Being environmentally-conscious is a cornerstone of the IGM golf course maintenance business model, and participating in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf is a natural fit. IGM Vice President of Operations Steve Gano points out the company’s professional background is in agronomics. “IGM is extremely sensitive to concerns about fertilizers and pesticides used on golf courses. We’ve studied agricultural sciences, and we base many maintenance decisions on the environmental impact of our maintenance practices.”
Sandridge Golf Club in Vero Beach, FL, originally received certification from the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf in 1999 under the guidance of IGM. At the time, it was the 26th course in Florida and 191st in the world to achieve the distinction. Sandridge, with two 18-hole championship courses called Lakes and Dunes, has been recertified every three years.
When asked about Sandridge’s Audubon standing, the club’s Director of Golf, Bela Nagy, says “We want to be ahead of the curve in Florida, to be leaders when it comes to golf courses.” Nagy notes his club’s great relationship with IGM for many years is a significant factor in remaining a leader. “I ride with both superintendents every week. We make plans and check things off our lists. We’re always looking to make both courses better.”
IGM superintendents, Ryan Duffell at the Dunes course, and Chuck Calhoun at the Lakes course, explain several significant factors in Sandridge Golf Club’s environmental program:
• Aquatic plantings – “Maintaining plants that grow in the water is a continual task. Part of their purpose is for aesthetics, but the main reason is the plants catch run-off from fertilizers and provide a habitat for wildlife,” says Duffell. “In addition to plants in the water, we build plant buffers around the lakes. We try to keep weeds out, but we don’t mow down to the water’s edge. It helps to keep the water clean.”
• Native plant surroundings – “We spend a tremendous amount of time removing non-native plants, primarily Brazilian Pepper trees, which can take over the native plantings,” says Calhoun. “Native plants also open up nesting areas for local wildlife.”
• Protected wildlife habitats – With native plant life and no surrounding homes at Sandridge Golf Club, IGM minimizes disruption to Florida wildlife that inhabit the area. “We mark off some areas to protect the wildlife from golfers, and we do a lot of education with our employees on respecting habitats,” notes Calhoun. The golf courses see gopher turtles, scrub jays, alligators, bobcats, and snakes, but none have been aggressive or presented danger to golfers, according to Duffell.
• State of the art irrigation systems to conserve water – “The golf courses’ original irrigation system had sprinklers that threw water beyond the turfgrass, which used excess water and fostered weeds. IGM recommended an upgrade, and within the past four years, both the Dunes and Lakes courses installed new irrigation systems,” explains Duffell. Weather stations communicate directly with computerized irrigation controls to minimize water use. “Sprinkler heads are now focused on the holes to throw water on the turf. In addition, each sprinkler head can operate individually in zones, putting water exactly where needed and preventing over-watering.”
• Environmentally friendly fertilization practices using fertigation – “Fertigation is liquid fertilizer, that allows us to put out small amounts every night. Traditional fertilizer must be mixed and bagged, but fertigation allows us to cut the amount that is applied at one time eliminating the risk of runoff,” says Duffell. Both superintendents appreciate that IGM is sensitive to the types and quantity of fertilization and pest control chemicals used.
Duffell states, “Aesthetics and playability are top priorities for IGM, balanced with environmentalism.” Calhoun adds that being environmentally sensitive is “all a circle. It’s not just one thing, so you have to keep every action in perspective.”
IGM has golf course maintenance contracts in various regions of the country, so they have demonstrated expertise in managing different climate, seasonal, and water conditions. As Gano says, “Golf courses are – or should be – beautiful, natural environments, and many of us are in the business because of our love for the outdoors and agriculture.”
IGM is a leading contractor for comprehensive golf course maintenance and management, known for environmental stewardship and agronomic expertise. For more information on IGM and the professional golf course services offered, please contact Greg Plotner, Executive Vice President, 407-589-7200. Additional information may be obtained by visiting IGM’s website at golfmaintenance.com.