Thursday, December 31, 2009

Identifying and Protecting Wildlife Habitats

From the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses workbook, Wildlife and Habitat Management category: We have identified core habitats, such as mature woodlands, wetlands or stream corridors and special habitat concerns such as endangered or threatened species on the property.

In order to become certified in the Wildlife and Habitat Management category it is imperative that all wildlife habitat be identified. Core habitats like the ones mentioned above need to be protected at all times from intrusion by golfers and/or maintenance staff. Of course there are going to be instances when this cannot be avoided as golf balls do frequently enter into wildlife habitat that are located just off the fairway.

The idea is for golf courses to label certain wildlife habitats as "out of play" areas. "Out of play" areas are usually sections of the golf course that do not receive much play anyways, for instance the land between a green and the next tee or wooded areas that are 20 yards to the side of the fairway.

Water bodies on golf courses are a different story. All water on the course should be protected by a buffer zone of unmaintained land. There should be no intrusion into these areas whatsoever by golfers or maintenance staff. Buffer zones that surround water bodies on the course are extremely important to protecting the health of the pond as well as the multitude of creatures that inhabit these areas.

This is a very "sticky" situation for superintendents who are attempting to maintain their golf courses in an environmentally friendly manner. Many golfers feel that the areas surrounding water should be playable, especially if they are in the middle of the fairway. However, the time has come for golfers to realize that the land on which golf is played must be shared with the wildlife that live there and likely lived there before the golf course was built.

If the golf industry is going to thrive in the future, golfers, superintendents and golf course owners will need to recognize that some consessions are going to be needed. Sustainable golf courses are necessary and that is going to mean protecting wildlife habitats including water bodies.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Water Conservation a Must in Today's Environment

Given the state of the environment these days it is imperative that everyone do their part to help conserve fresh water for future generations.

Golf Course Superintendents are doing the best they can to produce playing conditions that golfers in North America have come to expect while conserving as much water as possible. Click on the link below to read the article published in Inside Golf magazine regarding water conservation on golf courses.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Vancouver Island Superintendents Take on MS Once Again

Several members of the Vancouver Island Golf Superintendents Association are at it again as they prepare for the 3rd Annual MS Fundraiser. Learn more about this fundraising event at

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bear Mountain On Its Way to Audubon Certification

This past summer I have had the opportunity to work with Bear Mountain Superintendent Darren Burns and his staff on a couple of occasions, helping them with some cultural practices that were required. I have also had the opportunity to help them with the process of certification in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses. Read my latest article on their progress towards designation as an Audubon Sanctuary at

Superintendents Properly Trained For Pesticide Use

There is certainly a lot of talk these days among the general public about the use of pesticides in society. In my opinion the use of pesticides for homeowners should not be allowed to occur. Many homeowners who apply pesticides do not have the proper training required to use these potentially dangerous products in a safe manner.

I do believe that professionals who are trained in the safe use of pesticides should be allowed to use these products as they see fit. Golf Course Superintendents and many golf course workers are licensed pesticide applicators who have proven they have the knowledge to use pesticide products in a safe and controlled manner.

Read my article from Inside Golf magazine regarding the fact that Superintendents are properly trained individuals who have been licensed within their province to apply pesticides. The article can be accessed at

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Growing the Game Through Environmental Stewardship

Believe it or not it is possible to help grow the game of golf by practicing environmental stewardship on your golf course. Check out Rick's latest article at

Friday, September 4, 2009

Arbutus Ridge Growing Green

I have recently finished conducting a site assessment for Arbutus Ridge Golf Club (a member of Golf BC) located in Cobble Hill, BC. and was very pleased to see the commitment towards environmental sustainabilty being put forward by the management and staff of the golf club.

Arbutus Ridge is a beautiful golf course with some great golf holes and most importantly a team of professional who recognize the importance of sustainability in the golf industry. The purpose of my work was to help General Manager Jason Lowe and Course Superintendent Ron Olaussen with certification in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program. Currently, Arbutus Ridge is certified in Environmental Planning and Wildlife and Habitat Management with other certifications too follow shortly.

Jason Lowe and Assistant Superintendent Trevor Jones have formed a Greening Committee to help with not only Audubon Certification but also to develop and grow an environmental plan. The committee consists of staff members from each department of the golf course as well as interested members of the course and community. The management at Arbutus Ridge is certainly on the top of their game when it comes to environmental responsibility.

I am not saying that they do not have some work to do. What I am saying is that they are certainly headed in the right direction and should be regarded as leaders in the golf industry in BC, due to their drive to become more environmentally friendly.

While the Audubon program is designed to recognize maintenance practices for their environmental due diligence, Lowe has taken it one step further and is working towards environmental sustainability for all departments at Arbutus Ridge.

Olaussen and Lowe certainly face some challenges at Arbutus Ridge before they can be designated as a Certified Audubon Sanctuary. The main challenge before them is convincing members that part of maintaining an environmentally friendly golf facility is allowing out-of-play areas to naturalize. These areas receive very little play and it costs a considerable amount of money to keep them maintained. Letting these areas naturalize will not only save money but is also good for the environment.

The same goes for buffer zones around water bodies. Ideally, any areas within 25 feet of water should be left to grow to a minimum of 3 inches. This height of cut has proven to reduce the amount of runoff carrying contaminants that will enter the water.

I am certain that within the next 12 months Lowe, Olaussen and Jones will see to it that Arbutus Ridge Golf Club becomes fully certified in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctary Program for Golf Courses, which will make them the first of the Golf BC courses to do so.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

PGA at Hazeltine

My family and friends all find it quite amusing to watch the PGA on television with me. As they sit back and enjoy the best golfers in the world I sit back and marvel at the wonderful conditions of most tour courses.

