In recent years, eco-friendly golf course management has become an increasingly important issue, and golf course superintendents are being faced with new challenges regarding how to balance the requirements of golf with their responsibility to the environment. This move towards environmental sustainability represents a much-needed shift away from harmful practices that tend to focus achieving the “lush green” look without considering how the additional upkeep required to produce that look (e.g., increased applications of fertilizer and pesticides, more watering, etc.) might impact the natural environment. From issues regarding water use and pollution runoff to the potential loss of threatened species, the task of creating a more environmentally friendly golf course can be somewhat daunting, especially when you take other important variables such as usability, staffing and budget into consideration.

Fortunately, Audubon International has developed the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses (ACSP) to address this need. Conceived in 1991 as a collaborative effort between Audubon International and the United States Golf Association (USGA), the ACSP is a specialized program that offers environmental education and certification to help member golf courses protect the natural environment while preserving the long-standing heritage of the game of golf. This award-winning program provides golf superintendents and course officials with valuable guidance and action items to help them preserve and enhance the natural environment and wildlife habitats of their unique property, while also minimizing any potentially harmful impact of golf course operations.

How Does the ACSP Program Work?

Upon joining the program, your first step will be to take stock of your particular course’s environmental resources and evaluate any potential liabilities. Once this is done, the ACSP will assist you in developing an environmental plan that emphasizes the following six key areas:

  • Environmental Planning
  • Wildlife and Habitat Management
  • Chemical Use: Reduction and Safety
  • Water Conservation
  • Water Quality Management
  • Education and Outreach

As you begin to implement the various elements of the program and meet the criteria for environmental management standards in each of the above areas, you will be eligible for designation as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. This will boost the prestige and recognition of your golf course as a leader in environmental sustainability, and it will demonstrate your organization’s commitment to high standards of environmental management.

  • The first and most obvious benefit of ACSP Certification is that you will improve the environmental performance of your golf course, and reduce wasteful or harmful practices that can be detrimental to your property over the long term.
  • Improved soil conditions have been widely reported by member golf courses, with special emphasis on better soil structure, organic fertilizer, nutrient levels, and water infiltration.
  • Adopting a more eco-friendly approach to course management can reduce maintenance costs along with boosting natural habitat for birds and other animals. It can also reduce liability in terms of regulatory compliance (e.g., leaching, runoff, etc.).
  • Many member golf courses have reported that the change in approach to environmental management has improved the aesthetic appeal of their golf courses. Instead of maintaining a “short and green” look throughout the property, making environmentally friendly changes can add extra dimension and visually pleasing contrasts to the course.

More than 2,600 golf courses have signed up to be a part of the ACSP, because they have experienced the many benefits of adopting a more “green” approach to golf course management. If you haven’t done so already, join the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program and begin implementing their highly effective recommendations. By doing so, you will not only do your part to protect the environment, but you will also help preserve the integrity of the game of golf for future generations.