As part of its new program, Golf’s Drive Toward Sustainability, the Environmental Institute for Golf (EIFG) has established a coalition to identify, review and establish best management practices (BMPs) that will apply to golf course properties nationwide. The EIFG has formed five working groups-Oversight, Energy Conservation, Pollution Prevention, Water Conservation and Water Quality Protection-to implement a sustainable approach to golf facility management.
Made up of an all-star lineup of industry leaders, committee members represent diverse organizations that include: Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA); PGA of America; National Golf Course Owners Association; Club Managers Association of America; American Society of Golf Course Architects; Golf Course Builders Association of America; United States Golf Association; university scientists; environmental advocacy groups, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Certified Golf Course Superintendent Anthony Williams, of Stone Mountain Golf Club by Marriott in Stone Mountain, Ga., was selected to be a member of the Oversight Working Group. An environmental leader and multiple award winner in his field, he brings a track record of success to the process.
Williams’ many accomplishments include the planning and execution of Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary programs for three Marriott properties: Renaissance PineIsle Resort & Golf Club in Buford, Ga., Stone Mountain Golf Club, and Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort in Stone Mountain, Ga. Each was a company first-the first golf property, the first 36-hole facility, and the first conference center, respectively.
We recently talked to Anthony about the EIFG coalition’s efforts and how they are driven by sustainability and transparency. With collaboration from Greg Lyman, GCSAA Director of Environmental Programs, and Jeff Bollig, GCSAA Director of Communications, he told us how the committees are working together to develop industry-wide BMPs and sustainable methods to operate golf course properties that will protect the environment and the bottom line.
Q: How will the five committees of the Environmental Institute for Golf’s program, Golf’s Drive Toward Sustainability, work together to establish BMPs that are relevant nationwide?
A: The Environmental Institute for Golf was collaborative in creating the committees to develop the appropriate BMPs. The composition included representatives from the golf industry such as superintendents, golf pros, club managers and owners, and those from outside the industry such as officials from the EPA, Salmon Safe and the World Wildlife Fund.
The objective was to examine the entire facility and develop high-level, performance-based statements, rather than technical instructions. These can be applied more globally because they are general “what to” statements. More technical “how to” directions can be built at the regional or local level as needed.
Each of the committees focused on areas that were identified as higher priority for the golf industry today-water conservation, water quality protection, energy conservation and pollution prevention. Existing BMP documents were reviewed, and the common elements were assembled for the committees to examine. They are intended to help drive sustainability and continuous improvement at the facility as key areas to focus on. Specific “how to” information should be obtained from local and regional resources for a facility’s specific and unique circumstances.
The Environmental Institute for Golf will compile all of the BMP statements in one document, to serve as a comprehensive resource for facilities.
Q: How long have the committees been working on the initiative?
A: The EIFG, which is the philanthropic organization of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, did significant work in advance of the committees to identify, review and prepare the BMPs. The various committees then met twice a month from April through June to review the BMPs and develop the statements. The Oversight Committee worked throughout June to review the materials developed by the working groups.
Q: What is the role of the Oversight Committee?
A: The Oversight Committee reviewed the statements from each of the groups. It then provided direction, clarity and uniformity, and also helped to ensure that the statements were a good fit for use at the entire facility.
Q: What are the challenges of devising broad-based BMPs that will apply to a wide range of golf courses that have different climates, budgets and clienteles?
A: Overarching BMPs must be “broad-based” because each golf course environment is unique. However, these statements are based upon the Plan-Do-Act-Check model that applies to any golf facility. For example, conducting a water audit is high level and therefore does not specify a particular technology. The facility is free to determine the best use of technology for its situation, but should audit results to feasibly incorporate sustainable practices.
Energy use is another example where the statements call for an energy audit, but allow for the facility to use the best approach for its circumstances. Discussions ensued about the various regions of the country-what may or may not apply in Florida as opposed to Minnesota, for example. Keeping the direction at a high level has helped to drive performance, while allowing for flexibility in meeting the end goals.
Q: What types of tools and resources will be available to superintendents to help them implement the BMPs?
A: Specific BMPs exist, such as those in Florida, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Colorado. Some can be adapted for use in other parts of the country. Fortunately, there are similar resources for lodging, restaurants, and facilities like Energy Star, green hotel initiatives, and others that can be adapted for the entire facility. Environmental programs like Audubon International, the Michigan Turfgrass Environmental Stewardship Program and others have existed for a while and are useful resources as well.
What our BMPs provide is a centralized resource that is recognized as such for the golf industry. The EIFG will build an online toolbox for the golf industry featuring environmental programs, BMP documents, case studies, research and more. One new tool is the IPM Planning Guide. It is intended to help golf facilities develop individual IPM plans. The EIFG will continue to identify gaps in the toolbox and work toward filling them.
Q: How will the BMPs affect other departments besides the course and grounds operations at golf course properties?
