NARRAGANSETT—As spring approaches, golf course maintenance crews rise early to tend to the landscaped environment. Point Judith Country Club (PJCC) in Narragansett will begin the same process with new vigor after being recognized through the Department of Environmental Management (DEM)’s Rhode Island Golf Course Green Certification Program as a leader of environmental stewardship and sustainability.
PJCC was one of five golf courses across the state who were awarded ‘Green’ certification. The program began in 2010 and has been designed to promote the reduction of water and chemical fertilizer usage on golf courses, as well as a number of other conservation practices. The DEM program is co-sponsored by the Coastal Resources Management Council and the Rhode Island Golf Course Superintendents Association.
“We want to provide the best conditions with the least amount of inputs, which produces the best golf,” said Brett Johnson, Grounds Maintenance Superintendent at PJCC.
Johnson, who has served as PJCC’s Superintendent for one year, presides over a comprehensive monitoring system which outlines daily water usage, preventing overwatering and chemical run-off.
“We can program our system to put in only the water that was lost in one day,” said Johnson. “That gives us more control and better reduces water usage, improving the golf course’s playability.”
“We are just really monitoring our water more than in the past,” he added. “Last year, we didn’t but any water from Narragansett, so we are trying to be self-sustainable with the water we have on the property. We are trying to get away from [using town water] because water will become a much tougher resource in the future.”
Approximately 700 sprinklers are installed throughout the 18-hole course, and the water is recycled through a complex system located at PJCC’s Maintenance Center.
“We have a closed-loop wash system at PJCC which is state-of-the-art,” said Johnson. The water, which is constantly recycled, is fed in and microbes clean it. [This system], which is not cheap to build, shows PJCC’s commitment to environmental sustainability.”
PJCC, which was originally constructed in 1895, was also recognized for its efforts in improving habitats along the buffer zones of its ponds. Johnson noted that PJCC has focused on cultivating native plants on the golf course, which lessen water consumption and the need for chemical fertilizers.
“We are looking at more areas in the golf course to convert to native grasses, so we don’t have to water and fertilize it, further reducing water usage,” said Johnson. “The weather station we have gauges moisture levels in the soil before we go and water anything. We are also trying to use more organically based fertilizers as well.”
Although residents may not realize the intensive work which Johnson and his grounds crew put into the golf course environment, providing a pristine and playable product for PJCC’s members requires daily attention.
“There is a lot more monitoring than people think,” said Johnson. “People think we just mow and water. There are a lot of soil-types and the weather to watch, and we use as little fertilizer as possible. Another misconception is that green is good, but golf courses play better when they are firmer, dryer, and have a little brown to them.”
“We used probably 10 percent less water than last year in the use of the water gauges and looking at the weather more closely,” he added. “[The certification] sends a good message to the public, reduces our costs for operating, and helps to support the local economy.”
“I was the Superintendent at the International Golf Course in Bolton, Massachusetts, for 11 years, and [PJCC] is exceptional with environmental sustainability, from what I have seen,” he added. “Every year we will try to do things to update the golf course, hoping to have as little outside input as we can.”
DEM provides golf courses across the state with training materials for self-certification, as well as a comprehensive list for sustainable environmental practices. The workbook outlines potential activities for water conservation and quality management, habitat and waste management, and the reduction of chemical usages. With the workbooks, golf course superintendents assessed their operations according to DEM’s checklist.
“DEM is very pleased to be working hand in hand with Rhode Island’s golf superintendents to help the environment,” said DEM Director Janet Coit.
“Employing sustainable practices in their operations can reduce a facility’s environmental impact and its costs. They are showing the way when it comes to being responsible corporate citizens.”
PJCC also purchases locally grown and harvested products, providing its members with produce and seafood that, in turn, helps to stimulate the local economy.
We have also eliminated styrofoam take out containers and use biodegradable paper goods throughout the facility.”
“Our menu is based more on a healthy preparation theme utilizing organic micro greens, artesian cheeses, locally baked breads,” he added.
“The membership have been wonderfully supportive of our efforts and it seems as though the staff and membership keep coming up with new ways to make us “green’”.