Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Golf Environment Organization (GEO)

The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay is very proud of our affiliations with different environmental and golf entities around the world as we feel that the more knowledge you have, and/or the more knowledgeable people you know, the better equipped you are to do the job properly.  Our golf course has had a long working relationship with organizations such as Audubon International, The Groundwater Foundation, the Environmental Institute for Golf, and the USGA Green Section.

Jacobsen President Mr. David Withers and
TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau with our GEO
certification presentation
In an effort to broaden our knowledge base on what we can do to continue to lessen our impact on the environment we recently became involved with the premier environmental organization in Europe known as the Golf Environment Organization or GEO.  GEO serves a multitude of countries outside of the United States setting the benchmark for environmental stewardship and consciousness. Our involvement with GEO has evolved over the past couple of years and we were thrilled to gain our GEO Certified status on April 22, 2014 at our Earth Day 2014 Event presented by Jacobsen.

As with most things that mean something certification with GEO is not something that is easily achieved, but that is not to say that it can not be done or should not be sought after.  It took us about two years to complete our certification but we have had a few projects going on during that time.  The thing that I like about the GEO certification process is that they look not only at what you are doing now but how have you changed your operation practices over a period of time.  This allows you to see if you have changed and are just treading water or have you changed your practices and continue to make improvements.  The certification process is broken into six different categories; Nature, Water, Energy, Supply Chain, Pollution Control, and Community.

The "Nature" section of the certification, as you can guess, deals with how the golf course interacts with the natural surroundings and inhabitants of the golf course.  What are we doing to enhance the property for the benefit of the environment?  What changes in our management practices and policies have we made to lessen our impact on the environment and the surrounding?  What environmental programs or practices have we put in place to create sustainable and suitable habitat for wildlife?
One of the many wildlife inhabitants of our course

The content of our Nature certification section can be viewed here

The "Water" section of the certification deals with how we are managing the water utilized on our golf course, as well as, how we are protecting the water supplies and sources around the golf course.  What practices or policies have we put in place to limit the amount of water we are using?  What steps have we made to limit the amount of irrigated acreage on our golf course?  Have we selected the proper turfgrass species for our climate and water supply?  What steps have we taken to protect the water around and flowing through our golf course from pesticide, fertilizer, or soil particle contamination?
Converting our greens irrigation from full circle to part circle
heads has reduced our usage of irrigation to water greens

The content of our Water certification section can be viewed here

The "Energy" section of the certification deals with the steps we have taken to reduce the amount of energy we are consuming at the golf course.  This is not only concerned with electricity but also gasoline and diesel fuels.  What practices have we changed to limit the amount of fuel used on the golf course?  Have we implemented a recycling program at the course?  Are we using energy efficient fixtures and appliances?

A view of one of our fully electric Jacobsen Eclipse 322
battery configuration

The content of our Energy certification section can be viewed here

The "Supply Chain" section of the certification deals with our use of products and companies which also hold an environmental friendly mindset along with how we are choosing our chemicals and fertilizers to better protect the environment.  Have we changed our purchasing practices to purchase more local products to reduce the amount of fuel used for delivery?  Are we using more organic products or are we limiting the amount and number of chemicals and fertilizers used on the course?  How are we managing our soil structure and moisture content to provide a more healthy turf which will require less chemicals and inputs?

Proper equipment like the Toro ProCore 648 allows us to
properly maintain our soil structure for better turf

The content of our Supply Chain certification section can be viewed here

The "Pollution Control" section of the certification deals with how we are protecting the environment from direct or accidental contamination from fuel, chemicals, fertilizer, or other substances.  Have we created vegetative buffer strips around our water ways to protect them?  Are we mixing our chemicals and fertilizers on impervious surfaces? Are we storing our chemicals, fertilizers, and oil products in a safe and secure manner?
Vegetative buffer strips around all of our waterways helps
to protect the surface water from contamination

The content for our Pollution Control certification section can be viewed here

The "Community" section of the certification covers how we are involving and including our community in our environmental programs and practices.  How are we communicating our environmental activities and programs to the general public?  Are we reaching out to include the public in our projects and our property with the hopes that they will implement some of our programs on their property?  How are we promoting our environmental programs with the media to help improve the image of the golf course industry?  How are we making sure that the general public views the golf course as a positive entity within the community rather than a negative environmental polluter?  

Members of the Friends of Harrison Bay State Park who
monitor our eastern blue bird houses

The content of our Community certification section can be viewed here

Our certification process was very enlightening and educational.  We had the pleasure of working with Mr. J. Russell Bodie, M.A. of The Smart Group as he was assigned to carry out our GEO onsite verification.  Mr. Bodie was great to work with and his Verification Report can be viewed here

It is an honor for us to be included in the current group of only six golf courses in the United States which are GEO Certified.  The other courses are Broken Sound Club of Boca Raton, FloridaHighlands Country Club of Highlands, North CarolinaMirimichi of Millington, TennesseeThe Ritz Carlton Golf Club of Orlando, Florida, and The Venice Golf and Country Club of Venice, Florida.

Environmental promotion and protection is important and can be very enjoyable.  We hope that each course will institute some environmental programs or practices in their operating standards.  Working with organizations such as Golf Environment Organization makes the process that much more enjoyable and easier.  Utilizing these environmental organizations for their knowledge and inputs can give you ideas and methods to improve your course, as they have ours.

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