The MCRA is committed to taking steps to reduce our impact on the environment. Our golf courses are managed by superintendents who have completed extensive education and training regarding the use of water, fertilizer, and plant protectants. Below are a few links that may be of interest. We will continue to update our web site with new information throughout the year. Here are some of the things the MCRA already does to minimize our impact on the world around us.Water conservation Our Superintendents utilize Best Management Practices to conserve water: hand-watering of greens, tees, and sometimes fairways allows us to only water where the turf needs it, and NOT putting any water down in an area that doesn’t need it. Doing this and customizing computerized irrigation programs to target only the driest areas of the golf courses saved an estimated 30 million gallons of water in 2008 alone. Irrigation computer programs are modified each spring as we let the course dry down… we can identify the areas that are first to exhibit signs of drought stress and program only those specific sprinkler heads that cover those areas to be our “dry fairways” program, for example. We also continue to evaluate and monitor our irrigation systems… replacing sprinkler head nozzles with newer, more efficient designs that have higher distribution uniformity; once a year, we typically perform an irrigation audit of the systems by placing rain gauges across a green, for example, to make sure that when we irrigate ¼-inch of “rain,” that it is truly consistent. This ensures that when we apply irrigation to dry areas of the course, that it achieves our goal of using just the right amount of water, and reduces runoff and other potential sources of wasted resources.
Targeted fertilizer applications
Using soil testing and monitoring nutritional levels of individual greens, tees, and fairways, applications of fertilizer are targeted to specific sites, instead of making widespread applications on the whole golf course. This reduces potential runoff of excess fertilizer, optimizes turf health, and saves an estimated $30,000 each year in fertilizer costs alone.
Low-maintenance or “native” areas
over 10% of the 2500 acres of property maintained by MCRA is designated as a “no mow” area. These grassy areas are allowed to develop naturally, and promote a diverse wildlife habitat and reduce maintenance costs and fuel emissions of equipment.
MCRA has devoted the Executive 9 golf course at Needwood GC to environmental research. We are investigating biological/organic pest control, and evaluating warm-season grasses such as bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, and seashore paspalum, which traditionally require significantly less water, fertilizer, and pesticides to maintain. Studies are underway at Needwood and other golf courses in the system to help us understand what practices we can implement in our golf course system that would allow for acceptable playing conditions with less chemical inputs to the turf, and reduced maintenance costs.
Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses
MCRA courses have partnered with this Audubon International advisory service, which helps golf courses develop effective conservation and wildlife enhancement programs. Little Bennett GC completed the certification program in 1998, making it one of the first golf courses in the State of Maryland to become a Certified Sanctuary. The other MCRA courses have all achieved certification in Environmental Planning, and will continue to work towards completing the program.
Groundwater Guardian Green Site Program
MCRA golf courses are all designated by The Groundwater Foundation as Groundwater Guardian Green Sites because we have demonstrated a commitment to protecting groundwater supplies. Maintaining no-application buffer zones around streams and wetlands, properly disposing of spray rinsate, spoon-feeding nutrients instead of heavy applications of fertilizer, etc.
Use of organic fertilizer
The MCRA has committed to using more eco-friendly organic fertilizers on its courses. We treat our courses with an organic pasteurized poultry litter fertilizer as well as other naturally derived products, which improve the playing surfaces in a more natural way. The environmental benefits of these products include slow nutrient release from natural microbial breakdown and the availability of ten of the thirteen nutrients required by turfgrass for improved plant cell structure and vigor.
The MCRA supports the continuing education of our Golf Course Superintendents. They attend local, regional, or national conferences each year to stay abreast of the latest research and trends in turf research. Many universities across the country conduct exhaustive turf research each year regarding the efficacy of plant protectants, the effect of certain cultural practices or traffic on turf health, shade- and drought-tolerance studies, etc. By keeping up with the research, our superintendents stay on the cutting edge of science and are able to do what’s best for the turf, the environment, and our customers.
MCRA does not only recycle cans, bottles, and waste paper. We also recycle waste motor oil, fryer oil from the kitchens, used tires, scrap metal, etc., and work with a local company to properly dispose of waste fuels and antifreeze. We continue to look at ways we can be greener and more protective of the world around us!