Austin was recently recognized as the #2 greenest city according to Business Facilities Magazine. What does this mean exactly though? Austin locals recycle more? We carpool regularly? Do Austinites install solar panels on their homes? Obviously this is a great recognition, but there is a long ways to go until we all understand what truly being "green" is.
Golf course impact
It is unlikely golf course upkeep was a factor in helping decide that Austin was a green city. Granted, Barton Creek Resort seems to be on the right page being awarded a Green Star Award from Golf Digest in 2009, but the rest of Austin's courses are certainly lacking when it comes to reducing their impact on the environment. If Austin is being advertised as a green friendly city, then a push for Austin's municipal courses to jump on the "green" train is very much needed. All areas of a golf course do not need to be a rich luscious green color. Honestly, this doesn't even seem possible to obtain this painted look with numerous week long stretches of 100 degree weather and the intense Texas sun beating down on our fairways and greens. Really all that matters is that the greens are in good shape with a limited number of ball marks along with tee boxes and fairways that are not loaded with land-mine sized divots.
Austin municipal courses
Austin's municipal courses feature some of the best value golf in Texas and each of these great courses has potential to be less harmful to the environment. Lions Municipal looks like a national park with century old oaks lining the fairways along with a wide assortment of sightings of mother nature's creatures as golfers wind around this beautiful track. Roy Kizer Golf Course was developed from an abandoned wastewater plant and features an assortment of wetlands which welcome local and migratory waterfowl. Jimmy Clay Golf Course is another tree lined course with natural water hazards. Hancock Golf Course and Morris Williams Golf Courses are also two great green spaces in all of Austin.
Golf course certifications
The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses is the place to start. This non-profit organization prides itself on providing exceptional education along with a certification program that focuses on protecting our environment and preserving the natural heritage of golf. The certification process is not easy, but the payoff is well worth it as the program hones in on six key areas that include environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, chemical use reduction/safety, water conservation, water quality management, and outreach/education. The process can take 1-3 years, but the reward in the end is a major win for all golfers. An annual registration fee of $200 is the only cost incurred to get the ball rolling. Having all of Austin's municipal courses recognized in this program would be quite the honor which could set precedent for all municipals around the nation.
The ultimate "green" golf course
Wawona Golf Course located at Yosemite National Park is number one when it comes to being in a natural state of environmental bliss. This comes hand in hand of being a part of the National Park System, but there is no reason why other golf courses can not follow suit. With their GreenPath program, Wawona is recognized as an organic course and is a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. Some of their practices include electric golf carts, refusal to use pesticides and to only use reclaimed gray water to water their greens. If golf courses in Austin could just be half as good as Wawona, the Austin golf community would be taking a giant step in the right direction. How about it Austin?