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..
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
The Audoubon Cooperative Sanctuary Progrom for Golf is an award winning education and certification program that helps golf courses protect our environment and preserve the natural heritage of the game of golf. By helping people enhance the valuable natural areas and wildlife habitats that golf courses provide, improve efficiency, and maximize potentially harmful impacts of golf course operations, the program serves an important environmental role woldwide. Audubon International has developed Standard Environmental Practices that are generally applicable to all golf courses. These standards form the basis for ACSP for golf certification guidelines.
Little Bennett Golf Course has been an Audubon International Certified Cooperative Sanctuary for golf for 18 years, and was just the 2nd golf course in the state of Maryland to achieve this designation. Needwood (2013), Northwest (2017), and Poolesville (2017) have also become Audubon Certified golf courses.
The other MCRA courses have all achieved certification in Environmental Planning and most of the other categories required for certification, 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.
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!