Stewardship News - Spring 2023

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STEWARDSHIP NEWS Spring 2023 Signature Sanctuary’s New Platinum Level Marriott Magic Resort Leader Sets Sustainability Standard Monarchs In the Rough Audubon International’s Road Warrior Cornell’s EIQ Calculator CELEBRATING 35 YEARS



Previous projects funded include wildflower patches, pond restoration, fairway stream daylighting, invasive species removal, bat boxes, youth field trips, canal bank restoration, hedgerow development and so much more.

Aquatrols established The Fairways Foundation with the purpose of funding local and global projects that advance the conservation of our natural resources. These projects will help to preserve the environment we live and work in while encouraging education and stewardship not only within our own industry but also within wider communities.

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you are considering environmentally conscious projects visit TheFairWaysFoundation. co m for more details.


The Post-Pandemic Green Awakening Is Here

As the U.S. federal government prepares to end its three-year-long Covid-19 pandemic emergency declaration this spring, hopefully for good, we at Audubon International are seeing big, beautiful, healthy green shoots of progress on the environmental sustainability front.

Among the many positive cultural changes that have come out of an otherwise dangerous and sometimes deadly health emergency is one that we’ve worked hard to bring about since our founding 35 years ago: people seem now to understand the importance of healthy open spaces near their homes and workplaces. And that understanding has brought about very hopeful trends in how private and public entities — including the golf courses, resorts, parks, and businesses we work with — interact with the environment. This is indeed the only planet we have, and while climate change will continue to challenge us, serious and scientifically sound stewardship efforts across a wide spectrum of human endeavor are now the rule, not the exception. Everywhere I go, it seems everyone is tuned into a “Green Awakening.”

That means the great indoors, too. In one of my favorite “elevator speeches,” I not only highlight the work Audubon International does through its certification and education partnerships, but explain that to bring the natural and built environments into sustainable balance, what we do becomes even more important.

Every day we’re getting more calls from individual courses inquiring about certification as well as other businesses of all kinds looking to better manage the property in their care. For courses that means reducing mowed turf, helping out-of-play areas “go natural,” cutting back on chemical pesticides, developing drought-resistant grasses, constructing bird boxes and other wildlife-friendly zones, and keeping water sources as pristine as possible. For clubhouses, hotels, and office buildings, it means analyzing and replacing outdated HVAC systems, adjusting thermostats, installing energy efficient lights, advanced room control systems and water-saving plumbing fixtures, and improving insulation R factors.

When a big company like Marriott International — one of the world’s largest hotel operators, and the subject of this issue’s cover feature — puts sustainability at the center of its corporate culture, the effect is earth-shaking (and saving) indeed. They’re also one of Audubon International’s most dedicated partners, working hard each year to achieve ACSP for Golf certification at its golf courses in the United States and abroad. They are employing sustainable practices indoors, too. Whether constructing new vacation clubs or retrofitting existing resorts, Marriott Vacations Worldwide continually strives towards achieving their goal of becoming more sustainable. Other large companies are following their lead and our light-on-the-land footprint continues to grow.

The future of Audubon International and our mission wouldn’t be anywhere near as bright without the dedication and passion of the superintendents, managers and executives we partner with each and every day to make sure the Green Awakening blossoms into a planet-wide Green Revolution. On behalf of everyone at Audubon International, thank you. Here’s to a healthy, sustainable spring.

1 Audubon International | Stewardship News | Spring 2023

518.767.9051 | Toll-free 1.844.767.9051

Audubon International Headquarters

120 Defreest Drive, Troy, NY 12180


Christine Kane , Chief Executive Officer

Fred Realbuto, Chief Operating Officer

Frank LaVardara, Director, Environmental Programs for Golf

Kat Welch, Director, Signature Sanctuary Certification

Scott Turner, Environmental Program Manager

Alison Davy, Finance and Operations Manager

Tallis Warren, Member Services Manager

Sarah Honan, Environmental Program Specialist

Kelsey King, Environmental Program Specialist


Henry DeLozier, Chairman

Rich Katz, Vice Chairman

Matt Ceplo, Treasurer

Marvin Moriarty, Secretary

Jennifer Grant, Ph.D.

Dan Murphy

Jake Riekstins

James Singerling, CCM

Randy Winegard


Vic Williams, Editor | Alissa Theodor, Designer

2 CONTENTS 1 CEO Corner by Christine Kane 3 Chairman’s Corner by Henry DeLozier 4 News Briefs Audubon International Names New Board Members ACSP Certification for All Invited Golf Courses Signature Sanctuary Certification Adds Platinum Level Meet Our New Staff Members FairWays Foundation Grant Applications Open 12 Cover Story: Making A Global Difference With Marriott 16 Profile: Audubon International’s Warrior 20 Ask the Expert: Sustainability and Internships 22 Member Spotlight: Hung-Ming Chen, Horng-Shee Tai-Ping Golf Course, Taiwan 24 Monarchs In The Rough Set for Growth Spurt 26 Golf Course Spotlight: Virginia’s NOVA Parks 28 On The Horizon: Florida’s TwinEagles 30 Education Spotlight: Cornell’s EIQ Calculator On the Cover: Marriott La Iguana Golf Course, Costa Rica. Photo courtesy of Marriott International.
Stewardship News is published quarterly in digital-only form by Audubon International, 120 Defreest Drive, Troy, New York 12180. Copyright© 2022 Audubon International. No material may be reproduced without written permission. Previous issues available by visiting All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.


The Business of Audubon International

Audubon International (AI) is dedicated to the fullness of time. The good work we seek to do is never completed. To that end, the Audubon International Board of Directors is guided by a thoughtful business plan, as is the case with many determined causes. We at Audubon International navigate on six primary goals:

1. STRATEGIC GROWTH: AI means to increase golf-related property membership through the retention of existing members and the recruitment of new memberships. Golf course properties are environmental havens managed by golf course superintendents who are dedicated environmental stewards. In fact, the world would be a better place if all of us were such dedicated stewards as golf course superintendents.

2. IMPACT: Member golf related property members are AI-certified or actively engaged in certification to ensure that their facilities conform to the standards of best practice for stewardship.

3. PROMOTION: AI members actively promote certification and report being recognized by club members, neighbors, and their communities at large. We want to make Audubon International a recognized leader in environmental education.

4. BRAND: AI members win supportive recognition; and the AI certification is respected by those within the conservation sector as science-based and environmentally significant to long-term sustainability.

5. FINANCES: A first-order responsibility shared by all is to ensure diverse and sustainable revenue sources to support Audubon operations and investments. We must see that financial resources are maintained over time.

6. ORGANIZATION: Christine Kane, AI’s most capable CEO, is dedicated to supporting staff retention and increasing the number of active board members to sustain the AI mission. Christine has completed the reorganization of AI and is filling of staff gaps in real time.

One might reasonably ask how the AI Board measures its progress. The Board has identified the following metrics of success:

MEMBER RETENTION – The number of members retained is important and made more robust by continuous recruitment efforts.

GOLF COURSE ACREAGE – The number of acres of naturalized areas on golf related properties is a measure regularly tracked at AI. This metric has grown recently as the Monarchs in the Rough and other programs expand their reach.

BEST PRACTICES – The number of sustainable AI-recommended practices which are incorporated into property management is monitored annually.

REVENUES TO AI – Financial gifts and donations are the most important source for sustaining AI programs and mission. The Board monitors this metric and seeks to increase it as a primary responsibility.

STAFF EFFECTIVENESS – Audubon International is served by highly capable and dedicated staff members. The human resource profile of the staff is well-educated with an enthusiastic attitude. Those attributes reflect Christine’s leadership.

The business of Audubon International is highly intentional and guided by its dedicated staff and Board of Directors.

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Audubon International Names New Board Members


International recently added two respected golf industry executives to its Board of Directors: Dan Murphy, CEO of Bridgestone Golf, and Jake Riekstins, Chief Development Officer of Landscapes Unlimited.

As at-large board members, Murphy and Riekstins will lend their expertise and respected standing in the golf and business communities to further Audubon International’s core mission and execute its strategic plan.

“Dan and Jake bring a great deal of business acumen, environmental knowledge, and a wide range of contacts to our board,” said Audubon International CEO Christine Kane. “We’re looking forward to working with them as we move forward with many new initiatives to further our mission.”

Murphy was appointed President and CEO of Georgia-based Bridgestone Golf in 2018. He is responsible for directing the company’s core business functions, including product planning and production, marketing, sales, and customer relations.

From 2015 to 2018, he was President of textile manufacturer Kentwool and Vice President of American Achievement Corporation. Before his first tenure at Bridgestone Golf, he held key marketing and business development positions at TaylorMade, Dunlop Slazenger, Maxfli and

General Mills. He is a graduate of Wake Forest University.

