Friday, April 7, 2017

BLOG: BMPs - An Industry's Response

by William Bieck, Heritage Hills Golf Course

“When disagreement or conflict is imminent, it’s better to be proactive than reactive.” 

This is an often used statement that recognizes it is better to correct problems before they exacerbate into a more difficult dilemma. It is easy for Golf Course Superintendents in the turf industry to discuss, debate, and share stories of new regulatory policies and the difficulties and costs to achieve compliance. But, when we “speak to the choir” amongst ourselves, we are not communicating to those who really decide our fate. Superintendents and the golf industry do not legislate...the government does.

This fact alone should compel those dependent on the golf industry or other industry that is under heightened scrutiny to share their strategies and positive environmental stories to those outside their circle of influence. I have been a golf superintendent for over 42 years and consider myself a strong advocate for environmental stewardship. As an industry, I have seen the Golf Course Superintendent’s Association of America (GCSAA) support its members with unlimited access to educational resources pertaining to environmental protection, conservation, and research. The golf industry has responded very positively to water issues. Over the past several decades, turfgrasses have been developed that can tolerate drought or poor-quality water. Technology advancements in irrigation equipment have greatly improved irrigation efficiency and uniformity resulting in less water use. Still, even with all these efforts to protect and sustain our environment, the golf course industry is commonly perceived to be a significant source of pollution and bad for the environment. These comments are simply not true and this perception needs to change in order to improve golf’s image.

In response, the GCSAA is increasing their emphasis not only to educate its members to the importance of responsible and sustainable stewardship, but to also share golf’s positive environmental stories with everyone, including detractors. 

BMPs, Best Management Practices, are the adoption of science-based agronomic practices that support proactive environmental stewardship. BMPs are a tool that will demonstrate to legislators, regulators and consumers the environmental policies that will augment trust and credibility into our management programs. BMP programs help superintendents manage golf facilities in an efficient manner while providing quality playing surfaces and protecting the environment. They also enable the golf course facility to operate where regulatory pressures exist, and they offer the industry a significant platform for advocacy, education, recognition, and demonstration of professional land management.

GCSAA has also recently launched an aggressive initiative of offering a BMP Planning Guide and Template to its state chapters to help develop and customize fundamental BMPs according to each state’s needs and requirements. It is the goal of the GCSAA to establish BMPs in all 50 states by 2020, a lofty goal that illustrates a sincere commitment to environmental improvement.

Credit: GCSAA

BMPs will address the many facets of golf course management. They are the method or techniques found to be the most effective and practical means of achieving an objective, such as preventing water pollution or reducing pesticide usage. Topics will include wellhead protection, irrigation efficiency, wetland protection, nutrient management, pesticide management, and surface and groundwater monitoring, conservation and protection.

Credit: GCSAA

Why use BMPs as a format to persuade golf’s detractors, environmental activists, and policy makers?  BMPs are the shared language recognized by regulators, conservationists, engineers and others as a means to driving improvements. It is important to note that BMPs are recognized in federal and state TMDL (total maximum daily load) policy as a major component of water quality improvement plans.

Credit: GCSAA

By implementing these practices, each facility will demonstrate to state regulatory agencies that their management practices are science-based and environmentally sound. By allowing governmental regulatory and compliance agencies to be involved in drafting these BMPs the industry has encouraged an open dialogue leading to positive changes that can have a significant impact on TMDLs and other measurable components. The end result of a successful BMP will be a healthy golf facility and a management plan that supports environmental improvement.

BMPs are the response of the golf industry to achieve a greater legitimacy and credibility. Many facilities will implement BMP approaches not just in reaction to mandated regulations, but as a proactive environmental stewardship business policy, that is, the best operations strategy for sustainability of the environment and the golf business.

William K. Bieck, CGCS, is the Course Operations Manager for Heritage Hills Golf Course in McCook, Nebraska. Heritage Hills was one of the pilot sites participating in the Groundwater Guardian Green Site program, and has been designated every year since. Reach Bill at

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