A: These statements will help the entire facility focus on sustainable operations. Golf facilities provide many benefits to their communities. These are often categorized as social (recreation, socialization), economic (jobs, revenue), and environmental (valued green space). Those correspond with the three key elements of sustainability often referred to as the Three Ps: people, planet, and profit.
The BMP statements will help golf facilities improve the bottom line while enhancing the environment and remaining profitable. The statements can serve as a great starting point, as a reference for continual improvement, and an overall guide for all departments.
Q: What do the various stakeholders, who represent different factions of the golf industry, bring to the process?
A: The golf industry stakeholders have much to offer to enhance sustainability for the golf industry. This is a collaborative effort involving all aspects of the facility.
Golfers can play a role as well. They can learn the importance of the various practices (native plants, filtering runoff, use of recycled water) as best management practices implemented by facilities to focus on sustainability.
Commercial interests can invest in products or support the initiative by funding tools, research and education to help drive sustainable operations. Everyone can make a difference within the golf course industry.
Q: How does sustainability affect the bottom line?
A: It is not sustainable if the practice does not allow for a profit. Obviously, sustainable practices like water conservation or energy conservation can bring efficiencies and cost savings about fairly quickly, and some with a small investment. Those are tangible items. Long-term investments can have a solid ROI as well, from products such as modern irrigation technology or geothermal systems.
Other items may not be easily recognized or measured, but are nonetheless important. These include customer satisfaction, retaining members, or becoming more competitive with other forms of recreation and entertainment.
Investing in sustainable practices can impact the community, upstream and downstream of the facility, in many ways. Being sustainable now can help with future regulations, such as those directed at water use or nutrient use. It may help with social expectations and limited resources that can directly and indirectly improve the facility’s bottom line.
Q: How will the BMPs be used to recognize and award the performance of golf industry personnel?
A: Sustainable practices can be documented and communicated. Progress is documented by creating a performance baseline and then implementing a philosophy of continuous improvement with measurement at regular intervals.
GCSAA’s Golf Course Environmental Profile has established a baseline from which change can be measured with data collected on a national and regional basis. Facilities that incorporate the BMPs will have the foundation through the profile. They will also have tangible numbers to communicate to others. The BMPs can serve as the best criteria to measure performance.
Q: What is the biggest misconception that people outside of the golf industry have about golf’s sustainability efforts, and what is the best way to educate them?
A: There is a lack of knowledge about the industry among non-golfers. Furthermore, there are those who feel the game is exclusive, and thus anything associated with it is bad. Hence, golf is automatically considered to be a pockmark on society.
GCSAA’s Golf Course Environmental Profile demonstrates that there are many practices being employed that focus on continuous improvement. This is what the sustainability initiative is all about – it provides the platform for communications and continuous improvement. We can point to our baseline profile; we can point to the BMPs as our criteria for sustainable operations; and we can measure our change over time.
We must use this information on the course and in our communities in every way possible. In addition, we should form relationships with the non-golfing public, regulators, and others, to take advantage of every opportunity to inform them of golf’s values and this initiative.
Club Name: Stone Mountain Golf Club by Marriott
Club Web Site: www.stonemountaingolf.com
Holes: 36 (Stonemont Course – 18; Lakemont Course – 18)
Designer: Robert Trent Jones Sr. – Stonemont; John LaFoy – Lakemont
No. of Members: 75
Year Opened: Stonemont – 1969; Lakemont – 1988, 1991
Golf Season: Year-round
Fairways: Hybrid Bermuda
Greens: Creeping bentgrass
Honors and Awards:
- 2005 Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) Environmental Leaders in Golf Contest – National Resort Course Winner, Renaissance PineIsle Resort & Golf Club, Anthony Williams, CGCS
- 2005 Marriott Golf Grounds Manager of the Year – Anthony Williams, CGCS, Renaissance PineIsle Resort & Golf Club
- 2006 – GCSAA Environmental Leaders in Golf Contest – National Public Course and Overall winner, Stone Mountain Golf Club by Marriott, Anthony Williams, CGCS
- 2006 Marriott Golf Grounds Manager of the Year – Anthony Williams, CGCS, Stone Mountain Golf Club by Marriott
- 2007 Project Evergreen “Because Green Matters” Award – Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort/Stone Mountain Golf Club by Marriott
- 2007 Georgia Hospitality and Lodging Association “Good Earth Keeping” Award – Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort
- 2007 Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS) Green Star “Grand Award” – Stone Mountain Golf Club by Marriott
- 2008 J.W. Marriott Award of Excellence (Marriott’s Highest Honor) – Anthony Williams, CGCS
- 2008 J. Lamar Branch Award for “Outstanding Agricultural Leadership,” Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (Alumni Association) – Anthony Williams, CGCS
- 2009 TurfNet Media Group/Syngenta Golf Course Superintendent of the Year – Anthony Williams, CGCS
- 2010 GCSAA President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship – Anthony Williams, CGCS
For More information visit http://www.eifg.org/programs/baselinesurvey.asp