Happy Earth Day to everyone. Earth Day marks the four-year anniversary of the introduction of the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program becoming law in Ontario. For many courses IPM is a basis for management, while others have seen or undertaken little to no change in their course management philosophy. Earth Day always seem to be synonymously paired with sustainability or sustainable environmental practices. To me sustainability is the most overused phrase used in golf right now. The governing bodies of golf throw sustainability around as if its such an easy goal to attain.
Here at Pheasant Run we take little notice of Earth Day and the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the day. Why you may ask? Well the fact is that the club and my management of the golf course could be classed as “Earth Day everyday”. I can appreciate the businesses that take advantage of Earth Day and use it to promote a positive environmental position. But it is quite apparent that one day is not a sustainable practice and shouldn’t be mistaken as such.
How did we get to where we are today? Since 2009, we have taken many new approaches and changed the way we do business to increase our positive environmental impact. We registered in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses (ACSP) in May of 2009 and became certified in January of 2010. We have since recertified in February of 2012 and remain members of the program.
Much of our certification for ACSP was focused on reducing maintenance in areas where applicable. This has entailed removing close to 50 acres of maintained turf and allowing it to revert back to its natural state. We also stopped maintaining our pond edges right down to the water’s edge. these “naturalized areas” make wonderful wildlife corridors and areas for various species to find homes or rest areas.
The greater impact of a program such as ACSP certification is it really allows companies such as ours to take a long look in the mirror with regards to our maintenance and place in the ecosystem. We are proud to boast a vast array of amphibians, birds, ducks, coyotes, raccoons, foxes, deer and I could go on-and-on.
Our environmental practices also focus on the ponds and water courses throughout the property. The many species of turtles, fish, frogs and water bugs is a strong testament to the sound state of our ponds.
Salamander on Southern Uplands #5 green last fall:
Pesticides are a part of what we do, but certainly not what golf courses should be known for. Where possible we have introduced “alternate” means of maintaining “plant health” as opposed to chasing pests with chemical pesticides.
IPM scouting includes getting down on your hands and knees and finding the pests before spraying. This also includes plant pathogens, where if unsure of what pathogen is affecting our turf we will send it out to an independent third-party for analysis.
Pheromone traps are used to track white grub populations:
Extensive trials have been done to find out if alternate pesticide products will provide adequate winter protection. These trials are also looking at lower rates of protection products for future years.
Visual evidence of pest of pest problems are scouted as a part of our IPM program and documented for treatment to only the affected areas that require treatment.
Irrigation water is monitored on a daily basis and we use a computer operated program to ensure the “right amount” of water is applied. Irrigation audits are performed on key areas such as greens and tees to also ensure there is no excess water applied.
Soil testing is done in the spring and fall so that the actual fertilizer and nutrients needed are applied to the turf. This process also allows us to take inventory of corrections that need to be looked at in future years.
A highly acceptable final product can be produced based on a holistic approach. This may include altering mowing patterns to use the most cost and fuel-efficient manner to reduce emissions.
Golf courses are the last bastion of great open and green space, not the pesticide laden areas that have long been attached to them. Earth Day should be a time to celebrate, but for golf courses like Pheasant Run today is business as usual. We take a large sense of pride in what we have accomplished in the last five years and what we will achieve in the future. The good word in getting out there about golf and what golf courses provide. Not just to sports but in charitable efforts, exercise and local economies. Golf has come a long way over the years and I am glad to be a small piece of that progress. Though likely not a truly sustainable business, golf is miles ahead of many other industries.