“I am extremely honored to join such a prestigious organization. For many years I’ve admired what Audubon International does for our communities,” Murphy said. “Of great interest to me personally is the impact the organization will have in the immediate and distant future. To play a small role in that growth as a board member is very exciting.”

As Chief Development Officer for Nebraskabased golf course developer and builder Landscapes Unlimited, Riekstins leads the company’s strategic planning process, executing key initiatives. Riekstins is a 23-year member of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and earned an Agricultural Sciences degree at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.

As a golf course superintendent, Riekstins built an appreciation for environmental stewardship in the golf space through his more than three decades of work at golf courses in Canada and abroad.

“There are many eco-friendly steps golf course operators need to take to preserve our natural habitat,” said Riekstins. “It’s a great time for golf courses to carry the environmental stewardship by enrolling in Audubon International with the goal of certification.”

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dan murphy jake riekstins

Audubon International, Invited Strengthen Sustainabiity Partnership

Leading Operator Commits to Achieve ACSP Certification for All Golf Courses

OnFeb. 1, Audubon International announced that Invited, leading owner-operator of membership golf and country clubs, city and stadium clubs in North America, will direct more than 200 of the golf courses in its portfolio to join the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program (ACSP) for Golf and achieve certification over the next several years. Audubon International is the environmentally focused non-profit organization offering members numerous certifications and conservation initiatives to protect the areas where we all live, work, and play.

Currently about 140 of Invited’s courses are ACSP-Certified for golf, making it one of Audubon International’s largest partners in its mission

to help golf courses, resorts, hotels, parks, municipalities and businesses become more environmentally sustainable.

“Expanding Audubon International’s partnership with Invited to include every Invited golf course is a significant step for the leading club operator and we continue to give Invited clubs certification weekly,” said Frank LaVardera, Audubon International Director of Environmental Programs for Golf.

Added Christine Kane, CEO of Audubon International: “We are gratified and humbled to learn of Invited’s intention to make sure every course in their impressive and expansive portfolio is ACSP-certified. A partner of their caliber and

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Firestone Country Club, Akron, Ohio

influence going all-in for our stewardship mission is great news for the golf industry.”

By announcing the goal of full ACSP membership and certification for its golf courses, Invited is further elevating its commitment to environmental stewardship and its goal to drive continual improvement across all aspects of the operation.

“Invited is proud to have all of its golf courses receive the ACSP Certification, which will make us the only multi-unit club operator in North America to do so,” said Invited CEO David Pillsbury. “Our clubs play an integral role in the lives of our members and their communities, and it’s important that Invited courses are expertly positioned to protect the environment.”

Begun in 1991 in collaboration with the United States Golf Association, ACSP for Golf certification is the industry’s gold standard for sustainability. Audubon International’s team of experts work hand-in-hand with superintendents and their staffs to achieve stringent, sciencebased benchmarks based on carefully developed Standard Environmental Management Practices in six key environmental components: Site Assessment an Environmental Planning, Wildlife and Habitat Management, Chemical Use Reduction and Safety, Water Conservation, Water Quality Management, and Outreach and Education. Once certified, each course is recertified every three years. Currently there are more than 2,000 certified ACSP for Golf courses in the United States and internationally.

Since its founding in 1957, Dallas-based Invited, formerly ClubCorp, has operated with the mission of Building Relationships and Enriching Lives®. The leading owner-operator of membership golf and country clubs, city, and stadium clubs in North America, Invited is relentless in its pursuit of providing extraordinary experiences, meaningful connections, shared passions, and memorable moments for its more than 400,000 members. The company’s mission is supported by 20,000 peak-season employees and a portfolio of 200 owned or operated golf and country clubs, city clubs, sports clubs, stadium clubs in 29 states, and seven BigShots Golf locations. Invited creates communities and

a lifestyle through its championship golf courses, workspaces, handcrafted cuisine, resort-style pools, tennis and pickleball facilities, golf lounges, fitness centers, and pioneering programming.

Audubon International Unveils New Platinum Level for Signature Sanctuary Certification

Afteryears of offering three levels of its elite Signature Sanctuary Certification program, Audubon International is adding a fourth Platinum Certification for properties undergoing renovation or new development with the goal of ensuring sustainable design, construction, and long-term management of golf courses, resorts, and communities.

For the first time, the Platinum Certification level offers properties the opportunity to put an entire resort — golf, clubhouse and lodging — under one certification umbrella.

“Signature has traditionally been offered on three levels — Bronze, Silver and Gold,” says Kat Welch, Director, Signature Sanctuary Certification. “In 2022, we did a soft launch of our Platinum level. Previously, Signature included an 18-hole golf course and the maintenance facility. Or it could be a standalone community, like an HOA. With Platinum, we looped in our Green Lodging and Green Hospitality Certification. It includes not only the golf course and maintenance, but also the clubhouse, and if there’s lodging onsite, the resort aspect as well. It’s an opportunity to have an all-encompassing certification for a resort.”

Directed by Audubon International COO

Fred Realbuto, the Green Lodging and Green Hospitality programs currently have about 130 full-service Certified resort members. By blending

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elements of the Lodging/Hospitality curricula with Signature’s mostly golf-centric requirements, Platinum Certification gives qualifying properties more options to fit its overall sustainability goals.

“If a resort is established and operating, but undergoing a renovation to only the golf course, it can still be a candidate for Platinum,” Welch says, “because the Green Lodging and Green Hospitality Certifications were designed for existing properties. If it is a totally new construction, we look for the criteria to be built into the architectural plan.”

For golf course grounds and structures including cart barns and maintenance buildings, Platinum Certification adds a new slate of requirements to its already comprehensive Gold level. For instance, native plantings must occupy 90% of out-of-play golf course acreage, rather than Gold Level’s 75%.

Welch adds that The Signature Sanctuary process as a whole is currently going through an update, including the list of criteria handed out

at enrollment and necessary for certification. “We’re working with the American Society of Golf Course Architects on revising and expanding it in certain areas. We are launching it later this year.”

But for properties looking for a complete certification solution, the Green Hospitality and Green Lodging elements truly set Signature Sanctuary Platinum apart in Audubon International’s suite of Certification programs.

“The nice part about Signature Platinum level is that it is a single title, encompassing multiple certifications, which is easier for the public or the client to understand and appreciate.” Welch concludes. “It’s definitely attractive.”

For information about joining AI’s Signature Sanctuary Certification please contact Kat Welch at 518-767-9051 x124 or


By joining Monarchs in the Rough, your course will become a crucial part of a n etwo rk of courses that are all working together to make the survival of monarchs possible. Join today and our program will support you as you prepare, plant, and maintain habitat for monarchs and other pollinators.

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Audubon International Adds New Staff to Better Serve Member Growth

Withstrong membership expansion and enrollment across its certification programs, Audubon International has added three members to its growing team. Joining new Membership Services Manager Tallis Warren are two Environmental Program Specialists, Sarah Honan and Kelsey King. All three came on board in January 2023.

Warren manages the member database and is the main point of contact for our nearly 2,000 members. Native to New York’s Capital Region, she holds a Bachelor’s in Communications and Rhetoric from The State University of New York’s University of Albany. A portion of her undergraduate career was also spent at Stony Brook University in Long Island studying in the Ecosystems and Human Impact program.

Prior to joining Audubon International, Warren worked in the veterinary industry for over five years. Trained in both administrative and hands-on vet assistant work, she has an extensive background creating positive experiences for pets and their owners. She is certified as a Feline Friendly Veterinary Professional by the American Association of Feline Practitioners and continues to volunteer with local adoption groups. Her passion for animal advocacy projects coupled with interest in environmental stewardship influenced her to transition to an environ-

mental nonprofit.

Honan is passionate about jobs that help to bridge the gap between humans and the environment. She is “beyond excited” to help members become more environmentally sustainable while achieving their recreational goals. Before working with Audubon International, she spent time as a zookeeper, working in medical laboratories, and volunteering in Thailand. She has also worked on research spanning from identifying apple esters, to water quality monitoring, to IPM.

Honan obtained her two undergraduate degrees from Keuka College in Environmental Science and Biochemistry. She is currently finishing up her Master’s at Paul Smith’s College in Natural Resources Conservation with a specialization in sustainable communities, and a certificate in aquatic resources and forestry. Her focus is on the Signature Sanctuary Certification.

King’s focus is on the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary for Golf, as well as working on the BioBlitz program. Before joining Audubon International she was an environmental educator, an avian specialist, a wildlife manager, and a veterinary assistant. Through her work, she has gained many valuable experiences that will serve her well in her new position. She also serves on the board for Friends of Dyken Pond in her spare time.

King was raised in New York and has lived all

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tallis warren sarah honan kelsey king

over the state. She holds a Bachelor’s in Wildlife Management from State University of New York at Cobleskill and also received an Associate’s in Science from Hudson Valley Community College. She plans on continuing her education in hopes of obtaining a Master’s or Doctoral degree. As they settled into their new gigs, Stewardship News Editor Vic Williams threw a few questions their way.

