, government, private sector, and non-profit stakeholders. This is where some of the most innovative and collaborative work lies. We look to create support and incentives to drive change through golfer education efforts (Audubon Green Golfer), marketing partnerships with insurance companies, credit card processors, and others, etc. Each of these goals will be tracked and measured over time with an eye toward continuous improvement and helping the golf industry, the people, and ultimately, the natural environment on which the game depends. G

Did you know right now there are ways to get your Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses membership for free ($200 value)? Learn more at:

Golfer Pledge was incorporated into a post-renovation survey that was attached to score cards. National Service Resort staff made it easy to turn in the pledges by providing several drop boxes throughout the facility.

Rockland Country Club—From this

private club in Sparkill, NY, one of their more famous members—Aidan Quinn (actor)—mentioned the Green Golfer Challenge during an appearance on the Martha Stewart Show. RiverBend Golf Club—As a part of their annual Sand & Seed Social, members learned about the Green Golfer Pledge and were asked to lend their support. Those who took the pledge were given special bag tags to demonstrate their support for environmental actions on the golf course. Pecan Hallow Country Club—

Candace Fountoulakis stepped up to get local news coverage of the Green Golfer Pledge and the environmental efforts of Pecan Hollow. She also manned a booth to further inform golfers as well as answer any questions about the golf course. Even though the Green Golfer Challenge is over for 2007, the Green Golfer Pledge will continue. Take the pledge, and then challenge your friends, fellow golfers, and others to do the same. Do your part to preserve the nature of the game.

The Audubon International Green Golfer Pledge “I value the nature of the game and accept my responsibility to ensure that golf courses are managed in harmony with the environment. I pledge to: • Be kind to the course: repair ball marks and replace divots to help maintain playability. • Walk, rather than use a cart, when possible. Walking promotes physical fitness, healthy turf, and a clean environment. • Look for consistent, true ball roll on greens, rather than speed. Lower mowing heights required for fast greens are at the root of many turf and environmental problems. • Keep play on the course and stay out of natural areas. Respect designated environmentally sensitive areas and wildlife habitats within the course.

• Use trash and recycling receptacles and encourage others to do the same. If you see trash, don’t pass it up…pick it up! • Appreciate the nature of the game. Watch for wildlife as you play and support the course’s efforts to provide habitat. • Educate others about the benefits of environmentally responsible golf course management for the future of the game and the environment. • Encourage the golf course be an active participant in environmental programs for golf courses, such as those offered by Audubon International.”

For more information, please visit:




As the Editor of Stewardship News, I am always in search of stories and pictures that reflect the success, JIM JONES

the trial and errors, and the journey that our members take as they work with Audubon International. I enjoy reading the letters and case studies that you send in documenting the environmental efforts of your golf course. Please continue to let us know what you are doing so that we may share your success with other members and thereby multiply your efforts. I would also like invite each of you to submit your best photographs depicting the nature of the game. Below is a letter recently submitted that is a great example of unexpected partnership benefiting some unexpected inhabitants. Enjoy!

Above: Great horned owl chicks at Bethpage State Park.

