Certified Golf Course Superintendent Joseph Hubbard, Director of Golf Maintenance at Broken Sound Club, is a strong taskmaster when it comes to environmental stewardship.
Quick with a joke or a lighthearted comment, Certified Golf Course Superintendent Joseph Hubbard (nicknamed “Tater Joe” by Arnold Palmer because of his Idaho roots), the Director of Golf Maintenance at Broken Sound Club in Boca Raton, Fla., wears his sense of humor on his sleeve. However, environmental stewardship at the property is no laughing matter. When the property held the Allianz Championship, an official PGA Champions tournament, in February at its Old Course, and partnered with the International Green Energy Council (IGEC) and The Smart Group to make it one of the greenest golf tournaments in North America, Hubbard was all business.
Broken Sound Club
Of course, as the first facility in Florida and only the second in the country to become GEO-certified, Broken Sound is no stranger to environmental stewardship. Green benchmarks for the tournament included powering the tournament with 100-percent renewable energy; developing a comprehensive carbon footprint analysis; implementing a zero waste program; and educating spectators, players and vendors about the benefits of going green in their daily business and personal lives.
Hubbard recently spoke to us about the property’s efforts to extend its eco-friendly practices to the tournament and its GEO certification.
Q: What was the maintenance department’s role in becoming a “Green Zone” at the Allianz Championship?
A: Our role was really one of coordination. We helped the main entities handle their zones of responsibility. We handled the food pickup for our composting operation and transported it to our other golf course where we processed it the week of the tournament.
Q: What did you do differently, if anything, for the tournament?
A: The main difference was to get an accurate count for our Green Initiative for the Allianz. We shut down food pickup on the Club Course and just worked on our pickup of the food from the Tournament clubhouse and vendor drop-offs for the Old Course.
Q: What kind of sustainable practices do you use in your everyday maintenance of the golf course?
A: All of our green waste from tree trimming to some extent grass clippings, and all the swept up debris, is picked up and taken to our one maintenance building for both courses for chipping and/or shredding to be used as mulch or grade “A” compost.
Q: What challenges did you face during the tournament to keep it “green?”
A: I think the onus was more on Pro Links Sports as the lead for their tournament to choreograph all their vendors, document data and do summaries for accuracy. For us in golf maintenance, we’ve done this for six years and have been environmentally conscience of our actions and fiscally responsible. There were only a couple of small glitches to hammer out for our participation. The hardest part I saw was for the people to read the signs on what items to put in each recycle bin and to keep the food bins as clean as possible from synthetic products such as plastic, paper plates, cans, etc.
Q: Tell us about your partnership with the International Green Energy Council during the tournament.
A: Ryan Dillon, Tournament Director, and Ralph Avallone, IGEC President, have been working on getting the word out about the Allianz Championship going green. Broken Sound Club has worked with Ralph before on our successful Green Fair that we have hosted the past couple of years. From talking with Mr. Avallone a few times, he very much would like to be involved in working with GCSAA and golf course superintendents in the future. The only thing I have reiterated with him is that we (golf course managers) all have mortgages to pay, so to make us superintendents vocal badgers to our members for the environment will not work. We are mindful of what we can do within our budgets and the lines our members establish, while educating them to be open to suggestions for the future that will make us more sustainable and environmentally conscience. Ralph, like our General Manager Mr. John Crean and myself, is a taskmaster. Give us a task and we’ll target it and attack to get it done.
Q. How did you collaborate with The Smart Group to make sound environmental decisions for the tournament?
A: That collaboration came about from the GEO certification. Talking with Russ Bodie from The Smart Group and Jonathan Smith, head of GEO, they wanted to have a PGA Tour-sanctioned event that was the greenest in the United States. We made the introductions, and Ryan Dillon of Pro Links Sports and Allianz Insurance made the deal to make it happen. Russ contacted and designated all assignments to the players in their operations for their fields of responsibility.
Q: How did the maintenance department work with other departments at Broken Sound to ensure that the tournament would be as “green” as possible?
A: When you take care of what you’re responsible for and communicate constantly, your goals will take care of the themselves.
Q: How successful were you in reaching your green benchmarks for the 2012 tournament?
A: It’s too early to tell so far until we have all of our data.
Q: What were the keys to your success?
A: Coordination and communication are the main ingredients for success in an operation such as this.
Q: Why was it important to reach a broader audience at the tournament, beyond your regular membership, with your environmental efforts?
A: We need to dispel the misconception held outside the golf world by the uninformed of what a golf course actually does and can do. We need to reach anyone with a yearn for true knowledge and not hysterical knowledge, like many so-called “environmentalists” that have preconceived opinions and not facts backed up with the science from universities and top scientists. We also don’t mind showing that there are better ways of doing things to help out the environment, take out the need for massive hauling costs and utilize what Mother Nature has yielded to us.
Q: What did you have to do to become GEO certified?
A: The GEO certification is a multi-layered document that took us many intense months of documentation, working with accounting on past data for three years, chemical and fertilizer conversion breakdowns with several key annual summaries installed on the GEO web site. We also had to document programs we are not just including in golf maintenance but for the entire club operation covering seven departments. From Broken Sound out to vendors, suppliers and community outreach all tying into our mission statement, we are paying it forward to everyone we touch, as is our pledge. The GEO person or persons selected for this certification process cannot start a half-hearted effort, because the attesting will put you behind the wood shed and beat you with a big stick. The GEO certification took me further into my own eye gate with my influences I touched everyday. It has become a great tool in the right way to do sustainability and shows, to an extent, the wrong way. It has to be fair to your members who pay the bills. But it also has to stay honest to the environment to hold the connections true to our word, and it must be fiscally responsible to all parties. Photo documentation with weekly updated logs helps the due process.
Q: What does it mean to be the first property in Florida and only the second in the country to achieve this certification?
A: I really did not comprehend the GEO certification importance until I got into all the documentation needed to achieve it. It is vast and has a staunch amount of accountability to it globally as opposed to just in the United States. We are very proud of the recognition of our accomplishments in what we deem as our everyday routine.
Q: How important will sustainable golf course maintenance efforts be in the future?
A: I’m not a “Chicken Little” and don’t believe the sky is falling. But it needs to be said, we can do it better by utilizing our abilities that God bestowed upon us as stewards of the land. If an idea, such as the composting of the green waste and food waste together, enhances our operation while spending less money, it’s all a “win-win” solution that is sustainable for the future. We always will have green waste, especially in Florida with a 12-month growing season, and we will always have food waste. With more and more high costs in all of our chemical, fertilizer and mulch needs, we have to do something internally to stop the bleeding. I have seen this used successfully by my dad in his gardens around the U.S. composting with food waste, but until Environmentally Controlled Waste and Mr. Crean brought the concept to me, I never saw it coming. Not every club can do what we have done financially or with storage spacing or with the backing of the City of Boca Raton, but every club can do something for sustainability in our field no matter how small. It’s the old starfish on the beach story…if you don’t know it, call me.