How did you first become acquainted with Audubon International and its work?

Warren: I first heard about AI when researching environmental based nonprofits in New York’s Capital Region. I knew I wanted to make a career change out of the veterinary industry, and I have always had interest in working for a nonprofit. AI’s mission of environmental stewardship caught my eye, as did focusing on organizations where the natural meets the built environment.

King: I didn’t know much about Audubon International when I first started. When I saw the job posting, I did some research, and that’s where I learned the most about them. I was hooked the moment I saw their mission statement.

Honan: I was actually introduced to Audubon International through a former professor of mine. After learning about the company I decided to pursue a position here. I liked the mission of the organization and I felt that it really aligned with my own ideals and education.

What spurred you to dedicate your education to wildlife, conservation, environmental stewardship, etc.?

Warren: I grew up vacationing to beach destinations and was always mesmerized by the beauty of the ocean; I’ve always wanted to learn how we can protect it. This affinity for protecting coastal environments has extended inland overtime and sparked my interest in environmental stewardship. Coupled with my love for animals, AI’s mission and programs seemed like a perfect fit. The famous

quote in The Lorax by Dr. Seuss really sums it up: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

King: I was always outdoors exploring the environment. In grade school, I was taught the phrase “Take what you need and leave the rest,” and I took that to heart. I didn’t realize I could turn my hobby into a career until I went to college. I started on the veterinarian course until I saw the wildlife courses. From there, I interned as an Environmental Educator with Dyken Pond. I found it to be the most rewarding experience. I knew then that I wanted to connect people with their world.

Honan: I have been a wildlife lover since I was a kid. I received my first gardening kit when I was five or six and helped my mom garden in our front yard. I began to take up hunting with my dad, where my relationship with the environment really strengthened. I realized that the world around me needed help and that if I was to give my life purpose, I should spend it saving something that I love. My undergraduate and graduate education focus shifted to the more human side of environmental science. Audubon International educates the public on conservation and sustainability without compromising other aspects of human life such as recreation. It is a great opportunity to restore the balance between humans and the environment, built on the foundation of environmental education.

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‘I liked the mission of Audubon International and felt that it really aligned with my own ideals and education.’
— Sarah Honan

What are you most excited to learn as you grow into your new job?

Warren: Though I work on the member communications side, I am excited to also learn about the specifics our environmental program team members investigate. I am always looking to learn something new and I’m excited to broaden my understanding of areas such as ecosystem and habitat management. This will not only expand my personal knowledge base but also help me to assist current and prospective members. I hope to increase our communication strategies with members in the hopes of promoting certification status and sustainability efforts. By increasing public awareness of our programs, I hope to create more opportunities for new members and positively affect a greater number of ecosystems.

King: The most exciting part of this job will be traveling to new places to meet people who care about the environment. I look forward to learning new ways to be sustainable, especially in an industry that the public assumes to be bad for the environment.

Honan: I am excited to learn of all the ways that our members have improved their sustainability. Already I have seen so many great examples that make me stop and appreciate the fact that there are people who aren’t environmental scientists who care about the environment and want to learn more. I look forward to fostering positive

relationships with members and being a resource for them.

What have you learned so far?

Warren: I have learned that our members have genuine interest in creating more sustainable businesses and communities. Because this is a voluntary certification program, it shows that our members care for their surrounding ecosystems and the impacts they have. Even though I have only been with AI for a short time, I’m more optimistic for our global environmental health.

King: So far, I have learned what goes on in the background when golf courses submit their environmental plans. Their plan ultimately leads them in the right direction to being more sustainable.

Honan: I’ve learned a lot more about golf than I ever thought I would. I’ve watched videos on their construction and renovation which has been helpful when I am analyzing water quality or soil data. I’ve also learned that there is a lot more for me to learn. One of the most important things that I have learned is the importance of organizations such as Audubon International. During my first week, Director of ACSP Programs for Golf, Frank LaVardera, explained this very simply. He said that “people are going to build the golf course or hotel or whatever it is anyway, our job is to make sure it’s done as sustainably as possible.” I think about this often, and it has taught me my purpose at AI.

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FairWays Foundation Grant Application Window Now Open

TheFairWays Foundation has now awarded over $440,000 worth of grant funds to 29 projects across the USA, Canada and the UK since 2020. This year sees the foundation carry out its 4th grant cycle with the application window opening February 1. The submission window will remain open until April 30, 2023 and successful grant recipients will be notified in October 2023. The FairWays Foundation is a stand-alone 501c3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to safeguarding our environment, supporting conservation-based projects; big and small by granting funds to successful applicants globally. Christine

About The FairWays Foundation

Environmental stewardship is not an initiative. It is a long-term investment into our future and the future of our industry. The FairWays Foundation directly funds local and global projects that advance the conservation of our natural resources. These projects will help to preserve the environment we live and work in whilst encouraging education and stewardship not only within our own industry but also within wider communities.

More information:

Kane, Audubon International CEO, serves as Vice President of the foundation board and Grant Committee Chair, but does not vote on any pending grant requests from Audubon International members.

The conservation-focused non-profit encourages all businesses or individuals to apply who are looking for funding assistance for projects pertaining to our environment and natural resources. Find out how to apply.

To view more information about all the projects that have being supported so far, click here.

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Colorado’s Southridge Golf Course, a 2022 grant recipient.

Making A Global Difference With Marriott

After adding Starwood’s stable of lodging brands in 2015, Marriott became the world’s biggest hotel operator, with 30 respected names under its ownership umbrella, from RitzCarlton and St. Regis to W and Westin. Toss in its Marriott Vacations Worldwide network of fractionally owned properties, and you’ve got a vacation juggernaut with unmatched global reach and price-point variety.

When a company like Marriott sets the corporate standard for commitment to sustainability practices — not only across its resorts, but as a golf course operator as well — well, that pretty much defines the perfect partner for Audubon International.

And an inspiring partnership it is, dating back more than two decades on the golf front and to 2010 on the lodging front. With all but one of its American resort golf courses achieving and maintaining certification (one of them Signature

Sanctuary Certified), and all eligible lodging properties pursuing Green Lodging Certification, the relationship just keeps getting stronger and offers a powerful model for Audubon International-corporate stewardship collaborations to come.

As part of its ongoing 35th Anniversary celebration, Audubon International would like to cast a bright spotlight on Marriott, how it has placed environmental stewardship at the center of its corporate culture, and why sustainability makes such solid business sense.

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Marriott’s Shadow Ridge Resort
‘Regardless of how good your operation is, you’re better at the end of the certification process.’
— Dave Robinson


ThoughMarriott’s involvement

with Audubon International

predates his arrival in 2002, David Robinson, who oversees a staff of five as Senior Director of Golf Grounds, Global Golf Division, came on board more than familiar with the ACSP for Golf process. The course he’d previously worked at as a CGCS/CGIA superintendent had been fully certified so he could hit the Marriott ground running, “but we really didn’t have a corporate [sustainability] initiative in place at that point,” he says. “It was one of the things we started working on shortly after I came into the corporate office in 2005. I think it was 2007 when we rolled out the goal to get all our golf courses Audubon International certified. We pretty much achieved that goal here in the U.S. — all but one of our courses are certified.”

Nearly sixteen years later, Robinson and his crew — including another CGCS accredited superintendent — oversee nearly 50 courses stateside and internationally, with full certification still in their global sights as well. “Once we got U.S. courses certified, we rolled it out internationally, mostly in the U.K., which is a hundred percent Audubon International certified.”

Over the years, Robinson has helped shape Marriott’s own proprietary environmental initiative, using Audubon International certification as its “foundation.”

“It’s something we came up with that adds to Audubon,” he says. “We’ve got our own award that we give out. It just takes things a little bit further with some irrigation, auditing and environmental scorecard with a lot more things on it that we check off. Audubon certification obvi-

ously is a piece of that.”

Robinson hails from Bradenton, Florida and, after catching the golf bug “later in life” and learning the game on local munis, considered becoming a golf pro. “One of my best friends growing up, his dad was a general manager of a couple different golf facilities. One was a private facility, one was public, and he was GM of both. I was having dinner one night with him, and he asked if I might want to come out and pick the driving range, clean golf clubs and park golf carts for a few hours. ‘And you can play golf for free too.’ That’s what got my foot in the door.”

He found himself working on the grounds crew. “Pretty quickly I realized that I’ve always loved being outside, love nature and don’t mind getting up early in the morning. I already had an associate degree at the time, and my plan was to go get a bachelor’s in business and be a golf pro, but I realized that you can actually go to college and get a degree for [turf science]. So I did, went back and got another degree, and the rest is history. Here’s where I am. It’s been an awesome run.”


