By Luke Knutson, Rockville Links Club
One of the main reasons people love to play golf is the enjoyment of the outdoors and nature. Many golf course superintendents share the same satisfaction as they go about their day-to-day duties. As superintendents steward some of the most prized greenspace in the Tri-State area, environmental conservation and sustainability stand paramount to the golf courses we maintain.
Golf courses receive a lot of attention for their application of chemicals-particularly insecticides and their impact on pollinators. Much of the attention is ill contrived and misconceived and can be easily mitigated by making applications in accordance with best management practices. In an effort to promote pollinators on the golf course, many superintendents have begun modifying areas of their golf course for the enhancement of pollinator populations.
One of the biggest trends in pollinator promotion by golf courses is the institution and upkeep of beehives on the golf course. Superintendents find it beneficial and rewarding to maintain beehives and produce honey from the hives. Additionally, performing pollen catch studies can help create a better understanding on effects of chemical applications to the activity of honeybees, which can travel miles from their hives and back. Having the ability to maintain bee populations with hives on-site allows researchers to learn more about bees' behavior when they travel around the golf course and into residential areas, where they may encounter a chemical that potentially has a negative effect on their behavior.
Another growing trend is the establishment of wildflowers in out-of-play areas. Wildflowers not only provide pollen for beehives instituted on the golf courses, but they provide pollen to native bees and other pollinators such as butterflies and birds. Populations of native pollinators can multiply rapidly when there is a constant available food source. Wildflower introduction to out-of-play areas serves as this food source. Fescue areas can be equally important because they provide nesting sites for many native bees and other pollinators.
Much in the same way that newly converted fescue areas take time to germinate and establish, newly seeded wildflower areas take time, patience, and an understanding by golfers of the intended goal and benefits. Once these areas do establish and bloom, they are a beautiful addition and contrast to the golf course. They provide even more benefits to native pollinators if they are full of native flowers and trees. The addition of native perennials for landscaped areas on the golf courses and around the clubhouse can also provide pollinators with an annual food source.
Golf courses are some of the largest and most vaunted greenspaces in the metropolitan area. All kinds of wildlife call our properties home and pollinator promotion continues to be a rising focus for environmental conservation and stewardship on the golf course. Many golf courses already have implemented these areas and many more are encouraged to do so to benefit nature and wildlife. Superintendents will continue to be proactive in their efforts because just as you, the golfer, love being outdoor and playing the game of golf, we love the greenspace we manage and wildlife that inhabits it.