The Preserve on Rathbun Lake golf course at Honey Creek Resort State Park was designated a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary for its efforts to reduce its impact on the environment. It is one of only six Iowa courses to receive the designation.
“It adds to the prestige of the golf course,” says Darin Fisher, director of golf operations. “It lets people know we work with the environment.”
To acquire the designation, the golf course had to meet Audubon’s criteria of Environmental Planning, Wildlife and Habitat Management, Outreach and Education, Chemical Use Reduction and Safety, Water Conservation and Water Quality Management.
“It shows that we’re going beyond what most other courses are doing, that we do understand the environment and we’re trying to enhance what we have,” says Erik Hanson, course superintendent.
Over the last four years, the Preserve has added areas of native grasses and buffer strips. To attract birds, 15 nest boxes were installed around the course with plans for more. Brush piles were added to create habitat for small animals.
“Our bluebird houses have been extremely successful,” says Hanson. “Every one has either been filled with bluebirds or tree swallows.”
Signs were placed around the course as part of the education and outreach effort to explain areas planted with native grasses. A naturalist gives tours of the course highlighting the environmental initiatives and practices undertaken.
The grounds crew has reduced its use of pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides. It uses practices such as aerification to reduce the need for fertilizers. When chemical use is necessary, applications are used in small doses in concentrated areas to reduce runoff.
Another way the course reduces herbicide use is by pulling weeds.
“We will manually pull weeds instead of spraying,” says Hanson. And the weeds are added to the brush piles.
The course reduces its water use by using untreated runoff to irrigate the grass and targets that use only on areas that need water.
Buffer strips were also set up around each body of water to absorb runoff fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide, keeping it out of the water. In addition, the water on the course is tested once every year to ensure water quality remains constant.
“(The designation) doesn’t go back to the number of rounds played,” says Fisher. “It goes back to giving back to the environment and what our mission statement is for the resort and the Iowa DNR.”