WhileRobinson focuses primarily on Marriott’s domestic ground operations as well some Caribbean, Central and South American locales, the fellow accredited super on his staff handles most other international visits. “I don’t miss the 10- or 12-hour flights,” he says. “But we’re a small group. If one of us is someplace and the other needs to be someplace, that’s what we do. It keeps it interesting.”

Marriott’s sun-never-sets presence across the global golf landscape — Spain, Portugal, Fiji, Egypt and many other countries — leads to more interesting details, such as the types of growing surfaces and climates Robinson and company deal with as they work to widen the Marriott certified course footprint. “We really have it all. We probably manage every type of turf grass and are in almost every climate that you can imagine,” he says.

“Our Caribbean and Central America properties are all certified. Bermuda, our newest property, haven’t achieved certification yet, but they’re working on it. The Egypts and the Spains, it’s hit

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or miss. Some don’t have the proper facilities to get certified at this point.”

“It’s different at each property. Some operations haven’t had the right wash down area or the right mixed load area. Those are probably the two biggest areas that need capital improvement, and that can be a challenge. We’re a for-profit operation.”

That brings up one of the biggest strengths of seeking and attaining Audubon International certification, whether multinational corporation or individually owned concern: Strengthening the bottom line. And it starts with that most precious of resources.

“The less water that we run on the golf course, the less money we spend,” Robinson says. The less fertilizer we put out, the less pesticides, the less money we spend. So we do those things from an environmental standpoint, and it’s the right thing to do for the health of the turf grass, but it saves money too. That’s one thing I’ve found when I give tours or talk to someone with the mindset that golf isn’t very good for the environment — it’s not in our best interest to just go throw products out there, or to overwater a golf course. That decreases our guest experience.”

Some of Marriott’s most well-known desert properties have certainly benefitted from the lessis-more ethic that guides all sustainable water use. “We had a 36 hole operation in Arizona with 150 acres, give or take, of irrigated turf grass,” Robinson continues. “At one point, our water bill was a million dollars a year. That’s not including electrical cost. That was another $300,000 a year. Just water was costing us almost a million dollars a year. An infrastructure investment seven or eight years ago saved us about half, but that’s still a half a million dollars a year we’re paying for water. So a 10% savings in water, that’s a lot of money.”

On the flipside is a place like his native state of Florida, which is, as most people know, “notorious for really wet summers” with nowhere for all that excess rainfall to go. “We may go weeks and not even turn the irrigation system on, especially on fairways or rough,” Robinson says. “But when you get in that period where it’s just raining every single day, it certainly makes for a challenge. We’ve got a course in Costa Rica that had a really wet year, for them. They’re in a rainforest, so it’s always wet, but they can get up to 160 inches of rain a year, and

their season is about the same as Florida. That 160 inches comes from May to August. It’s a rainforest, that’s what it’s supposed to do. But it does present a challenge without a doubt.”

Whatever a region’s climate, a balanced approach to turf reduction — led, again by Audubon International’s proven systems and techniques — is always front and center on Robinson’s to-do list. Marriott is making big strides there, too.

“I think the last amount we calculated was about 300 acres of irrigated turf that we had reduced in the U.S. The average golf course is probably close to a hundred acres. So that’s like reducing three entire golf courses. That’s substantial. The more that we can reduce, the better.

“One of our most successful renovations we’ve had is one of the courses at Camelback in Arizona. We reduced a hundred acres of irrigated turf just for one golf course. It was pretty neat to convert that to mostly native grasses; It took a little bit of water to get established, but now we hardly ever run irrigation. I would love to say that we’ve reduced as much as we can, but we still have some courses that that could stand to reduce more.”


Robinson confirms the now-common assertion among Audubon International member course operators that what happens outdoors pays dividends indoors, not only leading hotels to pursue Green Lodging Certification — all Marriott Vacation Resort properties are certified now — but building customer loyalty. “Our big box hotels live and breathe off group business, and with almost every one of those group contacts, one of the first things that they want to know is, ‘what’s your sustainability efforts?’ When we tell these groups that our golf courses are Audubon International certified, that’s a huge win. We’ve had groups tell us that ‘the reason we chose to come to your resort was your golf courses are Audubon certified.’ Our meeting planners understand what that means. And it goes a long way. We’re not doing it because of that. We’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do. But it’s nice when people acknowledge those efforts, and the folks at Audubon International are always there to help in any way they can.”

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Even a veteran like Robinson acknowledges that there’s always room for improvement, for learning, for striving to make every Marriott property a model of Audubon International stewardship. Certification only makes that room more inviting and rewarding for everyone — corporate CEO to customer — and gives their long-standing partnership more space to grow.

“No matter how detailed you are or how much you know, when you go through the Audubon International process — certainly the initial part of it, but even with the recertification and just maintaining certification — you learn a lot about your operation. You reevaluate everything you do. It’s something that most people should be doing anyway, but if you haven’t done it, it’s an opportunity

Marriott’s Green Lodging Legacy

With some 700,000 ownership families and over 120 ownership resorts around the world, Marriott Vacations Worldwide is not only a leader in the fractional ownership industry — it’s also unsurpassed in its company-wide commitment to establishing a high sustainability bar and make sure each of its properties clears it. The company’s well-established Green Lodging partnership with Audubon International, dating to 2010, is a big part of its stewardship success.

Every property in the Marriott Vacations Worldwide portfolio is Green Lodging Certified, with four properties achieving Platinum status to date — Marriott Grand Residence Club Lake Tahoe, Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club (pictured), Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club, and Marriott’s Cypress Harbour.

to look at and apply Audubon’s recommendations. It causes you to think a little differently. The result is improvement. The biggest thing I’ve seen, and that I’ve personally gotten out of going through the program at different courses, is that regardless of how good your operation is, you’re gonna get a little bit better at the end of it.”

Green Lodging partnership

plays a vital role in ensuring that our vacation ownership resorts and properties are best-in-class, and our guests have high-quality, memorable experiences. “

1/2 page.

“Marriott Vacations Worldwide has a long-standing partnership with Audubon International. Since 2011, we have committed to enroll eligible properties in Audubon International’s Green Lodging Program,” states the company’s latest Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Report from 2021. “We believe the natural environment

Adds Fred Realbuto, Audubon International COO and Director of the Green Lodging Program, “What a privilege it is to have played a part in the Audubon International certification of the first Marriott resort back in July, 2010, and then to witness the ongoing environmental efforts culminating in the corporate wide commitment to certify all of the Marriott Vacation Properties. Having traveled to all of the resorts, from Manhattan to Oahu, from Aruba to San Francisco, they may be different, but there is a recurring theme. They share a pride in the knowledge that they are catalysts for change in making their properties more environmentally sustainable, and we are proud to have assisted and certified their achievements.”

The company continues to strive to

reach even more milestones. “We are taking steps to reduce our environmental footprint and work with stakeholders, including homeowner associations, to embed environmental efficiency practices across our resorts in a consistent way,” the ESG statement continues. “One of our top focuses is tracking and reducing our energy and water consumption, and as we refine our processes, we expect to then focus on tracking and measuring waste.”

The company’s new headquarters, which broke ground in 2021 in Orlando, Florida, is sustainable from the ground up, emphasizing water efficiency, carbon-free construction, capacity for solar panel installation and much more.

For more on the sustainable culture at Marriott Vacations Worldwide, visit

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Scott Turner’s Site Visits Set Up Member Courses for ACSP Success

Since coming on board as Audubon International’s Environmental Program Manager in 2019, Scott Turner has been a busy guy indeed, logging more air miles in a year than most folks will in decades. He’s always packed and ready to hop a bird and head for the next golf course in California, Florida, North Carolina, or whatever state’s ACSP for Golf Member course is in the throes of its first certification or working hard for recertification.

His site visits often turn into case studies for the organization. He helps superintendents and their crews establish sustainable management practices and apply innovative solutions to the challenges all courses face.

It’s a go-go-go life. And he wouldn’t have it any other way. Even late in the Covid shutdown year of 2020, as the first vaccines became available, he managed to get in 29 site visits. In 2021, 58 properties saw his smiling face in person. In 2022, 49.

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Edgewood Tahoe, Stateline, Nevada

“And that doesn’t even count my time at conferences,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time on the road. It’s just been crazy.” It’s also in keeping with his longstanding love for everything golf. Even at his tender age he’s played more than 175 courses and visited 50 countries. Director of Environmental Programs for Golf, Frank LaVardara, calls him “our road warrior.”

Born and raised in Ottawa, Canada, Turner has a bachelor’s degree from Carleton University’s Geography and Environmental Studies program. He recently added a Masters Graduate Diploma in Sustainable Leisure Management from Vancouver Island University in British Columbia, Canada, and is currently working on a one-year course in turf pathology from the University of Georgia. During his winter break he spoke with Stewardship News editor Vic Williams about his passion for environmental science, why Audubon International is a partner for good, and how he hopes his adventures will play out in the future.

