We wrote to the leading 400 golf resorts in America, using our ranking of North America’s 75 Best Golf Resorts and our Best Places to Play ratings as a guide, and invited them to make their case. We asked for evidence of a comprehensive environmental program – for the golf course especially, but also the resort operation – that encompasses water use and conservation, energy use and conservation, waste disposal, pest and disease management, wildlife promotion and contribution to the local environment and community. We asked the resorts to detail their environmental policies, practices and initiatives, and how they relate to their specific local conditions, challenges and constraints, citing examples, facts and figures when possible.
We received 60 entries. These were cut by the editors of Golf Digest to a shortlist of the best 15:
Pebble Beach Resorts, Pebble Beach, Calif.
Resort at Pelican Hill, Newport Coast, Calif.
Marriott Grande Pines, Orlando, Fla.
PGA National Resort & Spa, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Orlando, Fla.
Kapalua Resort, Lahaina, Hawaii
Crystal Mountain Resort & Spa, Thompsonville, Mich.
Madden’s on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Bandon, Ore.
Sunriver Resort, Sunriver, Ore.
Kiawah Island Resort, Kiawah Island, S.C.
Barton Creek Resort & Spa, Austin, Texas
Golden Horseshoe Golf Club, Williamsburg, Va.
Kingsmill Resort & Spa, Williamsburg, Va.
The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
The applications of these 15 resorts were sent to our panel of 14 judges, who guided us throughout the entire process. The judges are: John Barton, Golf Digest; Brent Blackwelder, Friends of the Earth; Dr. Kimberly Erusha, USGA; Jay Feldman, Beyond Pesticides; Dr. Mike Hurdzan, golf course architect; Dr. Tony Koski, Colorado State University; Greg Lyman, GCSAA/Environmental Institute for Golf; Tom Mead, consultant; James Moore, USGA; Paul Parker, Center for Resource Management; Roger Schiffman, Golf Digest; James Snow, USGA; Ron Whitten, Golf Digest; Robert Wood, Environmental Protection Agency.
The judges were asked to vote for their top six of the 15 and give their reasoning, comments, questions, concerns. The leading vote-getters were visited by James Moore, director of the USGA Green Section’s Construction Education Program. He spent a day at each facility, interviewing the staff, looking at the golf course, touring the resorts, and taking copious notes. Based on his recommendations, our four Green Star winners were chosen: Barton Creek, Kiawah Island, Pebble Beach, Sunriver.
All water used to clean maintenance equipment at Barton Creek Resort is filtered through Water Stax-brand bio-remedial water-treatment units (top left), which use microbes to break down oil, grease and chemicals into harmless water and carbon dioxide. Grass clippings can serve as an organic food source to keep microbes active. The 160-yard 13th hole at Barton Creek’s Crenshaw Cliffside Course (top right) is typical of the philosophy at all four of the resort’s courses: rolling hills slashed by ravines, with tightly mowed Bermuda grass playing surfaces framed by areas of no-mow native grasses.
What looks like a robot from a sci-fi movie (bottom left) is actually an Air Cycle brand Bulb Eater, used at Kiawah Island Resort to safely dispose of fluorescent light bulbs. The Bulb Eater can gobble up an eight-foot long bulb in a second, and the residue is recycled. When Kiawah’s Ocean Course (bottom right) was built in 1991, designer Pete Dye created 22 acres of freshwater lagoons to store irrigation water pumped from underground, and he restored 80 acres of saltwater marsh around the perimeter of the course. Dye also established sea oats on his manmade sand dunes.
INNOVATION IN CALIFORNIA
Ray Von Dohren, general manager of the Carmel (Calif.) Area Wastewater District, says his massive reverse-osmosis treatment plant (bottom left), funded by Pebble Beach Resorts, is “the only one like it in the world.” The Links at Spanish Bay (bottom right), on the northern edge of the Del Monte Forest, is one of the best land-reclamation projects in all of golf. What had been a sand quarry was transformed into scenic, eco-sensitive linksland by restoring native vegetation and creating natural-looking dunes with tons of sand transported by conveyor belts.
TEAMWORK IN OREGON
Under the supervision of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Sunriver reconstructed sloughed-off banks (top left) of the Little Deschutes River, using rock and biodegradable jute. Willow cuttings were planted at different points to provide shade for trout, and boulders were deposited on the river bottom to create riffles for spawning beds. Sunriver’s latest project, the nine-hole par-3 Caldera Links (upper right), a collaborative design by architect Bob Cupp and Sunriver’s Jim Ramey, reinvigorated a blighted area of the property. New ponds and wetlands serve as a breeding ground for spotted frogs.
Complete coverage of Golf Digest's evironmental series