ACSP for Golf

About the ACSP for Golf Program

The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf is an award winning education and certification program that helps golf courses protect our environment and preserve the natural heritage of the game of golf. By helping people enhance the valuable natural areas and wildlife habitats that golf courses provide, improve efficiency, and minimize potentially harmful impacts of golf course operations, the program serves an important environmental role worldwide. Audubon International has developed Standard Environmental Management Practices that are generally applicable to all golf courses. These standards form the basis for ACSP for Golf certification guidelines.

For information about joining the
ACSP for Golf Program
Please contact Frank LaVardera at

Get Involved and Get Results

Getting involved is easy. Membership is open to golf courses in the United States and internationally, including private clubs, public and municipal courses, PGA sites, 9-hole facilities, resort courses, and golf residential communities. After joining the program, your next step is to take stock of environmental resources and potential liabilities, and then develop an environmental plan that fits your unique setting, goals, staff, budget, and time. Audubon International provides a Site Assessment and Environmental Planning Form to provide guidance, as well as educational information to help you with:

  • Environmental Planning
  • Wildlife and Habitat Management
  • Chemical Use Reduction and Safety
  • Water Conservation
  • Water Quality Management
  • Outreach and Education

Based on a site specific report provided by Audubon International, you develop a plan that works for your golf course. By implementing and documenting environmental management practices in the above areas, a golf course is eligible for designation as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, improving its stature and reputation.

Members receive A Guide to Environmental Stewardship, an attractive membership art print, a subscription to our Stewardship News newsletter, and a Certification Handbook to help you plan, organize, and document your environmental efforts. Membership also includes certification review and Audubon staff support and direct consultation via telephone, written communication, and e-mail. Site visits are available on a fee-for-service basis.

Most important, ACSP members get results. They improve environmental performance and community relations, reduce liability, save money, and contribute to the conservation of environmental resources.

Annual program membership fees are $300 (USD) for properties located in the United States and $350 (USD) for properties in all other countries.

"I ike that the program is realistic in its approach and sets achievable goals. Golf courses are not required to make significant and expensive changes to their infrastructure in order to become certified. Any course can do it simply by altering their approach to property management. By completing the site assessment and environmental plan, property managers can really see their environmental assets as well as their liabilities and from there a logical course of action takes shape."

- Darin Hull, Environmental Management Coordinator

Glen Coe Golf and Country Club

Benefits of Membership

Being a responsible environmental manager is a key part of running a successful golf course, but, if you are like many people, you may not have the time or expertise to investigate and plan environmental strategies suited to your golf course. Audubon International can help. We understand that in order for you to green your golf course it has to be done a way that greens your bottom line. Below are just a few of the ways you can do that:

As a member of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf you will receive:

  • The expertise of Audubon International’s staff
  • Step-by-step instructions to create or enhance your course sustainability effort
  • Tools for engaging and educating golfers and members about sustainability
  • Subscriptions to Stewardship News, our quarterly newsletter
  • Regular email updates with new resources
  • Fact sheets on common topics
  • Access to a network of courses facing similar issues
  • Assistance with promoting your successes

But what kind of return might you expect on that investment? In strict financial terms, some of your efforts will pay off immediately and start saving or earning you money. Other efforts will have an up-front cost, but will have a definite payback period. Others still will not be as easily measured in economic terms, but will pay off in other ways that are just as meaningful, tangible, and important.

In addition, by becoming a more sustainable golf course you can expect to see many of the following long-term results:

  • Improved Image and Reputation–Proven environmental performance can help a golf course differentiate itself from others in a crowded market and add value by improving public relations and marketing opportunities that attract new customers.
  • Customer/Employee Satisfaction-Enhancing the nature of your business can enrich customers' experience and employee attitudes.
  • Financial Performance-An effective environmental management program can result in reduced insurance premiums, as well as reduced costs for energy, water, pesticides, fertilizers, equipment wear, and labor. Read Golf’s Green Bottom Line: Uncovering the Hidden Business Value of Environmental Stewardship on Golf Courses for more information.
  • Worker Safety and Reduced Liability-Best practices for chemical management reduce exposure and liability risks associated with storing, handling, and applying chemicals.
  • Improved Efficiency-Proper environmental management cuts down on waste and promotes efficient operations.
  • Environmental Quality-The environmental management practices required for certification help golf courses to improve the quality of our land, water, and air, and to conserve natural resources for future generations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can participate in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses?

