Environmental Initiatives From Golf That Suburban Homeowners Can Use

Earth Week Comes as the first, shy signs of Spring finally arrive at my home in Connecticut
Here in New England, subtle signs of Spring have finally begun to show themselves.

After a six week snow siege that left our landscape relentlessly concealed in a blanket of white, the reemergence seems especially shy.

Hyacinths and Daffodils are providing the first jolts of color, while the Azalea blossoms still seem reluctant to make an appearance just yet.

My lawn looks the way I feel immediately upon waking from a particularly deep sleep; Tousled and out-of-it.

With Earth Week underway... yesterday was Earth Day... and the Spring growing season in its early stages, this may be the perfect time to consider some environmentally friendly changes to the way we work with our lawns and tend to our gardens.

It shouldn't be surprising (though I'm guessing it is, to many people) that some of the best ideas for creating a sustainable, eco-friendly... and beautiful... environment, come from the golf industry.  From innovative water conservation and fertilization methods, to turf reduction and wildlife habitat creation, golf course superintendents across the US and around the world are focused on sustainability.  Below you'll find 5 environmental initiatives from golf that can be easily applied to the average yard.  

1. Water Conservation - Water is a universal concern for today's course superintendents, and should be for landowners as well. Beneath the pristine fairways of the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort runs a complex network of drains and pipes that stealthily collect the rain water that falls onto and around the greens, providing more than half the water needed to irrigate the course. Meanwhile, Pebble Beach Resort, uses 100% recycled water which has allowed them to avoid draining the coveted resource from municipal supplies.

An old fashioned rain barrel... or one of many modern versions... is a way for suburban homeowners to harvest skyjuice for their personal watering needs. The use of drought resistant grasses and plants, and the mulching of flower beds... both common practices at many golf courses today... is another way to conserve H2o in the home garden.

2. Natural Fertilizer/Pinpoint Pest Control - Just 90 minutes north of NYC lies the enchanting Mohonk Mountain Resort, home to the massive Victorian castle known as Mohonk Mountain House... and to one of the oldest golf courses in the US.  The resort has put into place an extensive composting program that converts food waste into fertilizer for use on the historic 9 hole course.  Their pest management program is distinguished by daily hands-on scouting of the course to pinpoint hotspots and gauge outbreaks, allowing a much more targeted response and substantially reducing the use of pesticides.  Both of these initiatives can quite easily be put into place in a home garden and offer an excellent way to engage younger family members.

3. Wildlife Habitat Creation - By incorporating garden space that improves habitat for birds, butterflies, frogs and other wildlife, The Golf Club at Ballantyne in Charlotte, NC, is recognized as a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. Learn how to take some of the same steps in your own backyard by visiting the NWF website.

Westchester Country Club, which will host the world's top women golfers at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship in June, has restored a nearly extinct bluebird population with the installation of bird boxes, and eliminated the need for chemicals like copper, by adding algae-eating White Amur Carp to some of their water features.

4. Turf/Lawn Reduction - Pinehurst Resort cut the irrigated acreage back from 90 to 50 acres during its restoration of Pinehurst No.2, which substantially reduced the need for mowing, irrigation and chemical use.  The typical suburban expanse of lawn can often be reduced by creating no-mow zones in appropriate places and allowing a more natural backdrop to that carpet of green velvet. It's environmentally sound and certainly makes for a less arduous mowing day.

5. A New Outlook - As Golf Course superintendents work to make the courses we play more sustainable, one of their biggest challenges... it turns out... is persuading golfers that a course need not be wall-to-wall carpeted with soft, lush, emerald green to be fun and challenging to play on, and beautiful to look at.  It would behoove home gardeners to shift from fixating on a perfect green lawn the neighbors will envy, to creating an attractive natural space that can be maintained without undue strain on the environment.

These days, having a yard that looks like a golf course may actually be good for the environment.