What took you West for your education, and how did that lead to this job?

Being raised in Ottawa, Canada you really need to be fluent in French as it’s a bilingual city. I unfortunately struggled with the language, so in 2018 I moved to the British Columbia where French is not a requirement for grad school. One day I was golfing near campus in Nanaimo, and came across a sign saying, “this course was ACSP certified.” I was intrigued so I did a little homework and discovered Audubon International’s ACSP for Golf program. I saw that they offered summer internships, so I emailed ACSP for Golf Director, Frank LaVardera with a resume and cover letter. Not that long after, I was offered a six-week internship, which I enjoyed so much, that I asked for an extension. Fast forward to the conclusion of my internship, I was asked by Audubon International if I was interested in a position there. I of course was, so I applied and as luck would have it, I was offered a position. I am coming up on four years with the organization.

Can you kind of take me through what an average site visit looks like for you?

The planning typically begins 1-2 months prior to the visit, when I contact the club, to seek permission to visit during a specific time and date. My site visits usually begin in the early hours, so we can get out ahead of the early birds teeing off. Upon my arrival I generally ask the individual who I meet with (typically the superintendent) to pretend that I’m a new hire and to give me a rundown on day-to-day operations and complete tour of the golf course and maintenance facility. We drive hole by hole where we make many stops to discuss course features, management practices, address any issues, and so forth. Once we wrap up the tour, we usually retreat to somewhere private where I may ask any additional questions, address any concerns or highlights and ask if they have any questions for me. A site visit typically lasts anywhere from 3-4 hours.

What’s the ratio of private to public courses you work with?

I would say 60-65% are private. The reason for this could be that most private clubs have an advantage over public courses, as they typically have access to more resources and capital. For instance, private clubs will usually involve their members in the ACSP Certification and Recertification process.

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“At one point, I really hope that Audubon International will become even more of a household name among the golf industry, as a place like Augusta National is.”

Once you do work with a club and they get certified and they see the changes, how does it bring more wildlife into the mix how does it change people’s mindset?

The overwhelming majority of the clubs I have worked with embrace wildlife, it’s just that some clubs struggle more than others to provide an environment where golfers and wildlife can live in harmony. When we work with those clubs to assist them implementing certain initiatives that help promote habitat, they eat it up. When they can see the fruits of their labor in real time, it brings them overwhelming joy. I receive emails all the time from clubs who have shared stories from their annual bird counts, how they’ve documented a record of fledglings or how they have even attracted a protected species. It is a really rewarding feeling.

What is the most challenging part of your work? Is it testing the water and making sure the water systems are up to par? Is it, is it the turf science? What’s the toughest part to deal with in general?

Getting clubs to consistently monitor their water quality, particularly the inlets and outlets can be challenging and there are a few reasons for that. The first, and probably the most obvious is that these tests are never free. Labs regularly charge a couple hundred dollars, and self-test kits are usually only a hair cheaper. The second is that many of these clubs have never monitored their water quality before, so it is a whole process to teach its importance and exactly what and where they should be testing.

A second challenge that I face regularly, is convincing clubs to introduce, expand and promote native/low maintenance vegetation. It is no secret that the game of golf is expensive, and that patrons and members pay a substantial amount of money to play. This, however, can result with golfers having high aesthetic expectations, even more so if they own a home on the property. I have dealt with numerous course superintendents and directors of agronomy that are reluctant to introduce such vegetation because they may face backlash from golfers or homeowners. During instances like this, I always encourage them to

inform the naysayers about the financial and environmental benefits of having these areas on the property. If you slowly introduce these areas, golfers tend to not even be aware of them, particularly in areas that receive minimal play.

With water conservation and quality such an important part of every certification effort, you’ve surely dealt with local or regional agencies who really are pretty adamant about maintaining that water quality, especially given all the human interaction. It’s a tough balance.

I have conducted a few site visits over the years where agencies have attended, such as Edgewood Tahoe in Nevada, where the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency works closely with them and other entities to keep the lake pristine.

I’ve worked with similar concerns in other parts of the country as well. Most recently in the summer of 2022, I dealt with a club in New Hampshire, in the Lake Sunapee watershed, where we were accompanied by the Lake Sunapee Protection Agency. I thought it was very extremely beneficial. I learned a lot from them during that visit.

Do you find that a lot of clubs or a lot of superintendents are moving away from the straighton chemical pesticides and looking for organic alternatives?

Yes, I am seeing that from clubs all over the place. The cost of pesticides and fertilizers have always been expensive, but even more so in recent years. This has almost forced clubs to search for more cost-effective alternatives. I’ve seen a handful of clubs hire services where goats are used to remove invasive vegetation as opposed to pesticide treatment. Depending on where you are in the country, controlled burns are a common practice, particularly in the mid-west/great plains. In addition, the vast majority ACSP Certified courses now are either applying some sort of organic fertilizers and/or pesticides with much lower toxicity.

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When visiting a course for the first time, besides some of the issues you mentioned before, what’s the biggest misconception you hear about Audubon International, and how do you get past that?

When I visit clubs, it may be their first time an Audubon International staffer has ever visited the property and naturally, that may stress some individuals. Once I have introduced myself and have given an overview of my visit, they almost always become more comfortable. I think for whatever reason, they expect us to show up wearing suit and tie and demand they cease operations if a particular standard is not met. Fortunately, that could not be further from reality.

What are your hopes as kind of the man on the front lines moving forward? How would you like to see the organization evolve and its certification systems grow?

At one point, I really hope that Audubon International will become even more of a household name among the golf industry, as a place like Augusta National is. I truly believe in Audubon International’s vision and would really like to see the golf world adapt more sustainable practices. We are on the right track to making that happen, every day and every year that goes by.

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Turner doing some field work at famed Merion Country Club near Philadelphia, PA.


Make Sustainability The Centerpiece of Your Intern Program

BeforeI came on as superintendent at Fairview Country Club in 2008, Fairview had an internship in place that was always fully supported by the Club. But if you think back to what was happening to the economy and golf in late 2008 to 2009, both were in decline. What naturally followed was a decline in turf students and college turf programs in general.

There were plenty of people entering the turf industry and attending turf programs at multiple universities, so there wasn’t generally a problem for a club like Fairview to attract one or two interns each season. But as students became scarce, the ones that remained typically would end up

at courses in the top-fifty lists in Golf Digest or Golfweek, leaving nothing for other clubs, even though the learning experience and culture would still be extremely beneficial to them.

At that point, I realized that we needed to set ourselves apart from other clubs vying for interns.

I had been involved with Audubon International at my previous position and brought its certification programs to Fairview. It was a great way to attract student interns that were looking for items to add to their resumes. For example, instead of simply having a line on their resume that said, “Interned at Fairview Country Club in Greenwich, Connecticut,” it might have a subtext that would include participating in environmentally sustainable projects, working through Audubon certification or re-certification, and then listing the projects. I believe this added enough value to continue to attract new interns most seasons, and certainly new assistant superintendents.

All our interns have been students studying turf or plant science at different universities. University of North Dakota, Penn State, Rutgers, UMass, and UConn are some of the schools we have worked with. I am happy to say that four interns ultimately returned to

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ggcs, director of golf course and grounds, fairview country club, greenwich, ct

rise to assistant superintendents at our facility. Like interns, assistant superintendents have also been tough to find, but the value of our internship program is clear. We are attracting quality management staff who have essentially been through a season-long interview.

Our internship program also enhances and strengthens our long and fruitful relationship with Audubon International. We train young future turf managers on sustainable practices that they will follow and improve throughout their careers. This is vital to the industry as more and more legislation becomes involved with turf management at all levels.

When most interns first come on board, they are just looking for any type of learning experience, especially projects. General day-to-day maintenance can become boring, but a project is something exciting they can write about and add to their resumes and portfolios. Environmental projects and practices certainly fit the bill and can also help set them apart from the competition when it comes time to pursue a management position.

While most student interns have limited experience, they also have great ideas. They add different perspectives that generate some great sustainable practices or changes to our programs. I always tell them that I hope to learn as much from them as they will learn from us. That gives them enough motivation to not be too shy to give their opinion on things.

Gaining such well-rounded, sustainability-focused knowledge also broadens our interns’ horizons in terms of landing a future job. They usually come in focused on obtaining a big superintendent job at a well-known private club. I always take the time to show them that there are other great options to consider, as well. The private club world is not for everyone, so it is important to make sure they know what they are getting into. There is nothing wrong with working for a public facility or municipality. I have worked for both, so I can offer good perspectives on several types of courses to consider.