Dear Audubon International, There is no observation of nature that does not enlighten and enrich. This is true for all the various creatures of Bethpage State Park on Long Island, especially so it’s great horned owls. Great horned owls (Bubo virginianus) are one of two raptor species that dominate the skies of Bethpage, the other being the Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). Visitors to the park, most of them golfers, are familiar with the diurnal, conspicuously soaring red-tails. Great horned owls however, are enigmatic—although as widely distributed as any raptor, they are nocturnal. During the daylight hours when most humans are at the park, they are secretive and masterfully inconspicuous. Owl nests are not truly theirs, since great horned owls never make their own. Their reproductive season starts so much earlier than most other birds that it is simply more energy efficient to appropriate the abandoned nests of other large birds, most often those of the red-tailed hawks. At Bethpage, my students and I have constructed and installed nesting cones composed of tarpaper and chicken wire. Since we started to attach them to trees in pre-selected areas of the park over fifteen years ago, sixty-six percent of active nesting has occurred in our artificial cones. Although problematic in the early years of my study, in the last five years, the owls have nested consistently, maintaining a pattern of one active nest per season, with either two of three eggs being laid. In the early spring of 2004, for the first and only time, we had not one but two active great horned owl nests at the park. They produced a total of five eggs, which eventually fledged into three new owls. What was also fascinating was the level of public interest generated by these owl chicks. Each week, assisted by a bucket truck from the state or the local utility company, I escorted multiple groups up near the nest tree to witness the astonishingly rapid progression of the owls from egg to highly efficient predator. Elevated and up-close, people watched nothing short of a natural miracle unfold—resulting in some ardent defenders of nature. Although this was the best of times for all, a dose of reality would follow in 2006. It was a lethal reminder of just how dangerous the life of a top predator can be, especially on heavily, human-populated Long Island. The female owl had begun nesting in the second week of February, in one of our artificial cones on the Red course. A bucket truck view of the nest interior showed a trio of pearly-white eggs. The female was still off her nest, but visible. I was concerned. When I returned the following day, the nest looked vacated and somewhat damaged. As I walked closer to the nest tree, I found the lifeless body of the female on the ground. Her three chilled eggs in the nest were now as lifeless as their mother. Pushing the grief aside, I eventually determined what had happened. The female had killed some rats at a nearby stable and was indirectly poisoned with the anti-coagulant bait ingested by the rats. After eating her meal, her fate was sealed; she died of internal hemorrhaging. Four unnecessary deaths administered by thoughtless humans unmindful of the life that surrounds them. We can and must do better. Educating the public about the dangers of secondary poisoning and the availability of useful alternatives is the key. Sincerely, Jim Jones






Equipment Wash Rack Upgrade Prairie Dunes Country Club, Hutchinson, Kansas B Y J O S H U A C O N W AY, A U D U B O N I N T E R N AT I O N A L


rairie Dunes Country Club is an 18-hole, links style golf course located in Hutchinson, Kansas. Built in 1937, 225 acres of the club’s 334.5 acres are managed as prairie grassland habitat. Superintendent Stan George had long felt the club needed a new wash rack system. The old wash pad consisted of two hoses on a 400 square foot, irregular concrete base. Constructed from concrete leftover from past projects, the uneven surface caused the accumulation of rinse water on the pad itself. In addition, the drains were failing, allowing unfiltered rinse water to stagnate above ground and potentially degrade ground water. Despite the inadequacies of the wash pad, George found himself in a situation many superintendents find familiar—the club did not feel that it could allocate the funds to upgrade the system. His opportunity to push for the project finally came when the club decided to build an addition onto their Turf Management Center in

Failing drains and stagnate water were plaguing Prairie Dunes Country Club’s wash pad before the upgrade.

preparation for the 2002 US Women’s Open. He initially proposed the wash rack as a stand-alone project, which was rejected. Finally, through several years of planning, convincing, politicking, and allocating funds, George finally ensured the master plan included a new wash rack area. The entire Turf Management Center upgrade, which included the addition of 5,000 square feet of offices, meeting room, locker rooms, equipment storage, and the new wash rack began in January 2001 and was completed in May 2001. The Turf Management Center addition was designed to create a “U” shape, with the wash rack located in the “courtyard” between the two portions of the building. The wash rack position ensured that every piece of equipment passed through the area prior to entering the buildings, making equipment washing more efficient. Surrounded on three sides and covered with a roof, the 2,400 square foot area also provides extra equipment storage when needed, such as during the Women’s Open. Originally, based on a wash rack system George saw at Pinehurst, the club slightly changed the initial architectural plan to meet their specific needs. The original design called for four wash stations

The redesigned and greatly improved wash pad at Prairie Dunes Country Club provides adequate collection and filtering of wash water.

that drain to a collection/filtering system. Instead, the club moved the collection system into the center of the courtyard and doubled the number of wash stations. Each of the eight stations has a separate hose supplied from the irrigation system; a back-pack blower, pale, and shovel for clipping removal; and a “safety stick” (mandatory for adjusting reel parts during cleaning rather than using hands). The design of the system is quite simple. The concrete pad is slightly sloped to enhance movement of rinse water and clippings into the collection pit from both sides. Rinse water is double screened to collect clippings before passing through a buried oil/water separator tank, much like a septic tank. The filtered water is discharged into a leach field. Staff blows off equipment with a backpack blower and collects the dry clippings. Clippings that are washed off are allowed to dry overnight for easy removal from the front of the screens, shoveled into two five gallon buckets, and brought to the compost pile. The wash racks proximity to the maintenance building creates an continued on page 11








