A group of leading golf and environmental organizations have jointly developed a set of principles which seek to produce environmental excellence in golf course planning and siting, design, construction, maintenance and facility operations.
What Are the Principles?
These principles are envisioned as a tool of universal value, for national use under a variety of circumstances. However, it should be up to local communities, based on local values, and others involved in the regulatory process, to assess the environmental compatibility of golf courses.
These principles are meant to provide a framework for environmental responsibility in developing goals for existing courses and for considering issues associated with new courses. They are designed to educate and inform the public and relevant decision makers about environmental responsibility, and to help set goals for environmental performance.
These principles are voluntary. They are not intended for use in making judgments about socio-economic issues. These principles assume regulatory compliance and are designed to provide opportunities to go beyond that which is required by law.
These principles were developed through a collaborative research and dialogue process, and represent a consensus of all endorsing organizations. They represent areas of agreement but do not resolve all environmental issues related to golf. The dialogue and process is ongoing, as is the implementation of these principles.
How Should They Be Used?
Good environmental practice and design is the result of a multitude of factors and a thorough understanding of how these factors interrelate on a specific site in a specific locale. The principles are meant to be used as a guide to making good decisions relative to the planning and siting, design, construction, maintenance and operation of a golf course. They are voluntary, and should be interpreted as representing a whole philosophy of good environmental design and management rather than specific dictates, each of which must be met in all cases. It is hoped that the principles will be widely adopted and used to improve the level of environmental awareness, practice, dialogue, and quality achieved within the game of golf.
For further information you are encouraged to contact any or all of the following organizations that participated in the development of these principles. A contact person for each organization is listed in Appendix 1.
- American Farmland Trust
- American Society of Golf Course Architects
- Audubon International
- Center for Resource Management
- Friends of the Earth
- Golf Course Superintendents Association of America
- Golf Digest
- National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides
- National Wildlife Federation
- North Carolina Coastal Federation
- Rain Bird - Golf Division
- Royal Canadian Golf Association
- SENES Oak Ridge, Inc. - Center for Risk Analysis
- Sierra Club
- United States Environmental Protection Agency
- United States Golf Association
See Appendix 2 for those organizations who have, at this publication, endorsed the principles.
The participating organizations are committed to the following basic precepts which provide a foundation for the environmental principles:
- To enhance local communities ecologically and economically.
- To develop environmentally responsible golf courses that are economically viable.
- To offer and protect habitat for wildlife and plant species.
- To recognize that every golf course must be developed and managed with consideration for the unique conditions of the ecosystem of which it is a part.
- To provide important greenspace benefits.
- To use natural resources efficiently.
- To respect adjacent land use when planning, constructing, maintaining and operating golf courses.
- To create desirable playing conditions through practices that preserve environmental quality.
- To support ongoing research to scientifically establish new and better ways to develop and manage golf courses in harmony with the environment.
- To document outstanding development and management practices to promote more widespread implementation of environmentally sound golf.
- To educate golfers and potential developers about the principles of environmental responsibility and to promote the understanding that environmentally sound golf courses are quality golf courses.
- Voluntary Principles for Planning and Siting, Design, Construction, Management, Facility Operations and What Golfers Can Do To Help.
- Developers, designers and others involved in golf course development are encouraged to work closely with local community groups and regulatory/permitting bodies during planning and siting and throughout the development process. For every site, there will be local environmental issues and conditions that need to be addressed.
- Site selection is a critical determinant of the environmental impact of golf courses. A thorough analysis of the site or sites under consideration should be completed to evaluate environmental suitability. It is very important to involve both the designer and a team of qualified golf and environmental professionals in this process.
- Based on the site analysis and/or regulatory review process, it may be determined that some sites are of such environmental value or sensitivity that they should be avoided. Other less environmentally sensitive or valuable sites may be more suitable or even improved by the development of a golf course if careful design and construction are used to avoid or mitigate environmental impacts.
- The presence and extent of some types of sensitive environments may render a site unsuitable or, in some cases, less suitable for golf course development. Examples include, but are not limited to: Wetlands, Habitat for threatened or endangered plant or animal species, and Sensitive aquatic habitats
- There may be opportunities to restore or enhance environmentally sensitive areas through golf course development by establishing buffer zones or by setting unmaintained or low-maintenance areas aside within the site.
