Environmental stewardship efforts by golf course superintendents are recognized by the GCSAA/Golf Digest awards
LAWRENCE, Kansas – Four golf course superintendents have been named winners of the 2022 Environmental Leaders in Golf Awards (ELGA). The annual awards are presented by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and Golf Digest in partnership with Syngenta. Eight runners-up also received recognition for their environmental efforts.
The awards have recognized superintendents and golf courses around the world for their commitment to environmental stewardship since 1993, but in 2018 the ELGAs were updated to recognize more superintendents in more focused areas of environmental sustainability. Instead of offering national awards based on facility type, the current version of the ELGAs is based on environmental best management practices and honor specific areas of focus.
- The Communications and Outreach Award recognizes effective communication of conservation strategies with facility employees, golfers and other members of the community.
- The Healthy Land Stewardship Award recognizes effective strategies for efficient use of pesticides and nutrients, as well as pollution prevention.
- The Innovative Conservation Award recognizes unique and innovative strategies for conservation.
- The Natural Resource Conservation Award recognizes effective strategies for water conservation, energy conservation and sound wildlife management.
“The ELGA winners are shining examples of how golf courses superintendents are able to combine enjoyable playing conditions and sustainable practices,” said GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans. “We applaud each of you for your commitment to environmental sustainability.”
The 2022 ELGA winners include:
Communications and Outreach Award
Scott R. Bower, CGCS
Martis Camp Club
Scott R. Bower, CGCS, is the director of greens and grounds at Martis Camp Club in Truckee, Calif. The 31-year GCSAA member started at Martis Camp Club in 2005 and added general manager, Martis Camp Community, responsibilities in 2018.
Martis Camp Club is a Tom Fazio design built in 2006. It hosted the 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship and will host the 2023 U.S. Senior Amateur Championship. Bower said environmental efforts are the facilities’ first priority. He speaks to numerous agencies, community groups, and club members, while also educating staff members on the importance of forest health, land stewardship, water conservation and water quality.
“I take the approach that we can all be better, and the more we learn, the better we do,” Bower said. “With this tactic, community members and staff are eager to join the front on environmental efforts at work and at home.”
Martis Camp Club leadership communicates its environmental efforts through regular newsletters, attending community meetings, hosting community tours and increasing trail signage showcasing its environmental efforts and practices as good land stewards in and around the golf course.
First runner-up in the Communications and Outreach category is Matthew Gourlay, CGCS, MG, Colbert Hills Golf Course, Manhattan, Kan. The second runner-up is Gary Early, Salmon Run Golf Course, Brookings, Ore.
Healthy Land Stewardship Award
Justin C. Brimley
Crystal Springs Golf Course
Eleven-year GCSAA member Justin C. Brimley is in his second stint at Crystal Springs Golf Course, Burlingame, Calif., returning to the course as superintendent in October 2019.
Crystal Springs, built in 1924, sits above a watershed, which provides drinking water to the entire bay area. The 110-acre property is surrounded by native habitat and abundant wildlife. Brimley focuses on limited use of pesticides and fertilizers. He does not use a preventative chemical approach, but sprays when needed, looking for the least toxic and most minimalistic approach to managing the property.
Brimley has attempted to reduce the carbon footprint with better equipment and phasing out older, more unfriendly polluters. He has reduced nitrates and phosphorous inputs to protect the water quality, while working with vendors on using products that are environmentally sound.
The entire facility separates waste into compost, recyclables and normal waste with anything organic left to chip and compost naturally. Two solar composting bathrooms have been installed on the property to reduce waste and energy output.
Brimley has also reduced the human element in native habitat areas and corridors by roping off 15-20 acres from the public. Wildlife has started using those areas and Western Bluebird populations numbers have increased.
“Even humans and members can be key pests or key problems in native habitat corridors,” Brimley said.
First runner-up in the Healthy Land Stewardship category is Don Naumann Blackberry Farm Golf Course, Cupertino, Calif. Second runner-up is H. Mitchell Wilkerson, CGCS, Moss Creek Owner’s Association, Hilton Head, S.C.
Innovative Conservation Award
Russell F. Young, CGCS
Palm Tree Golf Course
Yigo, Guam, USA
Russell F. Young, CGCS, is a 26-year GCSAA member who has been the superintendent at Palm Tree Golf Course in Yigo, Guam, since February 2004.
Palm Tree is a military course with several holes bordering the jungle. The 250-acre property was built in a limestone forest in 1967. Among the challenges for Young are invasive fire ants, brown tree snakes and the Coconut Rhino Beetle. The beetle began to damage and kill coconut trees, which led to Young’s innovate conservation idea.
The course cut down infected trees, stacked them in a pile and covered them with Teken netting, creating a trap for the beetles. This idea has steadily been reducing the population of the beetles on the base and drew the attention of Colorado State University, which helps map and track the number of beetles caught in the traps, which number in the thousands.
Once the trees no longer attract the beetles, the decomposed material is used as compost for planting new trees. More than 250 Ironwood trees have been planted on the course in strategic areas to improve playability and aesthetics.
First runner-up in the Innovative Conservation category is Jim Pavonetti, CGCS, Fairview Country Club, Greenwich, Conn. The second runner-up is Reid Solodan, Canmore Golf and Curling Club, Canmore, Alberta, Canada
Natural Resource Conservation Award
La Cumbre Country Club
Santa Barbara, Calif.
Wayne Mills, a 38-year GCSAA member, oversees maintenance at La Cumbre Country Club, which was established in 1908 with Captain George Thomas designing the 18-hole facility.
After enormous efforts, recycled water from the city of Santa Barbara has been obtained for the golf course this year. This was extremely difficult since the golf course is not located within the city limits.
Another conservation project includes collecting irrigated runoff and pumping it to an infiltration gallery so that no irrigated runoff leaves the property. In addition, native grasses were planted, mowing heights raised and a no-spray buffer zone surrounds a 25-acre lake, which collects approximately 80 percent of the course’s drainage, aiding water quality management.
Other conservation steps on the property have included the planting of 19 acres of native pollinators, utilizing LED lighting and energy efficient appliances, and purchasing more efficient equipment for golf course operations. The native plants’ seeds are also being used as a seed bank for the local community.
First runner-up in the Natural Resource Conservation category is Landon Lindsay, Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club, Irving, Texas. Second runner-up is Ryan Cummings, Elcona Country Club, Bristol, Ind.
The four winners will be recognized during the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show, Feb. 6-9, 2023, in Orlando.
A list of previous ELGA Award winners is available at https://www.gcsaa.org/about-gcsaa/awards/environmental-leaders-in-golf-awards