If you’re looking to attract and train dedicated, focused and motivated future superintendents, consider building an internship program. Work with universities and other schools to attract students, and make the proven sustainability practices central to Audubon International certification central to your efforts. It’s a big win for all involved — stewardship for our profession, as well as the land we manage.

Jim Pavonetti, CGCS, Director of Golf Course and Grounds at Fairview Country Club in Greenwich, Connecticut, was named to his position in 2008. Active in the field for over three decades, Mr. Pavonetti held the same position at the Edison Club and the West Point Golf Course. He led the way for Fairview Country Club to achieve the designation of Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, through Audubon International. He was rewarded with the MGA Arthur P. Weber Environmental Leader in Golf Award in 2019. He also earned the Environmental Leaders in Golf Award by the GCSAA eight times between 2006 and 2022.

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Fairview's 13th hole A pollinator garden


Certification process for helping him get there.

During the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America convention in Orlando in February, Chen stopped by the bustling Audubon International booth to visit with CEO Christine Kane and her staff and fill them in on the big stewardship strides his home country is taking.

Hung-Ming Chen

vice general manager, horng-shee tai-ping golf course, taichung city, taiwan

Due largely to the efforts of a longtime golf manager named Hung-Ming Chen, Taiwan is one of Asia’s up-and-coming nations in terms of golf course sustainability — and he credits Audubon International’s ACSP for Golf

Four golf courses in Taiwan are currently ACSP for Golf Certified. Of those four, Chen has led three of them to Certification — Wu Fong Golf Club in Wufong District (where he was employed 2007-2011), National Golf Country Club in Miaoli County (2005-2009) and, in 2021, Horng-Shee TaiPing Golf Course in Taichung City (2010-present), a 9-hole course laced through tropical hills overlooking urban sprawl to the west, with the Taiwan Strait beyond. Located in the west-central part of the island, Taichung is Taiwan’s third most populous city with more than a million residents. A tiny fraction of them play golf or have even stepped foot on a course, but Chen, as Horng-Shee’s Vice General Manager — which roughly equates to a GM/ Superintendent in the U.S. — is out to change that. He’s not only exposing more of his countrymen to the game but changing their assumptions about its environmental impact in such a densely populated part of the planet.

“A lot of people in Taiwan think that golf courses have destroyed the wildlife,” he says. “Plus,

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Hung-Ming Chen with Audubon International CEO Christine Kane at the 2023 GCSAA convention.

there’s pollution. But we have a very good plan.”

Part of that plan is bringing the game into his nation’s golf culture, which has traditionally been geared toward private clubs (its first “golfing society,” Taiwan Golf & Country Club, opened in 1918). “There hasn’t been much opportunity for people to go inside a golf course [in Taiwan], but the courses are ‘opening their minds’ so more people know about it.”

Chen added that, as happened on so many courses around the world during the Covid-19 pandemic much of that wildlife found its way to his course’s temporarily empty spaces. “Two years ago, from May through July, the Taiwan government asked that all golf courses close because of the pandemic. So we were closed for two months. Nobody playing golf, but we still needed to maintain the course, and we found out the wildlife were really happy — they came out from the slopes, the rough. Including a lot of snakes! When I’d come out and check on the course, they’d run away.”

But they’d come right back, and they’ve never left. Chen says they’ll stick around even with a second nine on his drawing board.

“I just hired a company to survey our wildlife because I want to apply for another nine holes. While managing the original nine, we found a lot of wildlife in the area where we want the second nine. We have more wildlife on the nine we have right now, because we followed Audubon International’s [guidelines], made a plan, reduced chemical usage, and managed water quality while saving water.”

Indeed, attracting wildlife in the first place meant providing them a safe water source while taking care of the course’s turf. “We need to conserve water in our ponds, so if it rains or we irrigate, that water drains into them — and if you have no fish in the ponds, you have a problem. We have fish. I have also found turtles and ducks. I don’t know where they come from, but they are on my course. And they are happy.”

Chen is busy forging partnerships with local wildlife organizations to track the various species gracing the course’s grounds, including one birding concern. “The’ve really noticed the eagles there,” he says. “They’ve found that a golf course is a very good place for eagles, because they can stay in high areas [in the trees] and catch food

on the course — even snakes. They see the lifecycle at work on our golf course. And when golfers come out to play, they’re finding a lot of wildlife. I have procedure for the front nine [to attract and keep wildlife], and want to do it on a back nine. The wildlife is a signature [piece of the successful stewardship picture]. If there’s no wildlife, you have a problem. Everybody knows how important it is.”

Exposing more people to the game, and his course’s stewardship is, of course, a linchpin of every ACSP For Golf plan. Besides general public outreach, Chen points to an ongoing “cooperation” with a primary school about a mile away. “The kids are very happy to come out once a year for an activity, go out on the course. I introduce them to the wildlife. Just sitting on the turf grass makes them happy, but then I invite them to play golf for free.”

That focus carries over to higher education, as well. Chen performs site surveys in cooperation with National Pingtung University of Science and Technology’s Department of Plant Industry and National Taiwan University Department of Agronomy. He’s also an instructor there and invites student interns to “work on the course, learning how to calculate chemical use, fertilizers, and how to run the equipment. If you want to operate [properly], you need to think about education. It’s very important.”

Besides translating some of Audubon International’s educational materials into Mandarin, Chen has co-written a book, “Practical Turfgrass Management,” which he calls a “textbook that will help a lot of people who want learn turfgrass management.” Taiwan’s government has heard about it. “I would like to share with them how to manage turfgrass, and also protect the environment.”

And that means continuing to strengthen his partnership with Audubon International and, hopefully, spurring more Taiwan courses to become members and get in the certification pipeline.

“If you follow Audubon’s six sections, you will do a great job,” he concludes. “You will have no pollution on your golf course, and find more wildlife. I’m planning to do more research and write an article so more people in Taiwan know more about it.”

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Monarchs in the Rough Set For A Growth Spurt

Though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service hasn’t officially listed the magnificent monarch butterfly on its Endangered Species list, the last two decades have seen its population decline by more than 90 percent.

Even with recent counts in California and Arizona showing a huge increase in observed numbers of the western monarch, the two North American populations of this colorful and crucial migrating creature are far from out of the woods. Climate change and building development are taking their toll.

The western monarch mostly migrates backand-forth among five states, but the east coast and Midwest-based populations travel up to 4,000 miles every year, wintering in Mexico and summering as far north as Canada, taking a minimum of four generations to make the trip. They need healthy stops along the way.

Through its successful Monarchs in the Rough

program, Audubon International is doing its part to help the monarch thrive. So far it has partnered with more 800 golf courses to create some 1,200 out-of-play acres of milkweed habitat where the butterflies lay their eggs and, in caterpillar form, dine on the otherwise invasive but vital plant.

“Golf courses continue their positive contribution to the habitat needed,” says Audubon International CEO Christine Kane. “[Monarchs in the Rough] has been somewhat on hold during the pandemic, but now we look forward to continuing to grow the program, increase new habitat.”

That means making sure a participating course gets the strain of milkweed appropriate for its region. After starting Monarchs in the Rough in partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund — which realized that golf was an apt, economically viable venue for increasing habitat, given most courses only 30 to 35 percent of their acreage for actual playing of the game— Audu-

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bon International now handles all elements of the program, working with distributors nationwide to assure healthy milkweed installations. They also provide signage, posters, and technical guidance, so that the installation of this new habitat is done correctly and golf course members are made aware of the efforts their course is making to save the monarch.

“When they're in butterfly form, monarchs can use nectar from other plants, but when it comes to maintaining their lifecycle, they need the milkweed, but there’s a lot of regional species,” Kane says. “[Through] Monarchs in the Rough we distribute regionally appropriate milkweed. With every one of our certification programs, we encourage native plantings. We don’t send milkweed from the southeastern United States to the Northwest, for instance.” (Kane adds that Monarchs in the Rough partners don’t have to be active Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary for Golf members, but this program often spurs them to pursue certification.)

Partner courses are required to plant at least an acre of milkweed, usually in appropriate outof-play areas, though some courses find ways to plant near tee boxes, creating handsome transition zones especially in bloom season. Parcels can’t be smaller than a quarter acre, “though we like to see a full acre in one place,” Kane says — a larger parcel is less susceptible to, say, excessive windblown pesticide spray. Once the milkweed is established and monarchs start showing up and laying eggs, the results are measurable and manageable for virtually any size maintenance staff — who love maintaining a plot of land teeming with life.

“We hear from many superintendents that their maintenance crews really appreciate having the opportunity to contribute like this,” Kane adds. “I just had a really nice conversation with a new sustainability person at a development and

one of the things we talked about was how it can benefit you, your company internally, in garnering new employees, in retaining employees, in employee satisfaction. It gives them the chance to participate and feel like they’re contributing to something that could be very near and dear to them, part of their own personal core values.”

