Ready to Say Aloha to Green Fairways and Island Time?

As our travel opportunities grow this fall and summer, don’t forget to include trips to environmentally sustainable golf courses on your list. Golf Courses filter storm water runoff, offer outdoor recreation and provide green spaces and wildlife habitat in urban and rural areas. Audubon International is proud to environmentally certify over 800 golf courses around the world… 3 of which are located in Hawaii and are a mix of either private or public access. Say Aloha to sustainable success!

Kohanaiki – Private Access

To get us started, we’re taking a look at Audubon International Signature Sanctuary Certified Golf Course, Kohanaiki. An 18-hole Rees Jones designed private golf club located on the Big Island that is doing big things for a local endangered species. Kohanaiki has been an Audubon International member since 2004 when they began their certification efforts to ensure sustainable design, construction and management of the golf course.

Since opening in 2013, the maintenance crew at Kohanaiki continues to look after the environment on and around the golf course. This includes not only the 18-hole course, but also includes over 200 anchialine pools (landlocked, tidal fed pools). These pools provide homes and nesting areas to many organisms, one of which happens to be the endangered bird, the Hawaiian black-necked stilt, also known as the Ae‘o.

According to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Ae‘o population was down to roughly 1,000 individuals in the 1940’s. The species was then listed as endangered in 1970 and the population today is estimated to be between 1200 – 1500 individuals. Kohanaiki Golf Course is contributing to this population growth by providing adequate habitat, and proudly confirmed 7 Hawaiian Stilt fledglings in 2020.

“Kohanaiki is proud to be certified as a Silver Signature Program golf course with Audubon International since 2014.  Audubon International has been an instrumental partner in supporting our vision to “Love The Land, The Ocean, and The People of Kohanaiki”.  Our team strongly believes that our mission is to protect the natural resources of our land before taking on the added responsibility of maintaining our world class golf course.  Our property sits adjacent to a mile and a half of Kona Coastline and is thoughtfully designed around a collection of over 200 anchialine ponds that provide habitat for native plants, marine life, and water birds.  It’s a unique pleasure for our team to be able work on the golf course, visually observe the habitat around them thriving, and then be able to feel gratified as individuals for our hard work as stewards of the land.” – Luke Bennett, Director of Golf Course Maintenance & Grounds, Kohanaiki

Kapalua Plantation & Bay Course – Public Access

Perhaps you watched the PGA Sentry Tournament in January at the world renowned Kapalua Plantation Course…or over the years have seen one of over 20 tournaments that have been hosted at Kapalua’s Bay Course, including the LPGA Kapalua Classic in 2008…Did you know you can play these courses too?

Both Kapalua’s Plantation Course, designed by Coore and Crenshaw, and the Bay Course, designed by Arnold Palmer and Francis Duane are certified members in our Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Certification for Golf.

Through this certification, both of the courses continuously improve sustainability across existing golf course infrastructure throughout numerous focal areas. If you’re lucky enough to get to Hawaii and play at Kapalua be sure to notice the environmental efforts in place which include naturalized, out-of-play shorelines (to increase run off filtration and provide varying vegetation heights for wildlife), the native plant garden at the Bay Course, or grab one of the educational materials from the clubhouse!

All three of these certified courses continuously work to protect and enhance the environment on and around the course. If you’re interested in doing the same at your local golf course, community, or business; please visit

Audubon International, an environmentally focused non-profit organization, offers members numerous certifications and conservation initiatives to protect the areas where we live, work, and play. Their certifications are designed to increase environmental awareness, encourage sustainable environmental efforts, and educate both their members and their communities.

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