Thursday 16, 2011
            MARQUETTE, Mich.—At the Northern Michigan University Golf Course, the word "green" is associated with more than a putting surface. It also describes a sustainable approach to all aspects of course operations. Managers are using bio-based products and specialized drought-tolerant plant materials for water conservation. They are also focusing on wildlife management to protect habitats of species that help control pests.

“The golf course is embracing green technologies and practices first and foremost because it is the right thing to do,” said Glen Rochester, NMU Golf Course manager.

Rochester has worked with Keith Reinholt of the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee to explore potential applications for soy bio-based products and the list is long. In the clubhouse, the materials are used as tile cleaners and hand sanitizers. In the equipment maintenance department, they are used as grease lubricants, bar chain oil, parts cleaner and penetrating oils. The course also experimented with organic driveway cleaner and asphalt sealer and reordered based on success last season.

“Soy products represent just one area of focus as it relates to sustainability," Rochester said. "We are also using bio-based oils in some of our machinery, such as vegetable-based hydraulic fluid. We're always on the lookout for any clean bio-based products that will help us get the job done.”

Another aspect of maintaining environmentally responsible practices at the golf course is Integrated Pest Management (IPM). The goal is to make sure that strategies used to control pests are environmentally, culturally and physically beneficial for the course, which Rochester said is an important and elaborate undertaking.

The green practices at the NMU Golf Course also align with the university's Roadmap to 2015 and the idea that NMU should be a model community for sustainable education and practices and attempt to increase community engagement for the benefit of everyone involved. Rochester feels that the course is doing this by reducing its carbon footprint.




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“In this way, we are taking theory and putting it into practice, giving our students, employees and community guests a living laboratory of sustainable practices,” Rochester said. “We are just working to do the right thing in a community where we all live, work and play.”

              There are plans this season to expand into energy conservation as well. Rochester will work with NMU Sustainability Coordinator Brandon Sager to conduct an energy assessment of the entire operation with the goal of reducing electrical consumption.

On a related note, the NMU Golf Course is measuring each hole to get a course and slope rating. This will enable players there to produce a handicap, which can be used in tournament play to ensure that golfers of different abilities are fairly matched. It also will improve the accuracy of 200-, 150- and 100-yard markers on each hole. Initial work began last week. Officials from the Golf Association of Michigan are scheduled to return June 30 and the process should be completed by August.