Justin Timberlake’s Mirimichi course in Millington, Tennessee, is the first in the U.S. to earn both GEO and Audubon International certification.
The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses maintains a roster of about 900 courses globally that are considered environmentally friendly.
Timberlake and his family bought the property, then the Big Creek Golf Course, in 2007 to save it from residential development, according to a press release from Mirimichi. In 2009 it was reopened as a sustainable course.
Highlights include native species reintroduction efforts and habitat improvements. Russell DeMotsis, Mirimichi’s horticulturalist and environmental specialist, concentrates on species that are naturally found in southwestern Tennessee. “When you introduce natives, they require very little, if any, fertilizers, pruning, and maintenance,” DeMotsis explains. “What I have found is that if I try to fertilize natives, I’m actually hurting them.”
Constructed and natural wetlands and retention ponds attract native cattails and bald cypress and a whole suite of wildlife. “Most golf courses are trying to get rid of wildlife, because they destroy everything; I’m trying to bring it in,” DeMotsis says, adding that if the habitat is good enough, the wildlife will stay in the rough or wetland areas and off the fairway, green, and tees. (The only problem he’s run into, he says, is beavers building dams that flood sections of the course.)
The greens and fairway grasses—Champion Bermuda and Mississippi Express—may not be native, but are highly engineered to be a bit more resistant to drought, explains DeMotsis.
“It is still a golf course so you have to meet the golfers halfway; that is the bread and butter,” he says.
While the upfront costs may have been a bit higher, more than 100 acres of turf has been converted to native grasslands, and the maintenance crew for the 300-acre site is down to one.
Tasha Eichenseher (source – National Geographic – “National Geographic News series on global water issues.“