AGRONOMIST David Lunardelli knew he was doing something right when a wedge-tailed eagle recently took up residence at the Settlers Run golf course in Cranbourne South.
Mr Lunardelli, director of agronomy for Troon Golf, said golf courses had been regarded as environmental vandals in the past, but he prefers to think of them as a “nature reserve with 18 holes”.
Working on a golf course alongside the Royal Botanic Gardens of Cranbourne, he found the description even more apt.
Settlers Run has become a sustainability pilot project for Troon Golf, which manages about 240 courses worldwide, including nine in Australia.
“We want to change the perception of golf courses as merely a place for sport and recreation to a place of ecological progress and environmental conservation,” Mr Lunardelli said.
With more than 700,000 indigenous trees planted on the course, golfers have learned to take the rough with the smooth.
Mr Lunardelli said the tree belts acted as a scenic natural border between the course and adjoining estate and also as wildlife corridors for several species.
The course, designed by former world No. 1 golfer Greg Norman, has been designed to work with the existing land plan where possible, taking into consideration the undulating landscape, established trees and surrounding natural wetlands.
Since the course opened four years ago, there has been a steady increase in frogs and many species of birds. Other measures already under way or being considered include a water-sensitive course design, soil auditing, reducing chemical and pesticide use and using recycled water for watering.
Mr Lunardelli said Troon Golf was also exploring the possibility of using the course vegetation – trees and turf – as a carbon sink once the federal emissions trading scheme started in 2015.
“This would enable the club to earn carbon credits and use them to offset the course’s emissions and the emissions of surrounding homes or to on-sell them to other companies.”