MARQUETTE - A golf course would seem to take a lot of work and resources to maintain, from irrigation to mowing to fertilizers. The Northern Michigan University Golf Course is making sure that work doesn't negatively impact the surrounding environment.
"First and foremost, it's really the right thing to do," said Glen Rochester, golf course manager. "You want to leave this (the earth) in better condition than we found it."
Following some of the university's overall goals of sustainability, Rochester said the golf course has been implementing more environmentally-friendly practices.
The fertilizer that the golf course uses is phosphate free to prevent contaminating the soil and water. The fertilizer is slow releasing which allows the course to only use in once per season. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
To use water more efficiently, Rochester said the course has installed a new irrigation system, which can be turned on or off in specific areas depending on what those areas need. Instead of watering an already low or marshy area, each sprinkler can be managed individually instead of having the entire system turned on at once. The new system has already cut energy costs by about 20 percent, although water savings wont be known until the end of the year, Rochester said.
A second goal of the golf course is to protect the surrounding water quality, which Rochester said is being accomplished through the use of phosphorus-free fertilizers since last year. In addition, the course has also switched to using soy-based oils and greases instead of petroleum-based products in mowers and other machinery. The course also uses soy-based tile cleaners, wood sealers and hand sanitizers.
"We're constantly looking for applications that will work for us," Rochester said.
Although the course itself provides a green space for the surrounding area, Rochester said the course also worked to make that space a natural area.
"One of our goals is to protect wildlife and plant species," he said.
Using native plant species and drought-resistant turf allows the course to preserve the natural habitat and cut down on its water use. The course has also stopped mowing areas not used for play, providing a wildlife corridor and cutting down on resources used for mowing.
"A big part of a golf course is to provide green space benefits," Rochester said.
This year the course will also be working with NMU to conduct energy assessments of the entire course's operations, with the objective of reducing overall electrical use.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.