TPC Sawgrass’ innovative sustainability measures have been recognized by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and Golf Digest in partnership with Syngenta, naming TPC Sawgrass Director of Golf Course Operations, Jeff Plotts among the 2021 Environmental Leaders in Golf Awards (ELGA).
Based on the environmental best management practices, the awards honor specific areas of focus ranging from the Natural Resource Conservation Award, Healthy Land Stewardship Award, Communications & Outreach Award, and Innovative Conservation Award. Plotts, who was one of four people selected internationally, was specifically awarded the Innovative Conservation Award, which recognizes unique and innovative strategies for conservation.
A member of TPC Sawgrass since 2015, Plotts and his staff do an incredible amount of planning to ensure the property not only is beautiful year-round – and for THE PLAYERS Championship – but that it’s also sustainable.
Flowers have played a big role in the aesthetic value of the landscape during THE PLAYERS Championship and by developing a wildflower initiative with native seeds, Plotts and his staff have been able to grow large amounts of flowers that are used throughout the property. While annual flowers would be changed out seasonally, the native wildflowers require fewer inputs and can be maintained through multiple seasons or years – equating to $75,000 a year in savings, which is now used for ongoing reforestation.
“Our goal was to use the native plant palette of our region and surroundings to highlight and enhance our golf courses,” said Plotts. “Two of the more prominent wildflowers that we use are Dune Sunflower and Gaillardia which are commonly seen on sand dunes and native areas throughout our community. We felt that as successful and hardy as these plants were, that they may be a good addition to our landscape. We started with a few plants and have continued to harvest seed from these plants to propagate, grow and expand.”
In all, more than 1,500 trees have been planted at TPC Sawgrass in the last three years as part of the reforestation project. Like the wildflowers, the tree species are native to the area and include oak, pine, and magnolia. The success of the wildflowers has also resulted in the planting of native grass species to accompany the wildflower plantings.
“It’s our ambition to be a little more sustainable each and every day,” said Plotts. “We are the stewards of a living and ever-changing environment; we need to do our part to protect it. Small steps can have long terms gains using the three R’s rule of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.”
As Plotts seeks to keep TPC Sawgrass at the forefront of golf’s sustainability efforts, he attributes receiving this honor to his team.
“This award is more about our team and their commitment to our natural environment than it is about me, I am just a small part of this initiative. I feel blessed and proud to represent our team’s effort and success.”