reen Speed—mention this term on any golf course and you are likely to hear a variety of responses from exuberant joy to downright misery. Experienced golfers with single-digit handicaps may squeal with childish delight at the thought of lightening fast putting surfaces. While weekend duffers may cringe at the sight of yet another four-putt as their ball rolls past the cup golf course superintendents may simply groan under the realization that their job requires the ability to keep both parties smiling. One thing you won’t hear much of is silence on the topic— green speed has become arguably the most discussed subject among golfers and superintendents. Golf course superintendents and managers are under a seemingly constant barrage of demands, responsibilities, and expectations by the modern golfer. The quest for perfect course aesthetics, high degrees of playability, and a desire to tread lightly on the land can all add up to some pretty intense pressures for those who manage the more than 16,000 golf courses across the United States and Canada. Add in the skyrocketing costs of fertilizers, pesticides and fuel, and the demands placed on course managers may seem overwhelming. In this era of “faster equals better,” one course manager has found an effective way to encompass the best of all worlds while continuing to demonstrate responsible environmental stewardship. Upon assuming his responsibilities as Superintendent of Drummondville Golf Club, Quebec, in the Fall of 2005, Ron Rainville was dismayed by the condition of the existing greens on the course property. In addition to the unsightly aesthetics of the putting surfaces, Rainville also noted the poor overall health of the greens and their susceptibility to diseases such as Fusarium and various

Drummondville Golf Club, Quebec

Why the sudden focus on green speed? As professional golf and major tournaments continue to attract a larger percentage of the national TV audience, amateur golfers have come to equate faster greens with a higher quality playing experience. But for many golfers and course managers, these overly high expectations often result in increased maintenance costs, disappointing playability, paltry appearance, poor overall turf health, and even poorer golf scores.

strains of Anthracnose. Rainville was torn between his desire to reduce pesticide use on the course while also providing the true and “fast” greens that his golfers were requesting. Rainville began by taking soil samples and conducting basic testing to identify any soil deficiencies. After performing the necessary soil amendments and corrections, Rainville raised the mowing heights of the greens from the formerly stingy 0.120 inches to a generous 0.180 inches for the remainder of the 2005 season. At the end of October, Rainville ceased mowing the greens entirely, to help promote a healthier root structure within his putting surfaces for the following golf season. With the start of the 2006 season, Rainville continued cutting his greens at the 0.180 inches, but systematically began reducing the mowing heights by 0.005 inches each week until gradually hitting his predetermined minimum height of 0.140 inches. He then started topdressing his greens with pure sand (washed and screened at 2mm) every week from late April through Labor Day. He also employed an aggressive monthly verticutting regimen to reduce as much thatch as possible from the putting surfaces. The verticutting was followed by additional topdressing the next day, before the slits in the turf has time to close. Within two irrigation cycles, the topdressing was no longer visible. “Most golfers didn’t even know we had done it,” noted Rainville. Rainville states that the improvements to the course’s greens were noticed by the club members within

two complete seasons of his program implementation. The current greens have increased density, improved appearance and greater overall health, while continuing to provide speeds between 9 and 10 on the Stimpmeter. The robust putting surfaces have also proven to be far less prone to disease, with no outbreaks of Pythium and Anthracnose during the 2007 golf season. The increased resiliency of these greens resulted in a 20% reduction in pesticide usage at the club over the length of the golf season, saving the course around $3,000 for the year. Rainville notes that his approach does require a slight increase in manpower and topdressing material, but the healthy and fast greens and reduced costs that he has produced have kept his membership happy while lessening the need for chemical inputs to the course property. Green speed will always be a hot topic of conversation and debate among golfers and course managers alike, but Rainville’s management approach has proven that fast greens don’t have to require minuscule mowing heights and aggressive pesticide applications. With true and fast putting surfaces, healthy turf and appearance, and a reduction in pesticide costs and usage there’s reason for everyone to smile at Drummondville Golf Club, Quebec. G Ron Rainville is member of the Audubon Steward Network, a collection of Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary (ACSP) members committed to providing local support and expertise to existing and new members of the program. For more information about Ron’s project or the Audubon Steward Network contact Audubon International at (518)767-9051 or visit us online at

Fact Sheet G O L F




What’s Wrong With Fast Greens? B Y M AT T N E L S O N A N D L A R R Y G I L H U LY, U S G A G R E E N S E C T I O N


id you know that regular membership green speeds at many golf courses today exceed national championship green speeds of only 10 or 20 years ago?

