Goats, Bees, Butterflies, Oh My: How Needham Golf Club is improving game sustainability

NEEDHAM, Massachusetts – When you step onto a golf course, the last thing you might expect to see is a herd of goats – but the animals are a key part of Needham Golf Club’s efforts to improve its sustainability through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program.

Online: NEEDHAM GOLF CLUB | Audubon at Golf Mass | Audubon software information

Needham first joined Audubon International in the early 2000s and began developing an accreditation plan in 2009, supervisor Tim Hood said. Certification requires achievement in six categories, which mainly include reducing the amount of grass managed on the course, improving water quality, making it more suitable for wildlife, and effectively communicating these changes to golfers.

“While we have to consider all the different aspects of the environment and our specific microclimate here, we are focusing on the wildlife and habitats that are on the property,” Hood said. “We are also thinking about the conservation and quality of the water that runs through the property. We are also thinking about how we can preserve the course while still offering members a high quality golf course and being more sustainable.”

The certification process was a long but rewarding one for the club. He began by assessing the property, including evaluating the types of trees and types of lawn that were on the course. Hood’s team identified areas where maintenance could be reduced and disturbed-free wildlife habitats increased, reducing the amount of human impact on the trail’s ecosystem. Conserving water and reducing the use of chemicals were also key factors in the plan.

“We made that plan and then worked on every category at once,” Hood said. “We are a small club with a small staff, so it was a long process for us to do all this work together. But we achieved it after a few years.”

Needham finally earned her degree in 2016. Since then, the club has been successful in rehab, which is required every three years, in 2019 and early this year. Hood said the reaccreditation process motivates him and his team to continue evaluating their practices and ways to increase the number of original regions on the course.

“Well, you’re always trying to get better,” he said. “So when we had a certain amount of natural zones we tried to see, without affecting the play too much, how we could increase that space, and we’ve done quite a bit over the last couple of years and we can just find the areas where it’s simple to play and it’s not going to make much of a difference In terms of how it affects golf.”

Hood also credits club membership for supporting its efforts to become more sustainable, an essential part of any course’s ability to successfully implement ACSP requirements.

“They understand that the practices we implement are for the benefit of the environment and the properties we occupy,” he said. “So we’ve had a lot of support from the members, and they know what we’re trying to achieve.”

get their goats

Speaking of wildlife, Needham has built a reputation for the three goats he keeps on various parts of the golf course to help with course maintenance – including one nicknamed “Brady” after former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

“Goats just to keep the bottom of the area,” Hood said. “One of the reasons golf is because it helps with air movement. Grass loves air movement, it doesn’t like stagnation, so we try to keep air movement circulating around the grass. So instead of chopping and mowing with different machines and products, we have goats going there.”

Hood said that although there are certain types of plants that goats cannot consume, usually those that require natural coordination, “they will eat just about anything.”

When a specific area of ​​the course requires maintenance, Hood’s team will move the goats to the new area. The goats will eat enough plants to trim excess foliage before moving to a new section. The plants eventually grow back to their original size, paving the way for furry landscapers to rotate again in the future.

The club first began using goats to help with course maintenance in 2016. He decided to bring them in as full-time members of the Needham family shortly thereafter, and they have played an integral role in course maintenance since then, Needham Golf Club General Manager Jeffrey Piva said.

Visitors who pass through the eighth aisle are welcome to visit and feed the goats.

A goat eats leaves obtained by a nearby golfer. (collective golf)

bee rides

A new initiative Needham started last winter was to create her own bee box, a practice that has been shown to improve pollination and raise the diversity and sustainability of the entire bee ecosystem. The Club’s Bee Box was set up near the 9-hole tee, away from the waterway and located near a thicket of trees to provide cover from the gusts of wind.

Since the bee box has been in place for several months, Biffa says the club is now focusing on a new project — collecting a limited amount of bee honey to share with members.

With the help of Scott McIntosh, co-owner of Atlantic Golf & Turf, Hood and his nephew opened a bee box to collect honey for the first time last week. The team removed a few comb-covered frames from the box, taking care to leave the majority of the existing honey for the bees, and replaced them with new ones for the bees to start working on. Then they used a honey extractor, a family heirloom from the Macintosh family, to extract the honey from the combs so that it could be chopped.

Macintosh holds the comb for Hood and his nephew to clean it. (collective golf)

Expansion and improvement

A key part of ACSP certification is to educate and educate members to inform golfers of applicable environmental practices and why they are needed.

Needham did this by installing signs to alert golfers of the presence of ecologically managed areas throughout the course, such as buffer zones around waterways and brush areas where young animals tend to reside. The club also leads annual Needham Leadership Tours to inform the city of its environmentally focused practices.

However, part of Hood’s planning for the future at Needham includes continuing to expand the reach of the ACSP club.

“I think more communication would definitely be great for people who don’t really play golf and don’t understand what we’re trying to do here,” he said.

He also plans to continue raising the club’s environmental standards and devise more strategies to improve the environment around it.

“We’re always just looking for other ways to try to improve in each category,” Hood said. “I learn a lot through social media. You learn from a lot of different courses about what they do and you learn a lot in this way about how these practices are implemented on the golf course.”

The Audubon International Certificate sign is located near tee #1. (collective golf)

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