Golf Courses, Conservation, and Educating Everyone

golf course conservation

Junior golfers grow up spending a great deal of their time in beautiful, green surroundings.  Golf courses generally (we’ve played a few goat tracks in our time) are established in beautiful settings, with lush landscapes and manicured lawns. Junior golfers tend to grow up in this environment, not knowing that golf courses are often not the most ecologically balanced and forward thinking environments, and often taking for granted the beauty, birds and wildlife they see inhabiting their home course. Golf course conservation is a key issue these days.

Why Golf Course Conservation and Education?

In a world where hundreds of acres are destroyed daily to make way for urban sprawl, existing golf courses remain large natural areas that are refuges for wildlife.  There is a lot that golf course owners and managers can do to help protect native wildlife and habitat.

There is also a lot that junior golfers and their parents and the population in general should be doing.  Why We Should Protect Wildlife is a question that junior golfer, Rob Macmillan, has written about in a magazine column.

We should all be doing a part, no matter how small.

golf environmental conservation

Butterfly and Pollinator Gardens for Golf Course Conservation

Golf courses can, at the very least, plant native plants that attract butterflies and other pollinators. We have seen some beautiful butterfly gardens at various golf courses and it is a simple first step in nature conservation. The USGA is actually an active promoter of planting native plants at golf courses, in particular Milkweed. In an April 2019 article they acknowledged it is a slow process that requires patience, but planting Milkweed food sources for Monarch butterflies on golf courses can help reverse the decline of these important pollinators. Monarchs are completely dependent on Milkwood for survival. The website provides an interactive map that lists native milkweed species for each State.  

Milkweed seeds and Resouces can also be sourced on Amazon.

golf course conservation

Butterfly and Pollinator Gardens are easy projects for golf courses in an effort to become more wildlife and environmentally friendly.

Audubon International

Audubon International’s mission is to create environmentally sustainable environments where people work, live and play.

Audubon and Golf Course Conservation

For golf courses that want to take wildlife conservation and environmental sustainability further, Audubon International has a certificate program for golf courses. Of course, even though they have potential to be saviors and sustainers of wildlife, golf courses generally have a negative impact on sustainability too due to water usage, deforestation and chemical/pesticide use amongst other things. Audubon International is hoping to help golf courses manage the negative impacts and make a lasting and positive difference.

The Mirimichi Golf Course in TN, was the first golf course in the US to be designated as a Certified Audubon International Classic Sanctuary. As opposed to the ACSP certification described below, this certification is for new or renovating golf courses and indicates comprehensive environmental planning with architects, owners, managers and key stakeholders to ensure sustainable design, construction and long-term management of the course.

golf tournaments bubba conlee

Mirimichi Golf Course, TN

Mirimichi Golf Course was bought in 2009 by singer Justin Timberlake who plunged $16 million into renovating the course. It is the current location of the annual elite junior tournament, the Bubba Conlee. See our article Top Junior Golf Tournaments for more information on that.

Native grasses planted along a fairway at Mirimichi Golf Course, TN.

What is the ACSP?

The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program (ACSP) for Golf is an education and certificate program that helps existing golf courses protect the environment, wildlife and preserve the natural heritage of the game of golf.

How can Golf Courses become Certified?

Audubon International has developed Standard Environmental Management Practices that are generally applicable to all golf courses. These standards form the basis for ACSP for Golf certification guidelines.

Audubon International provides information and guidance to help golf course personnel with six key environmental components: • Site Assessment/Environmental Planning • Wildlife and Habitat Management • Chemical Use Reduction and Safety • Water Conservation • Water Quality Management • Outreach and Education

This program is for existing golf courses and there is an annual membership cost of approximately $400.

golf conservation

Stonebridge Golf Course in Rome, GA is designated an ACSP golf course.

Why Should a Golf Course Get ACSP Certified?

Golf courses can show their members and the public their commitment to sustainability and their high standards of environmental management and wildlife stewardship.

How Many Golf Courses are ACSP Certified?

At present over 1000 golf courses in the USA are certified.

Another example is Stone Mountain Golf Course in GA, It has been ACSP certified since 2006. They have worked extensively on creating natural wildlife habitats on the course as well as increasing naturalized areas and planting native plants. Establishing wildlife natural corridors, and planting native grasses and plants they have enhanced the habitat of resident wildlife and have attracted 16 different butterfly species. They have saved in excess of 100 million gallons of water, reduced maintenance costs and attracted wildlife activity, including numerous waterfowl, wading birds, warblers, finches, birds of prey, and hummingbirds.

Wild Turkeys on Stone Mountain Golf Course, GA

What can junior golfers do?

The National Audubon Society is an American non-profit environmental organization dedicated to conservation of birds and their habitats. Most States have their own chapters, for example here is a link to Georgia Audbon.

There are many great opportunities available through Audubon for kids to be involved in protecting and learning about wildlife and conservation. Opportunities about everywhere! Golf course conservation and respect for wildlife should be taught by example and instilled in junior players as much as Golf Etiquette for Juniors.

golf course conservation

At a US Kids Tournament at Callaway Gardens, GA

The  Great Backyard Bird Count is an example. It is done annually in February and is a four-day, global event.  A practice round of golf could well be the backdrop for contributing to the bird count or even just starting a ‘birding’ education or hobby. Sign up or learn more at

planting native plants


Jack Nicklaus asked and answered the question: Why are we building golf courses? Because we enjoy being outside, bringing man and nature together.

We continue to enjoy being outside by keeping nature, natural corridors, wildlife habitat and a healthy ecosystem in tact and flourishing.

We secure the future of natural places and wildlife habitat by educating our kids, our junior golfers, about the need to conserve and protect our environment.

Ours is a golfing world so lets start in places that are important to us. Whether it is as simple as planting a butterfly garden at home, or at the golf course, or encouraging your local golf course to look into ACSP certification. Let’s do something.

golf course conservation

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