That’s right. Greens are being cut lower and lower to satisfy golfer demands for speed.


But mowing for speed comes at a cost to the game…and the environment. The next time the Stimpmeter dictates how greens at your favorite golf course are to be mowed, consider what’s wrong with fast greens: Fast greens cost the game of golf and the environment.

Fast greens slow down play! Fast greens make it increasingly difficult to stop a golf ball close to the hole, especially on longer putts and when contours are present. It’s even more difficult to play delicate pitch shots from around greens and stop the ball near the hole. Fast greens mean more putts and slower play.

Interesting hole locations are lost. As greens become faster, certain portions of putting greens are no longer acceptable for a fair hole location. No one likes to see a missed putt roll back or a well-struck putt roll completely off a green when missing the hole. Much of the fun and excitement of a golf course is lost when only a few good hole locations result from limited setup possibilities.

Ball marks and old holes are slower to heal. Ball marks have reached epidemic proportions at busy facilities. Failure to repair ball marks is reported to be the most common breach of golfer etiquette. But that’s only part of the problem. Closer and closer mowing required for fast greens leaves less grass on greens to cushion the blow from incoming shots. It also takes the grass longer to recover from all those ball marks…which ultimately results in poorer putting quality.

Golf course setup is for a minority of players. Fast greens cater to the minority of golfers who are the best players. Chip shots and longer putts are almost impossible for the average player, thereby diminishing the fun factor and slowing the pace of play for the majority of golfers. Golf is already a challenging game for the overwhelming majority of players; does it need to be made even more frustrating?

Audubon International © 2007



Fast greens put the emphasis on “championship,” rather than “fun.” So many courses today are striving to provide so-called “championship” conditions on putting greens every day, rather than considering fun and enjoyable golf for all players. Sure, everyone wants to hit like a pro, but that’s in the swing, not in the grass. Golf is a game of strategy, three-dimensional positioning, and skill played outdoors with the same basic set of rules that have governed the sport for decades. Are we having more fun than our predecessors because our greens are faster? Fast greens lead to poor turf.

Picture an inch on a ruler. Now picture one-eighth of an inch. That’s the height of the letters in this sentence. That’s the height that most greens are being mowed week after week, all season long. When grass is mowed at one-eighth of an inch (and sometimes less!), problems such as drought stress, moss, disease, winterkill, compaction, and daily wear are magnified. Combating these problems requires greater inputs of chemicals and labor, at cost to golfers and at potential risk to our environment. Rather than placing emphasis on speed, focus on smooth and true playing surfaces. Consistent, smooth, true surfaces promote good ball roll and fun golf.

This article is excerpted from the USGA Green Section Record, May-June 2005. Co-author’s Matt Nelson, agronomist, and Larry Gilhuly, director, represent the USGA Green Section’s Northwest Region.

Visit our online information center for fact sheets on a variety of environmental topics: e-source Audubon International 46 Rarick Road Selkirk, NY 12158 (518) 767-9051

Audubon International © 2007


The Stimpmeter was originally intended to be a gauge of consistency from green to green. Use it for that intended purpose, instead of getting fixated on speed. Get off the road to faster greens and get on the one that leads to good golf for all players, for the good of the game.



Through November 29, 2007



Continued from page 1

incentive for the maintenance staff to clean the pit daily or unpleasant odors will become prevalent. Originally, the pit area was created to be large enough that a skid loader could be driven down into the sloped pit to remove clippings. Although this is possible, the staff does not attempt this procedure any longer because they felt uncomfortable with the close proximity of the loader to the irrigation line (located above ground and attached to the safety railing). Additionally, they found it to be unnecessary due to the small amount of clippings to be removed if one is diligent about removing them daily. If they were to do this project over, George said he would remove the concrete “bumper” installed just prior to the screening that was designed to protect the screens from the loader bucket. In its place, he would install another full-length screen instead of the one-third width pre-screen that is incorporated in the “bumper.” “I have found that this pre-screen performs unsatisfactorily compared to the full-width screen behind it,” states George. Except for this one minor detail, the staff has been extremely pleased with the operation, traffic flow, location, and results of the new wash rack facility. Aside from removing screened clippings regularly, ongoing maintenance has also been minimal. Although the final cost was incorporated into the construction of the entire facility, the approximate cost of the wash rack was $30,000. From the members perspective, although most do not visit the Turf Management Center (even during several open houses), those who do visit are impressed with the professional appearance, neat storage areas, and appreciate the wash rack as one way to care for their significant investment in equipment. G




