The biggest trend in the meetings industry is environmental watchfulness. Green is big, and for companies that are building sustainability practices into their meetings and events, golf outings may be questioned. Courses have a reputation for overuse of pesticides, fertilizers, and water resources to keep fairways and greens in pristine condition, and environmentalists have long criticized courses for their destruction of wildlife habitats.
While golf might never be the greenest sport, planners can take heart. Course managers have shown a growing interest in water management, preservation of wildlife and habitats, recycling, and energy conservation. One example is the launch of the Environmental Institute for Golf in 2003 to create standards for course design, construction, and management, and other environmental initiatives.
The sport has also seen some green press with the decision of professional golfer Justin Rose to offset the carbon emissions for his entourage's travel on the 2008 pro tour and last month's Beyond the Lights Celebrity Golf Classic in Austin, Texas, which offset all carbon emissions from the event.
And many individual courses are taking environmental concerns seriously, such as the renowned courses at the Fairmont St. Andrews in Scotland, where a water management program has been in place since 2001. Irrigation is designed to keep the grasses alive and healthy but not lush, according to the resort.
For planners in search of an environmentally soundsite, one of the best resources is the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses, a certification program that recognizes existing courses for implementing and documenting environmental management programs. The organization also offers Audubon Signature Programs that help new courses with environmental planning and management.
The list of ACSP-certified courses is dominated by country clubs and public courses, but some resorts have gotten in on the act as well.
In fact, in March, Marriott Golf, a division of Marriott International, announced a new mandate requiring 34 of its managed golf courses in North America and the Caribbean to be Audubon-certified by the end of this year.
Here's a sampling of resorts that have earned the ACSP certification. For the full list, organized by state, go to www.auduboninternational.org and click on “programs.”
- Kingsmill Resort, Williamsburg, Va.
- Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort, San Antonio
- Amelia Island Plantation, Amelia Island, Fla.
- The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, Colo.
- Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort, Stone Mountain, Ga.
- Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Kiawah Island, S.C.
- Barton Creek Resort, Austin, Texas
- Fairmont Southampton, Bermuda
- The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
Two words: Seashore Paspalum.
That's a type of grass that can actually be irrigated with saltwater. Effluent works, too, and that means major water conservation in areas that can't afford to have fresh water diverted to keep fairways lush. If your meetings are going green, get your golf green, too. Ask questions about irrigation, maintenance, and new grass varieties. Another benefit of Seashore Paspalum: Salt can be used for killing weeds rather than chemicals. And experts give it high marks for playability, tee to green.