"Did you see that shot?" they ask me.
My answer is usually "no, but did you see how straight those lines on the fairway are?".

That's what nearly 20 years in the golf course maintenance industry will do to you.

Hazeltine was in great condition (as usual) but what I really appreciated the care taken to protect the water bodies on the golf course. When I say this to people they say "the grass has been cut right down to the water, just like you say is bad for the ponds." If you thought to take a close look at the pond banks you could see that the turf on the banks was being cut at about 3". It has been proven that turf cut at 3" is capable of preventing runoff carrying contaminants from entering into water bodies.

I applaud Hazeltine Superintendent Jim Nichol for providing a course with a wall to wall maintenance type look but with the care to protect the water features from environmental damage.

Superintendents and golf course managers who are faced with a membership who wants Augusta type maintenance from pond edge to forest should consider raising mowing heights around ponds to 3". The look is there without harming natural habitats provided by water features.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Congratulations go out to Superintendent Jim Dafoe and Assistant Superintendent Rod Siddons of Fairwinds Golf Club located in Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island for attaining full certification in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses.

Attaining full certification means that Fairwinds is recognized as an Audubon Sanctuary. In order to gain Audubon Sanctuary status a golf course must demonstrate environmental accountability in 6 different categories: Site Assessment and Environmental Planning, Wildlife and Habitat Management, Chemical Use Reduction and Safety, Water Conservation, Water QualityManagement and Outreach and Education.

Becoming fully certified is a difficult task reserved for those who are truly demonstrating environmental responsibility.

Fairwinds Golf Club becomes only the 8th golf course in BC to attain Audubon Sanctuary status. The other 7 are: Chateau Whistler Golf Club, Point Grey Golf and Country Club, Fraserview Golf Course, Capilano Golf and Country Club, McLeery Golf Course, Langara Golf Course and Cordova Bay Golf Club.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Water Woes

I don't know about the rest of you but I am getting tired of the oppressive heat that we have been having on the Island. It seems as though it has cooled off now but not until we have suffered through a few weeks of temperatures in the 30's.

I can tell by the condition of the golf courses I drive past or visit on my travels that Superintendents must be getting tired of the heat as well. With irrigation ponds reaching lows that don't usually come until the end of August it is difficult to keep turf alive, much less green.

If this is going to be the way summers are to be from now on, golfers are going to have to get used to the fact that golf courses are going to have a fair amount of brown in them for much of the golf season. I don't think this is a bad thing, in fact it is probably a good reminder that golf can be played on any type or colour of turf.

In reality, what we used to see near the end of summer was home lawns and parks looking terribly parched while the golf courses were remarkably green. Those days are behind us now as Superintendents have learned to deal with less and less water and hotter, drier summers. The only solution really is to let out-of-play areas and rough dry out and turn brown. The turf is not dead, it's sleeping (dormant).

Golfers, be thankful that you have a superintendent who is wise enough and cares enough about the environment to swallow his pride and risk criticism by letting his (her) golf course look less than spectacular. This is a very difficult time of year for Superintendents and they should be commended for the long hours they have put in, so golfers can enjoy the sunshine and the game they love.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The First Step Towards Environmental Excellence

To see how your golf course can start to move towards environmental excellence take a look at my latest article at

Monday, July 27, 2009

Wanted:Golfers To Help Our Industry

Find out how golfers can help to relieve pressures put on superintendents by governments and an uneducated public by reading Rick's article at

New Company Helps Courses to Go Green

Former superintendent Rick Munro has opened a new business helping golf courses attain certification in the Audubon Cooperative Program for Golf Courses read more at

Aeration and Topdressing-Necessary Evils

If you have ever wondered why superintendents need to aerate and topdress putting greens read Rick' article at

Bear Mountain Moves Mountains...of Sand

Find out how the maintenance crew at Bear Mountain prepared the bunkers for the opening of the new Valley Course at

Pesticides and Golf: The Times, They Are A'Changin

Read Rick's Inside Golf article on legislation that may be coming to the golf industry and what golf course owners and superintendents can do about it at

A Call To Action

Find out how golfers can help with some of the maintenance practices at their golf course by reading Rick's article at

Minimalist Maintenance Practices at Duncan Meadows Produces Maximum Value

Read about the environmentally friendly conditions at Duncan Meadows Golf and Country Club, host of the 2009 British Columbia Amateur Championships, in Rick's Inside Golf article.

VIGSA Fights Multiple Sclerosis

To find out how Vancouver Island superintendents are doing their part in the battle against this terrible disease read Rick's Inside Golf article at

Augusta Syndrome

To view Rick's article "The Augusta Syndrome" from Inside Golf, please go to
In these times of economic uncertainty, business owners are looking for ways to save money while driving their business forward. Demonstrating environmental stewardship is a progressive way of accomplishing this. While maintenance of the golf course is the largest and most important expense for any property, cost savings can be realized by maintaining golf courses to internationally recognized environmental standards. The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses is a 6-step process structured to help golf course superintendents to maintain product quality while establishing and implementing a site-specific environmental plan that will reduce maintenance costs.

The environmental movement has gathered momentum over the past few years and it is not going to slow down. This has caused tremendous pressure from governments and the public for perceived harm against the environment on the part of golf courses. The golf industry must get on board to show what great stewards of the environment the industry has become. In order to survive in the 21st century it is imperative that golf course be regarded as environmental sanctuaries.

The main difficulty with the Audubon program is that it is a very time consuming process. A province wide survey of golf course superintendents revealed that one of the major factors preventing Audubon certification is a lack of time too plan, implement and document all that is required. Hiring Greenside to consult on the Audubon process and perform all of the documentation will eliminate this problem and save money. This allows the superintendent to concentrate on the day-to-day business of maintaining the golf course.