Monarchs in the Rough also helps further Audubon International’s ongoing efforts to ensure a sustainable future for the golf industry — and changing certain public attitudes toward the game.

“It’s important,” Kane says. “It’s a better way to demonstrate the positive impact golf can have and contributions it can make. Rather than having a lot of smaller programs of only 50 or 25 acres that are hard to bring together, we have one program as the leader for golf's efforts in this area. It’s very beneficial.”

To become a Monarchs in the Rough partner or for more information, visit

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NOVA Parks Courses Are ‘Capital’


Wildlife Sanctuaries

ThoughWashington, D.C., is just a few bends down the Potomac River, the three public, Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary certified courses in Northern Virginia’s NOVA Parks system — Algonkian in Sterling, Brambleton in Ashburn and Pohick Bay in Lorton — put the Mid-Atlantic region’s teeming natural bounty in beautiful and inspiring view from season to season.

More than 130 bird species, from bluebirds to bald eagles, have been seen or heard on the courses, along with plenty of deer and chipmunks and the occasional coyote or bear. Golfers share healthy playing spaces and scenic native areas with these and other critters, and love it, according to Bryan McFerren, Golf Course Superintendent for Algonkian and Brambleton, both of which he led to ACSP for Golf certification in 2007.

“Golfers are happy about what we’re doing, they feel safe, and feel good about playing in what they call a Park environment,” he said during a midwinter check-in at Algonkian. “They feel good about the fact that we’re taking the environment into account when we manage things.”

McFerren was quite familiar with Audubon International by the time he got to NOVA Parks. He learned about ACSP certification during a presentation he attended as an assistant superintendent for Westwood Country Club in Vienna, Virginia. A few years later, as superintendent for the University of Maryland Golf Course, he finally found an employer willing to go all-in on sustainability. “I led them to Wildlife Sanctuary status in probably 2000, 2001, 2002,” he says. “I eventually learned that my experience in leading a golf course to Wildlife Sanctuary status helped me get this job where I am now. Things work out for a reason.”

Initial certification process for his NOVA courses took about nine months. “My first couple months I did some initial planning, got the process started. Once we got to September and past the heat of the summer I was able to focus more on it. We got the certification completed by the

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A large pond near the tee of Algonkian’s 6th hole

end of the year. So, if you’re a golf course superintendent and you’re looking to do certification, my response is, you can do 95% of the whole thing in the less busy seasons, when you don’t have the grass to worry about since it’s dormant in many regions.”

As he led his crew through the six-step ACSP Certification plan in concert with Audubon International staff, McFerren found the process similar to what played out in Maryland —identifying areas where he could make changes, “tweak our programs,” modifying sprinkler coverage to be more efficient with water usage and, of course, creating more natural features around the golf course, specifically in no-mow areas and transitions between turf and pond and creek edges.

In terms of using pesticides, he was judicious about it then and remains even more so now. “We’re a public municipal golf course and don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to throw at chemicals,” McFerren says. “I don’t spare expense when it comes to making sure the turf is protected. But I save money when I can. I don’t believe in spraying every week eight, nine months out of the year just in case something pops up. And Audubon International understands that. They understand that you need to keep the golf course up to standards. It doesn’t matter if you’re a public golf course or you’re high end private. There are standards to make and attain.”

Even so, maintaining ACSP certification for nearly two decades has led to savings in just about every area of maintenance operation, from fuel to man hours — mowing rough takes 40 to 45 hours per week instead of 60, for instance. McFerren has also fostered valuable partnerships with local birding groups who volunteer to track migration patterns, maintain bird boxes and assure healthy habitat for all winged friends.

“We have a woman who’s been working with us on managing our Purple Martin houses,” McFerren says. “She comes in at least once a year to give me an update on how many fledglings we have and might ask if there is any money in the budget for things that might help like bird wing guards. I can certainly spend $200 to help with the population. We’ve been very fortunate to have some dedicated people managing those things for us.”

As for the dedicated golfers filling the tee

sheet as the seasons pass, McFerren says if there’s occasional “blowback” on how their courses are maintained, it’s easily overcome by the positives “once you make them aware of why things are the way they are.”

“They notice things like no-mow areas,” he adds. “When we created them we made sure they were far enough away from the field of play that a golfer can stand up on a tee and could say, ‘Yeah, I’m not gonna hit it over there.’ I go out there with turf mark paint, I draw some dotted lines and say there’s nobody gonna be over here. They’re not gonna complain about this because it’s so far off the beaten track.

“Our staff had to be re-educated with some of these things — the person who’s out there mowing rough, out there trimming around the edges of the pond. Trim it down to six or eight inches and don’t feel like you have to be down there every week. Golfers don’t like it so much when their ball trickles down to the edge of the creek or the edge of the pond and it’s 12 inches of grass.”

Trimming trees takes careful thought, too. “At Brambleton years ago, we had had a director of golf who wanted to limb up all the trees. They were growing down to the ground. Makes sense. But then I noticed after time that I didn’t see any more chipmunks. That was an early impression on how the environment can change based on the things we do. Granted, we have to balance that with what the golfers need and want, but you have to think about these things.”

The ongoing tally of this certification commitment and care? Untold riches in terms of wildlife, natural beauty and a playing experience that almost everyone treasures.

“We all are aware of some of the negative ideologies and philosophies that people have about golf courses. [Certification] helps temper that. As golf course superintendents and managers, we become advocates and demonstrate that we’re not the bad guys out here. We’re the good guys. The animals are coming here to live and make a home and have babies. It’s good for the game of golf, it’s good for us as professional turf grass managers.” Editor’s

27 Audubon International | Stewardship News | Spring 2023
Note: A version of this story also appears in the March 2023 edition of Golf Central Magazine.

TwinEagles Takes Certified Flight Once Again

Ashe tied up any loose ends before the two courses in his care received final Signature Sanctuary Certification in March, The TwinEagles Club Director of Agronomy Darren Gafford raved about the sweet weather gracing southwest Florida in mid-February: Highs in the mid-70s, “four miles per hour” of breeze, just the slightest hint of chill in the morning. “Absolutely perfect golf weather,” he said.

It was also the perfect time to talk about partnering with Audubon International as TwinEagles’ Talon Course came out of a new redesign by Nicklaus Golf, going through a nearly two-year process to earn certification not only for that layout, but its sister Eagle Course, which underwent a four-hole Steve Smyers facelift in 2019.

Gafford’s first experience with Audubon International after four decades in the golf maintenance business was clearly rewarding, if arduous — definitely “a win-win for all of us,” he said.

“We started when I came on board. We needed [the courses] to work in harmony with the environment and with nature. I said, listen, it’s the right thing to do. Let’s research, let’s look into it

and see what we need to do, and then let’s move forward. Thankfully I had the support of the Club.”

Working closely with Kat Welch, who directs Audubon International’s Signature Sanctuary Program, Gafford was determined to take what was already one of the Naples area’s premier private clubs to a new, widely appreciated and even more attractive level. “Southwest Florida, Naples in particular, is very competitive,” he said. “So anything that we can do to have the upper hand, we’re going to do.”

With 1,115 acres of natural landscape nudged up against the region’s Corkscrew Sanctuary, a few miles inland from the Gulf Coast, TwinEagles has just 700 residences, roughly 300 golf memberships per course and 10-minute tee times, meaning lower impact on the turf and great access for all Members and guests. The Eagle Course was named “Best New U.S. Private Course of the Year” by Golf Magazine in 2012.

In 2020, the membership approved Phase One of an ambitious Master Plan anchored by a complete reimagining of the Scottish Manor Club-

28 Audubon International | Stewardship News | Spring 2023
Photo Courtesy of Twin Eagles

house and a full renovation of the Talon Course. The Master Plan — with Signature Sanctuary status now built into it — ensures that TwinEagles will continue to be one of the most desirable golf and country club communities in the area. That’s music to members’ ears, and wallets.

“They’re finally understanding that [stewardship] is the right thing to do for now and the future, for their kids, their grandkids, and their great grandkids,” Gafford said. “And it’s going to add a lot of value to their property.”

He added that momentum for the Signature Sanctuary process picked up when people could see the results in real time, with their own eyes.

“People appreciate things they can see. I can point to one thing in particular, and that was the Monarchs in the Rough program. That was a visual task that we could do. The people could actually see it evolving — starting from a few plants and then some wildflower seeds. And then the next thing you know, we’ve got thousands of monarchs all over the property. So that was a really big deal. I know the Club is very proud of that, as we are down here in the agronomy department.”

Members don’t seem to mind sharing the land with a wealth of wildlife, either. “It would be impossible for you to go out and play golf at any time, any day of the year and not see dozens of deer,” Gafford continued. “We have turkey running around the fairways, there’s bobcat, there’s bears, there’s panthers. We’ve got it all. And it’s in plain view. When you’re out walking the property, or you’re playing golf, it’s a special place.”