Cannon Ridge Golf Club, Fredericksburg The Ritz Carlton Golf Club–Creighton Farms, Leesburg


Erie Memorial Gardens, Learnington, ON, Canada United States

City of Fort Collins–Fossil Creek Park, Fort Collins, CO City of Fort Collins–Rolland Moore Park, Fort Collins, CO Grove Cemetery, New Brighton, PA SavATree Corporate Office, Bedford Hills, NY GOLF PROGRAM International

Coppinwood Golf Club, Uxbridge, ON, Canada Indooroopilly Golf Club, Queensland, Australia Florida

Plantation Preserve Golf Course and Club– City of Plantation, Plantation Illinois

Willow Crest Golf Club, Oak Brook Kansas

Sand Creek Station Golf Course, Newton Michigan

Twin Lakes Golf Club, Oakland Mississippi

Kirkwood National Golf Club, Holly Springs North Carolina

Sherwood Forest Golf Club, Brevard New Jersey

Black Bear Golf Club, Franklin Crystal Springs Golf Course, Hamburg New York

The Sedgewood Club Associates, Inc., Blecher Mendel & Fedele, New York Marine Park Golf Course, Brooklyn Ohio

Heritage Club, Mason Oklahoma

Winstar Golf Course, Thackerville Pennsylvania

Country Club of the Poconos, East Stroudsburg Frosty Valley Country Club, Danville

Pecan Hollow Golf Course/ City of Plano, Plano Virginia

RECENTLY CERTIFIED AUDUBON COOPERATIVE SANCTUARIES Bandelier Trading Company, Los Alamos, TX El Camaleon Mayakoba Golf Club, Playa Del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico Links at Boynton Beach, Boynton Beach, FL Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club, Orange Grove, South Africa Westwood Golf Club, West Mifflin, PA Willowbrook Country Club, Apollo, PA Wintonbury Hills Golf Course, Bloomfield, CT RECERTIFIED AUDUBON COOPERATIVE SANCTUARIES Certified for 10 Years or more Point Grey Golf and Country Club, Vancouver, BC, Canada Salishan Spa and Golf Resort, Gleneden Beach, OR Certified for Five Years or more Crystal Springs Golf Club, Burlingame, CA Peel Village Golf Course, Brampton, ON, Canada Priddis Greens Golf and Country Club, Priddis, AB, Canada Certified for Two Years or More Meadowbrook Golf Course, Hopkins, MN Newport National Golf Club–Orchard Course, Middletown, RI

AUDUBON PARTNERS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT NEW MEMBERS Green-Fields School, Woodbury, NJ Venice Golf & Country Club Master Association, Inc, Venice, FL CERTIFIED AUDUBON COOPERATIVE SANCTUARY Oak Forest Elementary, Humble, TX

Stewardship News


Audubon International Attends 2008 Golf Industry Show

Sterling Country Club, MA

We are pleased to be attending the Golf Industry Show in Orlando, FL, January 31–February 2, 2008. If you are attending, please stop by our booth and say hello. We will be conducting a seminar for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America titled: Uncovering the Business Value of Environmental Stewardship—Thursday 1:00 pm— Kevin Fletcher, Executive Director.

Audubon International publishes Stewardship News six times a year. Inquiries, contributions, or letters to the editor should be addressed to: Joshua Conway, Editor Audubon International 46 Rarick Road Selkirk, NY 12158

Or sent via e-mail to: Layout and Design: 2k Design,

Clifton Park, NY Printing: Benchemark Printing,

Schenectady, NY Audubon International is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to fostering more sustainable human and natural communities through research, education, and conservation assistance. Programs seek to educate, assist, and inspire millions of people from all walks of life to protect and sustain the land, water, wildlife, and natural resources around them. Funding is provided by memberships, donations, and program sponsorship. The ACSP Golf Program is sponsored by The United States Golf Association. The newsletter is printed on recycled paper.

Look inside for a tear-out fact sheet! If you have a change of address or contact person, please let us know. Call (518) 767-9051, ext. 12 or E-mail

Help us to keep up to date! Phone: (518) 767-9051 Web Page: e-mail: Audubon International 46 Rarick Road Selkirk, New York 12158 Permit No. 55 Delmar, NY 12054

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