1. What motivated Gaylord Spring Golf Links to join the Audubon International Cooperative Sanctuary Program (ACSP) for Golf?
Personally, I believe it is everyone’s duty to do their part in protecting our environment. At Gaylord Springs Golf Links, we believe that our Audubon certification shows that we are doing just that. From the moment you drive into our golf course, you are greeted by a sign showing our certification, this provides awareness, so the golfer knows they are playing an environmentally conscious property. We feel that our golfing guests will appreciate our environmental efforts and we hope will continue to grow our positive reputation. Gaylord Springs is also a Marriott Golf property that encourages each course to obtain certification to further show our environmental commitment on a much larger stage.
2. What did it take to achieve ACSP certification – how long was the process and what steps were involved?
I must say it took dedication and determination to reach full certification. It also took about four years to reach the finish line but was well worth the effort. My best advice would be to not rush the process and try to complete a section or two per year.
There are six certification components that must be completed, and each has different time requirements. The six areas are environmental planning, wildlife and habitat, chemical use and reduction, water conservation, water quality management, and outreach and education. We assessed our current practices at the time and adjusted them to adhere to the six required components.
In many cases we were already following ACSP guidelines which let us know we were on the right track. We took our time and completed each section which resulted in quite a few positive changes to our practices and our course. As a result, our course has been transformed into a sanctuary for wildlife and golfers alike.
3. What did it cost to earn certification all-in and what were the biggest expense items?
There was some cost associated with earning the certification, but I would say it is not too much to deter courses from the program. I believe the benefits far outweigh the cost as I will later describe.
It cost $1,000 to join the program and an annual $500 fee thereafter. The most expensive item we implemented was a sprayer mixing station which has a spill containment system. We have also added various plant materials around the course to provide additional habitat. Many of these items we incorporated were more of an initial investment that did not require recurring investment. For example, we have bird nesting boxes placed throughout the course which do not require recurring purchases.
4. What were / are the most challenging aspects of being certified and maintaining the standards required to achieve and retain that status?
I feel we have done a great job maintaining the standards and practices required to uphold our certification. This year, we were awarded recertification and passed with a nearly perfect course assessment. The key is to be diligent in those standards from Day 1 and incorporate best practices for your region. Once you have achieved full certification then it’s just a matter of maintaining those six areas of the program and being mindful of those things in everything you do.
5. What specific benefits are you reaping from being a Certified Member?
Recognition comes to mind because our certification has led to things such as this article. We have been featured in several publications due to being an ACSP member. Being a member has had a positive impact on our course’s reputation as well. We are one of 20 courses in Tennessee to be certified and the only course in Nashville, to my knowledge. That puts us in an exclusive group of courses that are leaders in environmental sustainability.
Personally, I believe it provides a good reputation for the course when you consider everything that is going on in the world from an environmental perspective. Additionally, it has been a great promotional piece that our PR team uses on various outlets. Also, we have seen a reduction in fuel consumption and chemical usage due to incorporating nearly 10 acres of what we call “native no mow areas.”
For example, one such area has been designated to be part of the operation pollinator program which doubles as our monarchs in the rough restoration site. As Nashville continues to grow, we are seeing wildlife pushed further out and seeking new habitat. At Gaylord Springs Golf Links, we pride ourselves on providing that habitat and have seen an explosion in our wildlife numbers over the last few years.
6. What would you share with other superintendents and course managers who are considering joining the Audubon International ACSP program?
Do it! There are few things that can bring such positive attention to your course as an Audubon International certification. You will become a better course superintendent through the process and will be exposed to course improvement from an environmental perspective. As I mentioned earlier, take your time and work through each section. In my opinion, there is no downside to joining. In a competitive golf market being a certified course might just give you the edge over others. It has been an overwhelming positive experience for Gaylord Springs Golf Links that I highly recommend.
7. What is the best guidance or tip(s) you have received pertaining to being a superintendent and overseeing the golf course agronomy/maintenance department?
Over my 20-year career, I have worked with and for many great superintendents. To sum up some of the best tips I have received during my time as a superintendent, the one that stands out the most is the ability to adapt to ever changing situations that arise on the golf course.
Also, I have found while working for previous golf superintendents that it is important to have patience when dealing with turf and staff. But it is also equally as important to take the job seriously but never too seriously as we want to keep it fun. As mentioned by a former Superintendent and mentor, Michael Brownlee, “Always remember, no matter how bad it gets, they can’t take your birthday away!” This statement has always stuck with me and provided a laugh when things get rough!