Marrying the moves needed for Signature Sanctuary certification with the already-planned course overhaul took TwinEagles from “special” to “spectacular” in terms of setting a new, efficient sustainability bar for Florida golf. They changed out Celebration fairways and Champion greens for Bimini Bermuda on fairways, rough and tees and TIF Eagle on greens. “It can handle heat a lot better, meaning less water, of course. It handles insect and weeds. It gets so thick. It’s tough for weeds and insects to get in there and do any damage. It takes about the same amount of fertilizer, so there’s not real savings there. But in herbicide and pesticide usage we should see a pretty good savings.”

Both courses take up a lot of per-hole acreage, so Gafford and his crew were able to plant plenty

of native features without affecting playing corridors, while making views even more engaging.

“We had some native area that required quite a bit of financial backing to maintain as far as trimming and fertilization — grass, pine straw. One of the things we tasked Nicklaus with when we redid the Talon was to turn a lot of these areas into low maintenance, low cost and low impact, something that would be still being appealing to the eye. So we redid a few areas with Bahia, a very low-maintenance grass that needs very little water. During summer you have to get in and mow it every 10 days to two weeks. During golf season, we might mow it once a month.

“We also took out some shrubs that needed trimming and additional fertilizer, and we replaced those with some grasses native to the area. That required less water, less input from us in general. We have large preserve areas we do not go in at all. We just leave them natural.”

While Gafford says Talon’s renovation took quite a bit of time away” from the certification process, “there were a lot of aspects in the renovation where Audubon was certainly discussed and thought of. And we put plans in place to make sure that we were accommodating what we needed to do.”

Those plans came to fruition with Welch’s help. “Without her guidance and support through this, I’m not sure that we could have made it,” Gafford said. “It may have taken a few years to get there, but she was a trooper. She answered all our dumb questions and told us what we needed to do.”

He paused a moment to take in the warm midwinter sunshine. “I’m certain that she’s looking forward to us getting certified as much as we are! She has just been fantastic.”

For more on TwinEagles, visit

29 Audubon International | Stewardship News | Spring 2023
Photo Courtesy of Twin Eagles


Cornell EIQ Calculator Aids Pesticide Assessment Efforts

Amongthe myriad of tools today’s superintendents employ to keep ahead of nature’s many golf course maintenance challenges, Cornell University College of Agriculture and Lifescience’s Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ) Calculator ranks up there in the “indispensable” category.

In fact, the free online tool, which measure the risk of a pesticide application using five simple parameters, has become invaluable for Audubon International’s certification specialists as they help member courses chart healthier courses for their unique local ecosystems.

“It was invented by a Cornell researcher back in the nineties,” says Carl Schimenti, Urban

Environmental Scientist in Cornell’s School of Integrative Plan Sciences. “His goal was to figure out how we can measure a pesticide by the weight — pounds of pesticide applied. There are different toxicity levels of pesticides. Some are ‘softer’ or ‘harsher’ on mammals or birds or fish or whatever. So they developed a system that incorporates those toxicity levels with exposure levels.”

The EIQ measurement model was first applied to turf in the early 2000s when Jennifer Grant, then- Director of the New York State Integrated Pest Management program, and current Audubon International Board member, Frank Rossi, Associate Professor for turf grass science at Cornell, worked with the New York State Park system to

30 Audubon International | Stewardship News | Spring 2023
In this and following photos, Schimenti is performing turf tests for a Cornell research project. carl schimenti

develop ways to manage golf courses with lower pesticide risk. “They looked at the old, conventional pesticide programs, calculated the EIQ and then said, ‘Hey, what if we chose products that were less toxic, lower EIQ? Could we use those products, and would the turf be just as healthy?’”

That led a five-year study at Bethpage Green, one of five municipal golf courses at Bethpage State Park on Long Island. “They found that it worked — if you can select products that work with the same efficacy but with lower EIQ numbers, you can achieve the same exact results.”

From there the state expanded the EIQ to the entire New York State Park golf system. “Every year about 15 golf courses calculate their EIQ and we look at which applications were higher or lower, and how can we reduce them. We’ve been doing that for more than two decades now.”

In 2021 Kat Welch, Audubon International’s Director of Signature Sanctuary Certification, was researching about the EIQ and reached out to Schimenti. “I had known Kat for at least five years. A lot of my extension work at Cornell is best management practice focused, which meshes well with what Audubon International does. Kat was specifically interested in using EIQ to figure out which pesticides to test for in water bodies. They want to make sure that there’s no pesticide residues in the water.”

“One component in the EIQ model is aquatic toxicity — toxicity to fish. We pulled out that specific part of the model and remade all the numbers to look at aquatic toxicity, to help Audubon International determine what Signature Sanctuary members should test for in water bodies. Instead of testing for every single product, which is expensive, we look through products and say, ‘OK, which ones have high toxicity to fish, but also, which chemicals are mobile enough? When you apply them, can they run off in a rainstorm, are they not bound to the soil? Do they get into the water?’ We’d consider high risk or medium risk, and test for everything above that level.” According to Welch, courses currently concentrate on testing those that are high risk with high leaching ability and high aquatic toxicity.

“One part of pulling [water data] out of the EIQ is the ‘surface loss’ component that considers all those factors, and that’s multiplied by the tox-

icity component,” Schimenti continues. “Once you do isolate a certain chemistry and find it in a water body, you can look at having vegetated buffers — and the width of that buffer. Sometimes it’s five feet, sometimes it’s seven feet. But research shows that when you extend that buffer to 15 or 20 feet, the pesticide residues go down. So it’s first of all identifying the chemicals that are potentially toxic to aquatic organisms, then testing, then being able to adjust — choose a different chemical or employ those structural BMPs and continue testing and making improvements.”

Coupled with advances in the chemical makeup of modern pesticides since those early Bethpage tests, Cornell’s EIQ — and its application to turf science and water testing — gives Audubon International yet another powerful weapon in its stewardship arsenal.

“The EIQ, Carl and the entire team at Cornell have been a great help to our golf programs,” says Welch. “Having as many expertly created, vetted and scientifically sound testing tools as possible at our disposal helps us and our membership achieve sustainability goals with the best, most

31 Audubon International | Stewardship News | Spring 2023

thorough data available. Keeping pesticides out of a course’s water sources is key to all of our certification efforts, and the EIQ helps make that happen in a seamless, simple yet powerful way.”

With the right information in hand, Welch and her Audubon International colleagues can widen their lens to take a look at every potential pesticide available, including low-impact organic applications.

“A lot of traditional chemistries can be replaced by newer, reduced-risk chemistries,” Schimenti says. “Bethpage subbed out a lot of synthetic chemistries for biological organisms — basically living things that you apply that help control fungus. The turf industry was, ‘They won’t really work, they’re not gonna really replace that other chemistry.’ But the Bethpage study found that you absolutely can do that. You just must be strategic when you use them. Those products work well when disease pressure is low, in the spring or the fall when there might be little fungus pressure. You save higher EIQ traditional chemistries for when it’s really hot and humid out. There’s a time and place to use high EIQ products with certain chemistries.

“In most cases, you’ve got options. You’ve got more tools in the toolbox. That’s when the EIQ is a nice decision support tool. There’s data on how well [a pesticide] works against a specific pest. ‘Okay, let’s look at all the ones that are really effective, and choose one with the lowest EIQ.’”

What about out West, or in drier climates? Does the EIQ point to the efficacy of employing different pesticides than a course in the Northeast or Southeast might?

“The spectrum of chemical use is much different,” Schimenti says. We are currently working on a paper with data from Northeast courses, Midwest golf courses, Southeast, Northwest and Southwest. [In New York state] there’s more fungicides used. In other areas of the country, there’s more herbicides, especially Pacific Northwest where it’s cool and wet. For half the season they’re trying to control poa annua so there’s a lot of herbicides. Insecticides and Nematicide are used a lot more in the Southeast. So it’s interesting to look at. We do annual calculations of EIQ and toxicity and risk, and they’re about even across the United States, but definitely a different spectrum

of pests, whether it’s fungus, whether it’s insects or weeds. It’s interesting to look through all that data and see how they get to about the same number on average, you know, give or take 20%, but with different chemistries.”

While working with Audubon International over the years, Schimenti and his Cornell colleagues recognize how their certification efforts, and their overarching mission, benefit courses of all kinds in countless ways.

“I’ve talked to a lot of golf courses who are in sort of high-risk urban environments, with lots of [agencies and outside interests] watching them. I tell them about Audubon International —a third party verifier who’s not only giving you instruction on how to manage the landscape better but providing outside stakeholders confirmation that they are doing the right things.”

The EIQ Calculator is available here For more information on Cornell University’s work and curricula, visit.

32 Audubon International | Stewardship News | Spring 2023




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