Tree-lined fairways. Manicured greens. Rough, left in its natural state. Flora surrounding the tee boxes, spilling out of baskets. Plants. Shrubs. Wildlife. In every way, golf is connected to the environment.
With a commitment to preserving the environmental integrity of the golf course for future generations, Willow Park Golf & Country Club achieved designation in The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses. The program operates on the belief “that as golfers, we must accept responsibility to ensure that golf courses are managed in harmony with the environment by participating in environmental management and enhancing and protecting existing wildlife habitats”.
Currently 80 golf courses in Canada and 17 in Alberta hold the Audubon certification. Willow Park Golf & Country Club is proud to be part of this environmental initiative by achieving successful evaluation in all six required categories:
- Site assessment / environmental plan.
- Wildlife and habitat management.
- Chemical use reduction and safety.
- Water conservation.
- Water quality management.
- Outreach and education.
What Willow Park is currently doing:
To protect the fish, fowl and animals that make Willow Park home, the Course maintains its environmentally sensitive areas in a variety of ways – not mowing or weed whipping within 25 inches of the ponds and creeks and by conducting quarterly water tests. Ensuring the water is clean of external pollutants – from Course maintenance and from seepage from nearby roads – is paramount. Clean water is essential for maintaining the course and sustaining the ecosystem that lives in and feeds from Willow’s ponds.
Throughout the course, Willow Park implements xeri-scape landscaping – a method that utilizes water-conserving techniques – drought-tolerant plants, mulch and efficient irrigation.
Landscaping with trees, shrubs and plants native to our area, not only conserves water but requires minimal care. Among the native species at Willow Park are:
- Blanket Flower
- Ostrich Fern
- Prickly pear cactus
- Brown eyed susan
- Lodgepole Pine
- White spruce
- Mountain ash
- Red osier dogwood
- Savin juniper
Willow Park is home to a variety of wildlife – squirrels, rabbits, muskrat, mice, bats and an array of birds. The pond between holes 14th and 16th is stocked each spring with rainbow trout and is a favoured zone for ducks and geese. The many trees and shop-made nest boxes are habitats for chickadees, robins, sparrow-hawks, woodpeckers, nut hatches, and red-winged blackbirds.
To support this fauna, Willow Park leaves dead trees in place – provided they do not pose a safety hazard. In addition, the Club is moving toward dedicating at least 50% of minimally used areas as natural habitats. And, for member and guest awareness, signs are placed in environmentally sensitive areas.
Willow Park’s objective is to involve all members and guests in understanding the importance of environmental stewardship and to make the course a visible nature sanctuary.
The Club encourages members to adopt “environmental etiquette for golf” and become good stewards of the environment by:
- Respecting designated environmentally sensitive areas and wildlife habitats within the course.
- Appreciating the nature of the game. Watching for wildlife when playing and supporting the course’s efforts to provide habitat.
- Being kind to the course: repairing ball marks and replacing divots to help maintain playability.
- Walking, rather than using motorized carts, if health permits. Walking promotes physical fitness, healthy turf, and a clean environment.
- Using trash and recycling receptacles and encouraging others to do the same. “Don’t pass it up . . . pick it up!”
- Educating others about the benefits of environmentally responsible golf course management for the future of the game and the environment.
For further information about the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary program, contact Golf Course Superintendent Brian Denomme by e-mail or by phone at 403-271-5111. Visit the Audubon Golf Web site at acspgolf.auduboninternational.org.