Going for the Green

Coachella Valley courses score well as environmental stewards

Judd Spicer Golf

JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa's courses are Audubon certified, and the resort serves as a wildlife habitat.
JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa

Some golf courses reach for standards far beyond a score card. For these Earth-friendly resorts, “going for the green” takes on a dual meaning in the sport’s lexicon.

Led by Audubon International’s “Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses” initiative, a list of motivated courses top the leaderboard when it comes to maintaining Audubon’s eco-conscientious values.
As of February 2012, 712 U.S. courses fit the bill for Audubon’s certified program. That figure accounts for approximately

5 percent of all domestic courses. California stands near the forefront of certification, with almost 8 percent of state courses meeting Audubon’s environmental standards. Of the nearly 140 courses in the Coachella Valley, an impressive 13 have earned certification status.

To initiate certification, courses provide Audubon with a total site assessment focusing on environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, water conservation, chemical use reduction and safety, water quality management, and outreach and education. The certification dialog generally takes from one to three years.

At the vanguard of the desert’s eco-movement are PGA West and La Quinta Resort & Club, which earned the area’s first Audubon certification (the Citrus Course in 2004) and now has all nine courses involved in the program.

Director of agronomy at PGA West and La Quinta Resort & Club, Dean Miller notes that while achieving initial certification is a thorough undertaking, the benefits are worth the effort.

“One of the biggest things we did was to upgrade all our pump stations,” Miller says of the Audubon-driven improvement to the grounds. “We’ve seen 15 to 20 percent reduction in electrical use each time we put in a different pump station.”

Meshing sustainability with playability has spread locally, as evidenced by Audubon certification of courses at Marriott’s Shadow Ridge, Classic Club, and JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa.

“We have created more space and more food for the wildlife habitat,” says Gil Herrera, assistant golf course superintendent at Palm Desert’s  Marriott Desert Springs. “We’ve increased the amount of acres just for that purpose. And we’ll see native species returning here year after year. Right now, we have 65 different migratory species coming to the property.” In the areas that have been selected for nesting, we’ll see more birds.”

As a byproduct of enhanced stewardship of the playing grounds instilled by Audubon, facilities often note a domino effect that extends beyond the clubhouse.

“We’ve seen an increase over the last couple of years with the amount of involvement,” says Christy Vandever, office manager at PGA West, referencing their composting program.

 “People are doing more to protect the environment,” Herrera agrees. “If you start doing something like recycling every day, you create the habit. It goes beyond the golf course.”

Desert Resorts with Audubon-Certified Courses

PGA West
56150 PGA Blvd., La Quinta.

La Quinta Resort & Club
49499 Eisenhower Dr., La Quinta.

JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa
74855 Country Club Dr., Palm Desert.

The Classic Club
75200 Classic Club Blvd., Palm Desert.

Marriott’s Shadow Ridge Golf Club
9003 Shadow Ridge Rd., Palm Desert.