Caring For Our Environment


Our Environmental Initiatives Are
A Daily Concern

By Tim Webb
Sunningdale Golf
Course Superintendent



We are working closely with the Audubon society to make Sunningdale as environmentally friendly as we can.  They have special recommendations for environmental stewardship on golf courses, and we are proud to say that we have been recognized by Audubon as a fully Certified Sanctuary for Wildlife (see the separate page on Audubon in the menu at left).  “We welcome Sunningdale’s commitment to the environment and to managing the golf course with wildlife in mind”, said Scott Martin, National Director of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System of Canada.


Living In Harmony With Wildlife and Nature

We want to maintain the course in as environmentally friendly a way as possible, and as well, encourage development of nature in all it’s animal and floral forms as part of the unique beauty that is Sunningdale … truly a walk in the park.

  1. We are allowing the grass to grow longer in unused areas … in fact we will leave much uncut between certain fairways.  This has a number of positive environmental benefits:
    1. Less energy/fuel etc. used to cut
    2. Less fertilizer/pesticides needed to keep it ‘green’
    3. No watering is needed - it just grows naturally
    4. Provides a natural shelter for small animals, such as mice and rabbits
      Long Grasses Off Fairway

  2. Where possible we allow dead trees to remain and if they fall, leave them where they lie, if it is not impacting play or safety:
    1. Provides natural home for songbirds such as Nut Hatches, Robins, Finches and Woodpeckers.
    2. Shelter for small woodland animals, rodents, and coyotes.
      Natural Brush Shelter for Birds
  3. It’s simply a fact of golf that, to maintain fairways and greens in the manner that golfers expect, special fertilizers and pesticides must be used.  It is not natural for grasses to be cut so short.  Even the special turf grasses are always in a ‘stress’ situation given the frequent cutting and manicuring required:
    1. Fertilizers and pesticides are being used in much more exacting amounts, and those used are the most recent developments in environmental friendliness.
    2. They can be applied at much smaller rates, and last longer.
    3. Neither is used near any water, whether it be streams, the creek, or ponds.
    4. The irrigation system is not used to deliver fertilizers or pesticides. Mechanical and hand application is specifically controlled on an as needed basis.
  4. Our new irrigation system allows watering to be done properly and on an as needed basis on tee decks, fairways, and greens.
    1. Our system has the eventual capability of actually sensing the moisture content in the soils and programming the appropriate watering.
    2. It even allows us the flexibility to ‘cool’ the greens periodically on hot days by manually ‘popping up’ specific sprinkler heads and spraying a mist over the greens to keep the grass from burning during the intense heat of the mid day sun.
    3. The large holding pond is fed both naturally from ground water, and from the stream when necessary.
      Full-length Grass Around Pond Bank

  5. We’re extremely careful around all our water sources:
    1. Mechanical and groundwork around the ponds is limited.
    2. Long grasses are allowed to grow along the banks, which not only collect and filter run-off, they provide shelter for small aquatic animals, as well as discouraging too many Canada Geese (they can’t see potential predators).
    3. We try not to remove trees along water’s edge or banks. Trees provide shade, which regulates water temperature, which in turn promotes fish to stay, feed and spawn.
    4. The large holding pond is stocked with large mouth bass, and has become a favourite nesting spot for blue herons.
    5. A bubbler has been added to the holding pond to aid circulation.
    6. After ‘ice-melt’ barley straw is added to some ponds to help produce bacteria that helps minimize algae growth. (Barley straw is much more effective than wheat, oat or hay straw).
      Purple Martins find a home at Sunningdale
      (click the picture for a full article)
  6. Birds are an important element of our initiatives:
    1. The Audubon society is providing us with the specifications for building the right kind of nesting shelters for specific birds. To see how we are fostering our community of Purple Martins, click [ HERE ].
    2. We currently have 2 purple martin bird houses on the course, and we plan on adding houses to attract more songbirds, blue birds etc.
  7. Our machinery is designed to be as turf friendly as possible:
    1. Cutting equipment is checked daily to ensure clean cuts.
    2. Engines are maintained regularly to lessen emissions.
    3. Tires are big and soft to minimize surface impact on grasses.
  8. Replanting and moving trees helps keep Sunningdale a ‘walk in the park’:
    1. There are a number of sturdy saplings in the old northeast corner of our property (where there are the remains of three old golf holes) and we often transplant oak, basswood and maple trees to strategic areas of the course, such as No. 7 and No. 14 Thompson, and No. 17 and No. 18 Robinson.
  9. We create natural habitats:
    1. In select areas of the course we purposely pile brush and clippings to provide natural den areas and habitats for wildlife.
  10. The 300 acres of Sunningdale courses are by definition, a ‘crop’ with tremendous environmental contributions:
    1. The turf and grasses provide a tremendous root system and thatch that does much to filter water and rain. The root mass and soil microbes capture and breakdown many types of pollutants. Healthy dense turf can absorb rainfall six times more effectively than a wheat field.
    2. The grass and fairways have a phenomenal cooling effect. For comparison, the front lawns of just eight average houses have the cooling effect of about 70 tons of air conditioning (the average home–size central air unit has only 3 to 4 ton capacity). So you can imagine the effect our two courses have!
    3. A turf area just 50 feet by 50 feet absorbs carbon dioxide, ozone, hydrogen fluoride and releases enough oxygen to meet the needs of a family of four. No wonder walking our 300 acres feels so good! Truly a breath of fresh air!
      Compost Mounds
  11. Composting supports our fertilization needs:
    1. While we try to mulch as much clippings and leaves as possible, there is a point at which the ground can only absorb so much. The remainder is piled into natural mounds in the northeast section of the course, and turned regularly to promote decomposition.
    2. The compost from one year is then used throughout the next in special applications.