SHELTON, Wash. – A golf round, almost by definition, is a walk in fields of green grass, through wildlife habitat, alongside rivers, lakes, ponds or seas.
If it sounds pristine, it pretty much is. There remain disbelievers — those who think the beauty and unstinting green must have been bought at the price of disregard for the delicate ecology of our open spaces.
Talk to just about any course superintendent on that subject and you will learn quickly that the reality of golf course maintenance – and in the rare recent instances of courses built from scratch – is that even if the golf industry was inclined to thumb its nose at reality, it – like the rest of us – can’t afford the price of environmental indifference.
We can’t afford the water, we can’t afford the fertilizer, we can’t afford the pesticides. We can’t afford to be profligate, we can’t afford to be deaf to the world ecology.
The golf industry also can’t ignore the golf economy, and this gives rise to the naysayers who say, well sure, you only water less and fertilize less because you can’t afford more and more.
Aaron Clark, an environmental scientist with Stewardship Partners, acknowledges “certain tensions” between tree-huggers – his word – and the golf industry.
And thus he was pleased, in August 2012, to be at Salish Cliffs Golf Club near Shelton, Wash., to celebrate the course, then barely a year old, as the first anywhere to earn Salmon Safe Golf Course Certification.
The organization’s certification had heretofore been given mainly to farms or vineyards and urban or rural open spaces other than golf courses.
Salmon bears the “flagship burden” for environmental awareness on Pacific Northwest golf courses, Clark said, but the award recognizes the protection and enhancement of habitat for all the wildlife species living on and near the course.
Salmon Safe’s “exhaustive assessment” also measures the management of runoff and water quality, use of pesticides and general environmental practices.
From the beginning of construction, Salish Cliffs’ builders worked in concert with the environmental philosophy of the Squaxin Island Tribe, which owns the property. The Salmon Safe certification is more in line with the tribe’s values than other environmental designations sought by golf courses, according to Jeff Dickison, assistant natural resources director of the Squaxin Island Tribe
Bob Pearsall, the Salish Cliffs superintendent, said course designer Gene Bates went through six different design drafts.
“Even then, I had to argue with (Bates) about where the wetland boundaries are,” Dickison said.
Salish Cliffs’ attention to every eco-detail did not prevent Bates from designing, and its shapers from creating, a golf course as pretty as any in the region, sliding up and down seamlessly through the foothills of the Kamilche Valley on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
Best of all, in the minds of many people: No salmon were harmed in its production.