- Golf course development can be an excellent means of restoring or rehabilitating previously degraded sites (e.g., landfills, quarries and mines). Golf courses are also excellent treatment systems for effluent water and use of effluent irrigation is encouraged when it is available, economically feasible, and agronomically and environmentally acceptable.
- When designing a golf course, it is important to identify existing ecosystems. Utilizing what nature has provided is both environmentally and economically wise. Emphasizing the existing characteristics of the site can help retain natural resources, allow for efficient maintenance of the course and will likely reduce permitting and site development costs.
- A site analysis and feasibility study should be conducted by experienced professionals. The identification of environmentally sensitive areas and other natural resources is important so that a design can be achieved that carefully balances environmental factors, playability, and aesthetics.
- Cooperative planning and informational sessions with community representatives, environmental groups and environmental groups and regulatory agencies should be part of the initial design phase. Early input from these groups is very important to the development and approval process. This dialogue and exchange of information should continue even after the course is completed.
- Native and/or naturalized vegetation should be retained or replanted when appropriate in areas that are not in play. In playing areas, designers should select grasses that are best adapted to the local environmental conditions to provide the necessary characteristics of playability yet permit the use of environmentally sustainable maintenance techniques.
- Emphasis should be placed upon the design of irrigation, drainage and retention systems that provide for efficient use of water and the protection of water quality. Drainage and stormwater retention systems should, when possible, be incorporated in the design as features of the course to help provide for both the short- and long-term irrigation needs of the maintained turf and the unmaintained areas of the course.
- Water reuse strategies for irrigation should be utilized when economically feasible and environmentally and agronomically acceptable. It is important that recycled water meets applicable health and environmental standards and that special consideration be given to water quality issues and adequate buffer zones. Water reuse may not be feasible on some sites that drain into high quality wetlands or sensitive surface waters. Suitable soils, climatic conditions, groundwater hydrology, vegetative cover, adequate storage for treated effluent and other factors will all influence the feasibility of water reuse.
- Buffer zones or other protective measures should be maintained and/or created, if appropriate, to protect high quality surface water resources or environmentally sensitive areas. The design and placement of buffer zones will vary based on the water quality classifications of the surface waters being incorporated into the course. Regulatory agencies and environmental groups can assist in the planning of buffer zones.
- Design the course with sustainable maintenance in mind. The design should incorporate Integrated Plant Management and resource consideration strategies that are environmentally responsible, efficient, and cost effective. Integrated Plant Management includes integrated pest management and emphasizes plant nutrition and overall plant health.
- The design of the course should enhance and protect special environmental resource areas and when present, improve or revive previously degraded areas within the site through the use of plants that are well adapted to the region. Seek opportunities to create and/or preserve habitat areas that enhance the area's ecosystem.
- Use only qualified contractors who are experienced in the special requirements of golf course construction.
- Develop and implement strategies to effectively control sediment, minimize the loss of topsoil, protect water resources, and reduce disruption to wildlife, plant species and designed environmental resource areas.
- Schedule construction and turf establishment to allow for the most efficient progress of the work while optimizing environmental conservation and resource management.
- Retain a qualified golf course superintendent/project manager early in the design and construction process(es) to integrate sustainable maintenance practices in the development, maintenance and operation of the course.
- Employ the principles of Integrated Plant Management (IPM), a system that relies on a combination of common sense practices of preventing and controlling pests (e.g., weed, diseases, insects) in which monitoring is utilized to identify pests, damage thresholds are considered, all possible management options are evaluated and selected control(s) are implemented. IPM involves a series of steps in the decision-making process:
- Through regular monitoring and record keeping, identify the pest problem, analyze the conditions causing it, and determine the damage threshold level below which the pest can be tolerated.
- Devise ways to change conditions to prevent or discourage recurrence of the problem. Examples include: utilizing improved (e.g., drought resistant, pest resistant) turfgrass varieties, modifying microclimate conditions, or changing cultural practice management programs.
- If damage thresholds are met, select the combination of control strategies to suppress the pest populations with minimal environmental impact, to avoid surpassing threshold limits. Control measures include biological, cultural, physical, mechanical, and chemical methods. Biological control methods must be environmentally sound and should be properly screened and tested before implementation. Non-chemical control measures should focus on practices such as the introduction of natural pest enemies (e.g., parasites and predators), utilizing syringing techniques, improving air movement, soil aerification techniques, and mechanical traps. The selection of chemical control strategies should be utilized only when other strategies are inadequate.