The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses is for existing golf courses that are interested in strengthening their environmental program on the golf course. Golf courses that are being planned or are under development are ineligible to join the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses and are referred to the Signature Program. Golf courses that are or will be under renovation will find better value with the Classic Program.

How do I get started?

The first step is to register the property in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses. The newly registered property will be sent a New Member Packet containing:

  • A Guide to Environmental Stewardship on the Golf Course, 2nd edition
  • Certification Handbook
  • Registration Art Print
  • Regional Ecological Community and Native Plant Information

The most important thing to remember about the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses is that it is first and foremost an education program. You will be provided with educational materials and have access to Audubon International staff to help you prioritize, organize, and maximize your environmental efforts.

What are the certification standards for the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses?

The Certification Handbook guides members through conducting a site assessment, developing an environmental plan, and documenting that the plan has been put into place. The six environmental categories are:

  • Environmental Planning
  • Wildlife and Habitat Management
  • Water Conservation
  • Chemical Use Reduction and Safety
  • Water Quality Management
  • Outreach and Education

What kind of documentation do we need for the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses?

The Certification Handbook has been carefully designed to provide a planning and education tool for the member that also provides Audubon International with the information needed to evaluate the golf course environmental program as well as provide recommendations for further improvement. Audubon International is a firm believer that you manage what you measure, so there are a number of backup requirements for the program. They include:

  • Photographs
  • Labeled Map of the Golf Course
  • Integrated Pest Management Records
  • Water Quality Test Results
  • Wildlife Inventory
  • Samples of Educational Materials

If required information is missing or management practices are not in place, Audubon International places a “pending” status on the certification request. This enables the member to provide the needed documentation or further develop its management strategies.

How long does certification take?

Most organizations achieve certification within one to three years, depending on how quickly they plan, organize, implement, and document their environmental practices. The process is not one to three years’ worth of work, but planning and documentation are often incorporated into the maintenance schedule over time. The fastest a golf course has been designated as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary from the time that the course was registered in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses was six months.

How does Audubon International verify that the member is meeting certification standards?

Members provide Audubon International with completed Certification Request Forms from the Certification Handbook as well as supplemental backup documentation. During the time that the member works through the six certification categories, a relationship is developed between the member and Audubon International staff.

Program members also must create a Resource Advisory Group including staff, golfers, and local experts, such as university and extension personnel, watershed and environmental organization representatives, and government representatives. When questions arise, Audubon International has reached out to Resource Advisory Group members for further clarification.

The final step for certification is a site visit by an Audubon International staff member to document that certification standards have been met. The certification visit is an opportunity for program members to share what they have accomplished with Audubon International. A final determination regarding certification is made by Audubon International staff once the Certification Visit is complete. 

Recertification is required every three years to ensure that members continue to uphold certification standards. The recertification process alternates and requires a Backup Documentation\Case Study recertification after the initial three years, and then a Site Visit recertification following the next three-year period to confirm that the more visual aspects of the program are in place. This process then repeats in the ensuing years. Members that do not submit the appropriate documentation or have a site visit conducted are no longer meeting program requirements are decertified.

ACSP for Golf - Success Stories

We are proud of our certified members accomplishments and have highlighted their stories! Browse the featured ACSP for Golf success stories by clicking on the link below to learn about the incredibly diverse environmental stewardship projects and activities that take place at Audubon International Certified Communities.

To see your success story featured here, please send an email and an overview of your story to Kat Findlay.