Tennessee Courses Receive Audubon Recognition

The Tanasi and Toqua golf courses are well on their way to receiving official certification from Audubon International, an organization that focuses on environmental education.

The courses each received recognition in late July for work done so far in applying for certification in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses.

“It really is a big step in the right direction because the three superintendents, along with members from the community, have been working on the application,” Chuck James, who serves on the Golf Advisory Committee for the Tellico Village Property Owners Association and is chairman of the Audubon Committee, said.”The first part of the application was 27 pages that had to be completed all about the golf courses. So that’s all been completed. We still have work to do with the Kahite information.

In the three Village courses, about 70-80 acres have been converted to natural areas that are “out of maintenance,” which means they aren’t fertilized or watered and are mowed far less frequently.

“The general consensus among the general public for most is that golf courses are just these areas that are over maintained, over watered and over fertilized, Wells McClure, Tanasi golf course superintendent, said. “That’s really not the case because you’re spending more money doing it like that. Over the years, really since 2011 at all three courses, we started this process. This is the first year we’ve actually gone toward it and tried to become an actual part of the program.”

Part of the application process focuses on the promotion of wildlife, and work has included the building of bluebird nesting boxes. Boxes for bats and ducks are also planned, as well as milkweed for butterflies.

“We truly feel like it’s the right thing to do,” McClure said. “As a golf course superintendent, we’re not just out here to have nice greens or nice fairways. We’re out here to do what’s right.We’re managing a property that’s close to 120 acres. It truly is-a green space. All of this used to be wild. No houses. There was wildlife everywhere. I feel like there are areas of these gold courses that we can leave like that, and it will only benefit the wildlife and the environment. In turn, we use less pesticides, less fertilizers, and less water. We’re trying to cut down on the areas we maintain that we don’t need to maintain for the game of golf.”

Cutting down on maintenance directly impacts expenses. At Tanasi alone, about 20 acres have been cut from regular maintenance.

“We estimate- it’s kind of hard to think about, but we estimate about $500-700 a year per acre,” McClure said. “So $500 an acre at 70 acres is $35,000. We didn’t do it all in one year. We would do three or four acres here and three or four acres the next year.”

Course superintendents have been careful to plan natural areas that will have the least impact on golf, with most in locations where even the worst shots wouldn’t land outside the maintained course.

While each course has taken strides toward Audubon certification, there is still work to do at all three, with James estimating about six more months before the final certification will come.

“We still have some water testing  to do and we need to get together our environment plan,” James said. We also have some requirements as far as record keeping we’re going to have to do.”

Receiving final certification will be a feather in the cap of the Village courses, James said.

“It shows that our golf courses are very involved as far as making sure they are not having an impact on our environment as far as what we have to do with the courses with fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides. To have this kind of certification really shows that your golf courses are on top of the game. I think also for the community of Tellico Village as we get more and more people down here that are interested in nature and the environment, that it will be a plus for marketing as well.

– This article was featured by the GCSAA