Earth Day Special: 5 Golf Courses That Go for the Green

These beautiful courses and resorts score a hole-in-one for sustainability.

Spyglass Hill Golf Course at Pebble Beach Resorts, Pebble Beach, Calif. Photo Credit:Pebble Beach Resorts

With Earth Day 2019 (April 22) around the corner and the PGA Championship (May 16-19) shortly thereafter, we've got green golf courses on our mind. Indeed, a major trend in golf courses and resorts these days is providing golfers at all levels with a more natural experience. 

Hundreds of golf destinations across the U.S. are designated as environmental sanctuaries. They limit pesticides, protect habitats, and institute green initiatives such as solar-powered carts and geothermal clubhouses.  

The following five courses are not only up to par for meetings, groups and incentive programs, they also earn our gratitude for "greening" the golf scene. 

1. Vineyard Golf Club, Edgartown, Massachusetts

Sitting on 235 preserved acres on Martha’s Vineyard, the Vineyard Golf Club prides itself on a maintenance operation that's completely organic. Ergo, the club follows a strict, no-pesticide policy. Conventional pesticides have been replaced with bio-stimulants and composted fertilizers. Nitrogen is used to make the turf hardy and increase the growth rate, and a daily "whipping" of the fairways in the morning removes moisture and prevents mildew. The club's course is dubbed "America's only truly organic golf course."

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2. Saucon Valley Country Club, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

One hour north of Philadelphia, Saucon Valley features three highly regarded regulation courses as well as a six-hole short course. Members of the club have formed the Saucon Sanctuary Committee, which oversees all the environmental initiatives at the property, like the recent restoration of the creek that runs through it. One of the biggest innovations here has been the GPS mapping of soil samples for a prescription application of fertilizer that saves $15,000 and hundreds of pounds of foreign inputs per year. Accordingly, Saucon has been named an Environmental Leader in the Golf National Private and Overall Awards.

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3. Westchester Country Club, Rye, New York

The defining element at the Westchester Country Club used to be a smokestack spewing black emissions into the air to heat and cool the meetings-accessible clubhouse. No longer. A $3.5 million geothermal heating and cooling system replaced that structure in the early 2000s. The reduced carbon footprint is evident on the course, too, where much of the area now grows wild. Holding ponds have been enlarged to capture rainwater for irrigation, and algae-eating fish have replaced chemical treatments that used toxic substances like copper. Likewise, adding a series of birdhouses to the terrain have helped the golf course restore its population of bluebirds, which had been close to extinction.

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4. Pebble Beach Golf Lnks, Pebble Beach, California

Home to native forests and miles of coastline, Pebble Beach Resorts says that it is committed to the protection of its natural setting. The resort (made up of three hotels: The Lodge at Pebble Beach, The Inn at Spanish Bay and Casa Palermo) irrigates its fairways and greens with high-quality recycled water, uses organic and slow-release fertilizers, pulls a majority of area weeds by hand and employs integrated pest management techniques to reduce the need for chemical applications.

The complex also annually recycles more than 6.5 million pounds of plastic, glass and cardboard. On-site restaurants compost food scraps year round. All of Pebble Beach's green waste is composed for use in Del Monte Forest. The property also maintains more than 1,000 acres of natural open space and plants thousands of native plants and trees each year.

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5. Old Corkscrew Golf Club, Estero, Florida

Natural lands, lakes and wetlands make up most of this 275-acre golf course, located on Florida's southwest coast. While the county required 17 acres of preserved conservation areas in order for the golf course to operate, the club took the initiative and preserved more than 40 acres. The green is abundant with re-vegetated sections and teeing areas graced with 300,000 native plants. Old Corkscrew is certified as an Audubon International Silver Signature Sanctuary.

Meeting hotels near Old Corkscrew Golf Club: