From the January 2017 issue of GCM magazine:

Developing golf course best management practices: 50 states by 2020

Best management practices are vital to the successful maintenance of golf courses in compliance with governmental regulations.


Many BMP for golf courses are related to water use
and protection of water sources.
Photo by Montana Pritchard

J. Bryan Unruh, Ph.D.

Read this story in GCM's digital edition »

The GCSAA BMP Planning Guide & Template was funded in part by the USGA through the Environmental Institute for Golf.

Best management practices (BMP) provide superintendents with critical tools needed to maintain golf courses to the satisfaction of golfers and owners while complying with local, state and federal regulations. BMP cover the gamut of golf course management, from planning design and construction to water, nutrient and integrated pest management to pollinator protection and energy management. An area of primary concern in golf course management is the protection of surface waters from pollutants, including fertilizer, and nearly every state in the U.S. is affected by federal legislation such as the Clean Water Act, which was passed by Congress in 1973.

To meet these emerging challenges, GCSAA-affiliated chapters in several states have already developed state BMP programs for golf courses. To encourage superintendents in other states to develop BMP for golf courses, this article introduces the GCSAA BMP Planning Guide & Template, and describes the experience of GCSAA chapters in Florida that worked closely with regulatory agencies, state university professors, scientists and extension personnel to develop the Florida BMP manual and certification program.


Figure 1. In 2015, the Springs Coast area of Florida became a focal point for concerns about point-source pollution because of the large number of natural springs in the area.

BMP: The Florida experience

In October 2015, the executive director of the Florida Golf Course Superintendents Association (FGCSA) received a phone call from a Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) program administrator tasked with addressing water-quality restoration in Florida linked to the edicts of the Clean Water Act. Of particular concern were 40 golf courses located in the Springs Coast area of Florida (Seven Rivers GCSA member courses) implicated as “point source” polluters by the FDEP (Figure 1). The scrutiny placed on these golf courses was likely due to the intense focus by environmental activists on Florida’s abundant natural springs, which has resulted in several years of robust Florida legislative activity designed to protect the springs.

A follow-up meeting was held in December 2015 with representatives from the FGCSA, FDEP and the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) in attendance. At the face-to-face meeting, FDEP officials said that their duty under the Clean Water Act was to identify all sources of potential nitrogen pollution (for example, atmospheric deposition; fertilizers from cropland, pasture and urban environments, including turfgrass; land application of treated wastewater; septic tanks; animal wastes; stormwater runoff, etc.) and to determine what actions were being taken to mitigate the problem.

Florida golf course superintendents and UF/IFAS representatives described the ongoing voluntary Florida Golf Best Management Practices (BMP) Certification Program developed in 2012 by the FGCSA in cooperation with the FDEP, the United States Golf Association Green Section and UF/IFAS. The FGCSA discussed the success of the program, which involves classroom education and examination, and its recognition by GCSAA, which awarded FGCSA its 2015 Excellence in Government Relations Award. Ironically, some FDEP officials were unaware of this partnership, but by the time the meeting adjourned, the FDEP was satisfied that the Florida golf industry was proactively doing its part to reduce water pollution.

Seven months later, on July 1, 2016, Florida Senate Bill 552, the “Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act,” became law (7). This bill requires FDEP, in consultation with the Florida water management districts and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), to initiate rule-making to adopt procedures to verify implementation of nonagricultural interim measures, best management practices, or other measures to reduce water pollution adopted by rule. The expected result of this law will shift the FGCSA certification program from voluntary to mandatory. Because of its positive working relationship with and respect for the FGCSA and UF/IFAS, the FDEP initiated a dialogue to discuss the best way to implement the law that would also be acceptable to all involved. The FGCSA’s success with implementing golf course BMP and partnering with regulatory agencies and university faculty has likely thwarted onerous regulation of the Florida golf industry.


Testing the efficiency and accuracy of irrigation systems is a necessary step in reducing water use while maintaining turf quality on the golf course.
Photo by Larry Stowell


Regularly scheduled water-quality measurements are necessary
if golf courses are going to meet the standards set
by local or federal rules and regulations.
Photo by Erik Ervin


Plant breeders are developing turfgrasses that better tolerate stress
from drought, heat and disease. This rainout shelter
is a testing area for drought-tolerant turf.
Photo by Jason Kruse

Heightened concerns over water use

Water quantity

Water quality and quantity are often considered a major limitation to — and Achilles’ heel of — the green industry, particularly the golf course industry. Population growth is responsible for increasing concern about availability of potable water, as consumption often exceeds nature’s ability to filter and replenish the water supply. Therefore, water use is highly scrutinized.

The quantity of water on Earth is abundant and essentially unchanging. However, both seasonal and long-term drought significantly impact its availability. Because demand for good-quality water often exceeds supply in much of the U.S., states have enacted rules and regulations to varying degrees, in an attempt to stave off water shortages. The severity of the possible shortage and predicted forecast dictate how draconian the regulations are.

For example, on April 1, 2015, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed an executive order mandating water reductions. The California Water Resources Control Board will oversee water reduction on golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscaped spaces; replacement of 50 million square feet of lawn statewide with drought-tolerant landscaping; and a requirement for new homes to use drip irrigation (4). Previous efforts at curbing water use in California and elsewhere were typically handled at a more local level rather than by higher-level government.

More recently, and on the opposite side of the country, a study revealed that Florida’s water supply will be insufficient and unable to meet the state’s demand by 2070 (3). In the Florida report, an example of water savings through the employment of “Reduced Impact Development Practices” (that is, compact development = higher-density planning) included eliminating a golf course.

Water quality

Concerns about water quantity are matched by those about water quality, which has been decreased by point and nonpoint source pollution. Section 502(14) of the U.S. Clean Water Act defines point source as any “discernible, confined and discrete conveyance, including but not limited to any pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit, well, discrete fissure, container, rolling stock, concentrated animal feeding operation, or vessel or other floating craft, from which pollutants are or may be discharged” (11).

Conversely, nonpoint source pollution is defined to mean any source of water pollution that does not meet the legal definition of point source in the U.S. Clean Water Act. Nonpoint source pollution comes from many different sources, including land runoff, precipitation, atmospheric deposition, drainage, seepage or modifications to natural waterways. Nonpoint source pollution occurs as rainfall or snowmelt moves over the surface and through the ground, picking up natural and man-made pollutants and then depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters or ground waters. In most states, nonpoint source pollution is the leading cause of water-quality problems that adversely affect drinking water supplies, recreation, and marine life and wildlife.

Turf industry response to water issues

The turf industry has, in part, responded positively to the water issues. Over the past several decades, turfgrasses have been developed that can tolerate drought or poor-quality water. Seashore paspalum, for example, is now used on golf courses where water quality is so poor that other species and cultivars cannot survive (5,6). Recent turfgrass cultivar releases such as TifTuf bermudagrass from the University of Georgia have been shown to require dramatically less water than the industry standard (8). Furthermore, turfgrass breeders and scientists across the U.S. have joined forces to develop and test turfgrass varieties that have reduced input demands. To this end, in 2016 the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) initiated cultivar trials conducted in rain-exclusion shelters to assess drought tolerance of cool-season turfgrasses. The Alliance for Low Input Sustainable Turf (A-LIST) ( seeks to “foster development of sustainable turfgrass varieties and related products that perform their function with less maintenance inputs, thus benefiting the environment.” The Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance ( “qualifies grasses that demonstrate a statistically significant water-saving potential over conventional varieties of the same species.” Turfgrasses that meet the rigorous testing demands qualify for their respective organization’s “seal of approval,” much like the EPA’s WaterSense product label on water-conserving appliances and plumbing fixtures.


In consecutive years, the courses that hosted the U.S. Open were showcases for plants and practices that reduced water use on the golf course. In preparation for the 2014 Open, acres of turfgrass were replaced with naturalized areas at Pinehurst No. 2 (shown above).
Photo courtesy of USGA

Similarly, technological advancements to irrigation equipment have greatly improved irrigation efficiency and uniformity, thus reducing water use. Additionally, two prominent golf venues, Pinehurst No. 2 and Chambers Bay, made dramatic statements about golf and water use during the U.S. Open in 2014 and 2015. The setup of these tournament courses, which included reductions in irrigated turf and the selection of turfgrass species not commonly used on golf course putting greens in the U.S., was not received well by some (9), but has generated considerable dialogue about the future of water use on golf courses.

Although such improvements are good, these advancements have done little to shift some people’s negative view of the golf industry. Unfortunately, golf courses are commonly perceived to be significant sources of pollution and bad for the environment (1,2). The reason for heightened scrutiny of golf courses is mostly likely twofold: They are located in urban and ecologically sensitive environments under the watchful eye of concerned citizens, and much of the general public holds misperceptions about what it takes to manage a golf course. These concerns often manifest themselves in environmental policy and action. For example, within one click on the website of the EPA’s Mississippi River Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force, one can see that golf courses are implicated as contributing to the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico (12).

Assuredly, the need for abundant sources of clean water is essential to life, and water issues will continue to escalate. One can only predict that heightened government and regulatory oversight will proliferate.


Figure 2. Under the Clean Water Act, the EPA mandates that states, territories and authorized tribes (all are referred to as “states”) establish water-quality standards, monitor and assess the state’s water quality, and develop plans to improve the water where needed.

Alphabet soup: TMDL and BMP

Every state faces water-quality standards and water-assessment requirements. Government and regulatory agencies abound with acronyms and abbreviations. Two abbreviations that are very important to the golf course management industry are BMP and TMDL. The phrase “best management practice” (BMP) can mean different things to professionals and to the public.

  • A BMP can be a structural or engineered feature such as a treatment wetland, detention pond or bioswale.
  • A BMP can refer to a practice or procedure that reduces or prevents contamination such as preventing runoff containing pollutants that can deteriorate water quality.
  • A BMP can refer to a cultural practice or an agronomic practice such as aerification that is beneficial to turfgrass health and ultimately helps conserve resources.

All three of these definitions apply to golf, from design and build to daily operations and maintenance. Most often, BMP within the regulatory framework are linked to the passing of the 1973 Clean Water Act by Congress. The goal of the Clean Water Act is “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters” (33 U.S.C. §1251(a)). Figure 2 illustrates the EPA’s approach: States, territories and authorized tribes (“states”) must establish water-quality standards; monitor and assess the state’s water quality; and develop plans to improve the water where needed.


Section 303(d) of the act specifically requires states to establish Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) for impaired waters on a prioritized schedule. A TMDL is a pollution budget — a scientific calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that can be present in a body of water and it still meet water-quality standards. The extent of the pollution, the identity of the pollutants (for example, algal, heavy metals, nutrients, pathogens, etc.), and the use of the water (for example, health of aquatic life, public recreation, drinking, etc.) are taken into consideration as the TMDL is developed.


Protecting surface waters from pollution caused by nutrient loss from golf course fertilization is a focus of both local regulations and federal legislation such as the Clean Water Act.
Photo by Todd Lowe

The TMDL is a planning tool that provides the benchmark by which states can measure their progress in attaining or maintaining water-quality standards. The key step of Section 303(d) is the assessment of the state’s water conditions, identifying the good, threatened and impaired waters. A comprehensive website (
) shows the condition of each state’s surface water. As an example, Table 1 shows the conditions of the water in North Carolina — most are impaired and require restoration. States are required to update and resubmit their impaired waters list every two years, thus ensuring that polluted waters continue to be monitored and assessed until water-quality standards are met.

The establishment of water-quality standards, identification of impaired (polluted) waters and implementation of TMDL programs varies across the 50 states. Some states have done little and others have been aggressive in complying with federal regulations. Florida, with its abundant coastlines, estuaries and wetlands and sensitive springs, has been at the forefront of addressing water-quality concerns. Florida’s approach involves significant stakeholder input to develop Basin Management Action Plans (BMAP), a blueprint for restoring impaired waters. Each BMAP is a comprehensive set of strategies designed to reduce pollutant loads to impaired waters. The strategies include permit limits, conservation programs, and urban and agricultural BMP. Other states have similar programs: California has “Basin Plans,” New York has “Clean Water Plans,” and Kansas has the “Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy” (WRAPS).


A common theme to each improvement strategy is the development and implementation of urban and agricultural BMP programs. Before TMDL became a hot issue, Florida was laying the foundations for a cooperative program to reduce agriculture pollutant loads to waters of the state. In the early 1990s, the FDEP was working with FDACS to develop a cooperative effort in pollution-prevention activities between the fertilizer blending industry, the golf course industry and agricultural interests in general. This effort resulted in three BMP manuals on fertilizer plant operation, on agrichemical handling, and on equipment maintenance on farms and golf courses. In 1999, the Florida legislature adopted comprehensive TMDL legislation (403.067, F.S.) that clarifies the FDEP statutory authority and establishes administrative procedures for the program.


Table 1. Summary of the results of site-specific targeted monitoring for waters of the state of North Carolina in 2014.

Consequently, the term “BMP” in Florida has a statutory definition: Best management practice means a practice or combination of practices determined by the coordinating agencies, based on research, field testing and expert review, to be the most effective and practicable on-location means, including economic and technological considerations, for improving water quality in agricultural and urban discharge” (373.4595, F.S.). This definition ensures that the BMP are based on sound science that is verifiable and peer-reviewed, and that they are not economically impractical to the producer, the golf course superintendent. Not codifying BMP definitions within a state can result in ambiguity and a lack of common goals among the participating BMP partners.

Why the golf industry should develop and implement BMP

Best management practices are the shared language recognized by regulators, conservationists, engineers and others as the means to driving improvements. Because BMP are recognized in federal and state TMDL policy as a major component of water-quality improvement plans, it is incumbent upon the golf course management industry to be proactive in developing and implementing state-specific BMP related to golf course management. In addition to BMP related to water quality, BMP concerning water quantity (water and drought management) and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) are essential to keeping the golf industry at the forefront of good environmental stewardship. With this in mind, GCSAA has set a goal of having BMP established for all 50 states by the year 2020.

The development of a comprehensive BMP manual can be a time- and labor-intensive effort. Therefore, to facilitate meeting the goal of BMP manuals for every state by 2020, GCSAA contracted with faculty from the University of Florida to develop the GCSAA Best Management Practices Planning Guide & Template, funded in part by the United States Golf Association through the Environmental Institute for Golf (Figure 3).


To reduce the risk of water pollution, fertilizer should be stored in a protected, contained area designated for that purpose.
Photo by A. Neiswender

The GCSAA Best Management Practices Planning Guide & Template is an easy-to-use roadmap for golf-centric organizations to develop and implement BMP programs at the state level with greatly reduced effort and time. The tool provides information on getting started and identifying funding sources, and it lays the foundation for states to develop their BMP manuals. The content — gleaned from those who have developed existing programs and further vetted through a GCSAA task group consisting of superintendents, GCSAA chapter leaders, university scientists, environmental professionals, golf course architects, and industry representatives — is available as a print resource and as an interactive, online tool. These resources will be most useful in developing state-specific BMP. After individual state BMP manuals have been developed, the focus will be on getting every golf course in each state to adopt BMP practices at the facility level.

The BMP steering committee

Selecting committee members

The key to successful development of a BMP manual hinges on identifying a group of committed individuals who will take responsibility for establishing and carrying out the plan. GCSAA chapter leaders need to identify key contributors and organize a BMP steering committee tasked with leading the development effort. Generally, five to seven individuals can effectively lead the process.

Successful BMP development and subsequent implementation requires buy-in from all interested stakeholders: golf course superintendents, owners, government agencies, conservation organizations, policymakers, elected officials, etc. Experience suggests that forming partnerships to develop and implement BMP can be mutually beneficial.

Watershed organizations love to showcase water-quality projects, implementation of BMP, and especially proactive efforts/solutions through stakeholder engagement like golf’s BMP development. Watershed groups are easily identified through the EPA’s website.

Regulatory agencies can provide advice on environmental impacts and regulatory mandates, develop cost-share funds to publish and distribute, and conduct educational outreach programs when appropriate. Furthermore, regulatory agencies must demonstrate that the adopted BMP will have measurable impact on the TMDL.

Land-grant university faculty need to be engaged to provide unbiased technical input and advice to ensure that the BMP are science-based. University extension faculty are essential to the cause and can evaluate the effort in terms of feasibility, cost and environmental impact, and may be able to provide research when not enough information is known. Further, extension specialists and county agents should be enlisted to disseminate the information and teach educational components of the BMP.


Figure 3. GCSAA contracted with faculty from the University of Florida to develop a planning guide and template to facilitate the development of BMP manuals for each state by the year 2020.

Conservation organizations can provide expertise on grant writing, the regulatory process (permitting), monitoring assistance, community outreach and educational outreach assistance. Some superintendents may worry about inviting environmental or other groups to participate, but this has not proved to be a problem in Florida BMP development, and has usually been helpful. Those who are genuinely concerned appreciate the openness and, if knowledgeable, contribute. Otherwise, they lose interest after they see the industry is genuinely working to solve a problem (11).

The Florida Golf Course BMP program, for example, brings together a variety of state agencies, a land-grant university (UF/IFAS) and many industry groups. Over the years, the formerly tense atmosphere between regulated and regulator has given way to teamwork focused on joint problem-solving. This joint problem-solving ideal led to the high level of trust and cooperation that has been prevalent since the onset of the Florida Golf Course BMP development process that was initiated in 1999 and resulted in the published BMP manual in 2007. A training and certification program was subsequently developed and launched in 2012.

Putting the committee to work

The first action of the steering committee is to select a chairperson or co-chairs. The committee chairperson(s) should be highly motivated and exceptionally well organized. Given the potential for controversy, a chairperson(s) with a proven record of diplomacy would also be beneficial.

Although the GCSAA BMP Planning Guide & Template should greatly reduce the costs associated with developing a BMP manual, some added costs may be incurred if, for example, the steering committee decides to hire an individual(s) to incorporate the state-specific regulatory requirements into the BMP program. Additional funds may also be required depending on the design of the final product and final product distribution. Therefore, the second action item of the steering committee is related to identifying funding sources to develop the BMP manual.

GCSAA offers grants to chapters, which can be useful for developing state BMP programs. GCSAA’s BMP grant program provides funding opportunities for chapters, universities and other state golf-centric organizations with chapter support. Eligible projects include the development of new or the upgrade or enhancement of existing state or regional BMP programs and manuals. Contact GCSAA field staff or headquarters for more information.

Other funding sources for BMP program development include state turfgrass organizations, state golf allied associations and state regulatory agencies. Some state BMP programs have been funded with Rounds 4 Research proceeds and through golf tournament fundraisers. In addition, state regulatory agencies have access to Clean Water Act Section 319(h) funds (13) used to help focus state and local nonpoint source efforts. Contact state (15) and regional (14) nonpoint source pollution (NPS) coordinators for additional information.

Identifying specific BMP content


More and more golf courses are converting maintained turfgrass to naturalized areas that pro-vide habitat for native pollinators. Some courses, such as Westmoor CC in Brookfield, Wis., have even added beehives.
Photo by Bryan Bergner

The steering committee will develop the scope of the state BMP program and work through the GCSAA BMP template to select the content to be included in the state BMP manual. The BMP template content is based on agronomic research and geared toward providing healthy turfgrass and high-quality playing surfaces in light of environmental protection. However, not all aspects of golf course operations are addressed as they would be within an exhaustive environmental management program or environmental management system (EMS). These tools have different purposes. The focus of the GCSAA BMP template is on the golf course and associated agronomic operations, and not the entire facility. GCSAA and EIFG recommend that facility leaders adopt environmental management programs or an EMS appropriate for their circumstances.

The template will populate a BMP manual outline and serves as a springboard for further discussion. Once the majority of the state BMP manual has been developed using the template, each section will need to incorporate regulatory requirements within the context of the region/state for which the BMP manual is being developed. Sections of the BMP template and individual BMP themselves may not be pertinent to the region/state and should be edited or omitted. For example, sodic soils and salmon-bearing streams are not universal across the United States. Therefore, in regions where these conditions exist, BMP addressing such conditions should be developed but may be omitted otherwise.

When populating the BMP manual, several tenets should be embraced:

  1. BMP must be science-based and validated by field testing. Science serves as the benchmark by which management practices must be measured.
  2. BMP should be flexible and provide leeway to the golf course superintendent to implement practices that will facilitate reaching the end goal — sustainable golf course management. Flexibility allows a golf facility to tailor a plan to meet its needs using the resources available.
  3. BMP should be practicable and economically viable.
  4. The BMP model incorporates the iterative method for continuous improvement: “plan, do, check and act.” Over time, metrics such as measurable reductions in inputs and improvements in water quality will point to whether the BMP are successful. If they are not, then adjustments are made and changes can be implemented.

Plantings on littoral shelves protect surface waters from golf course runoff.
Photo by Todd Lowe

The steering committee may develop a roster of BMP review/writing team members that includes subject matter experts and projected responsibilities. The review/writing team members will identify and complete any regional/local information for their BMP manual. Leaders may agree to contract a professional consultant or university to complete the review/writing process. University scientists should review and incorporate pertinent agronomic/environmental information within the BMP manual for their state or region.

Ron Wright, CGCS and GCSAA Southeast regional representative, often says, “The first two letters of ‘done’ are ‘do.’” Superintendents are busy professionals focused on meeting critical dates and deadlines. Therefore, the steering committee needs to set timelines with milestone dates for the completion of important BMP development activities. This avoids possible procrastination and allows for the efficient production of a BMP manual. The steering committee should follow up with all responsible parties to ensure they are aware of their BMP-related responsibilities.

Crossing every t and dotting every i

After the state BMP template has been populated, the process of reviewing and updating the document’s content ensues. A good approach for the review/writing process is to assign teams for each major section. Each team should include golf course superintendents, university extension and research faculty, and regulatory agency personnel.

Extend technical review requests to personnel not on the BMP steering committee or review/writing teams where specialized expertise is necessary or where interest is expressed. For example, a golf course architect or irrigation designer could be a great resource.

Hot off the press! Publication and distribution

After a final state BMP manual is ready, it can be saved in PDF format and distributed electronically or sent to design professionals for print and/or electronic publishing. If federal funds [for example, Section 319(h) funds] are used to develop the state BMP manual, then the electronic versions of the document must be accessible to employees and members of the public with disabilities to the extent it does not pose an “undue burden,” per Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments (16). When the manual is available, it is important to distribute it to interested parties and then develop steps for BMP adoption and implementation at the facility level.

Facility-level adoption of golf course BMP


After The Florida Golf BMP was developed, the Florida GCSA
started a BMP certification pro-gram that includes
education and a certification exam.
Photo by Ralph Dain

The GCSAA goal of having BMP for all 50 states by the year 2020 is just the beginning. The ultimate goal is for all golf course superintendents to adopt the BMP practices at their facilities. How this occurs is only limited by the creativity of state chapters.

After the Florida Golf BMP Manual was developed, the Florida GCSA, in cooperation with FDEP and UF/IFAS, launched a voluntary Golf Course BMP Certification Program that involves classroom education and examination. Using the handbook as a guide, participants receive training in the following:

  • Environmental concepts
  • Environmental monitoring
  • Design and construction
  • Irrigation
  • Nutrition and fertilization
  • Cultural practices
  • Lake and aquatic plant management
  • Turfgrass pest management
  • Pesticide management
  • Maintenance operations

The content is typically taught by golf course superintendents, USGA agronomists, selected industry representatives and UF/IFAS faculty. The seven-hour training is followed by a certification exam consisting of three sections that may be taken together or separately. Each individual taking the examination must score at least 75% on each section to be considered certified. All training seminars — seminar instructors are part of the package — are coordinated with the Florida GCSA and are currently held approximately four to five times per year throughout Florida. The exam is administered, proctored and graded by the Florida GCSA, which also maintains certification records and grants BMP certification to individuals. Certification in the Golf BMP Certification Program is valid for a period of four years, after which a superintendent may become recertified by:

  • Attending an upcoming BMP certification class
  • Retaking the BMP certification exam
  • Earning 4 CEUs pertaining to BMP-based programs and submitting those CEUs, along with a brief description of how they apply to golf BMP, to the Florida GCSA office
  • Completing the BMP checklist and submitting it to the Florida GCSA office with a brief description of how each practice is being implemented

To date, approximately one-third of Florida’s golf course superintendents and affiliates have completed the Florida Golf BMP training and 28% are now certified (77% pass rate).

Validation of golf course BMP on sustainability

Because the BMP model incorporates the iterative method for continuous improvement — plan, do, check and act — it is important to ascertain the outcomes and impacts of the golf course BMP. Are they resulting in measurable reductions in inputs and improvements in water quality? Only when these metrics are measured will one know whether the BMP are successful. If they are not, then adjustments need to be made and changes can be implemented. If they are, then celebrate and promote the positive environmental impact that golf courses have!


The GCSAA BMP Planning Guide & Template was funded in part by the United States Golf Association (USGA) through the Environmental Institute for Golf (EIFG), and will be available free through the GCSAA website ( in February.


A special thanks to the UF/IFAS team who worked diligently to develop the GCSAA BMP Planning Guide & Template: Travis Shaddox, Ph.D.; Jason Kruse, Ph.D.; and Don Rainey. Additionally, the author expresses great appreciation to Mike Thomas, Ph.D., of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (retired), who has inspired countless individuals and entities to consider the impact our actions have on water pollution.

Literature cited

  1. Adler, B. The case against golf. The Guardian, U.S. Edition. June 14, 2007. ( Accessed Nov. 29, 2016.
  2. Baxter, A. 2015. A Dangerous Game. ( Accessed Nov. 29, 2016.
  3. Carr, M.H., and P.D. Zwick. 2016. Water 2070. Mapping Florida’s future: Alternative patterns of water use in 2070. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services & 1000 Friends of Florida Prepared by the Geoplan Center at the University of Florida Gainesville, Fla. ( Accessed Nov. 29, 2016.
  4. della Cava, M. 2015. California orders first-ever mandatory water reductions. USA Today, April 1, 2015. ( Accessed Nov. 29, 2016.
  5. Duncan, R.R. 1996. Seashore paspalum: The next-generation turf for golf courses. Golf Course Management 64(4):49-51.
  6. Duncan, R.R. 1997. Seashore paspalum responds to demands of stewardship. Golf Course Management 65(2):49-51.
  7. Florida Senate Bill CS/CS/SB 552: Environmental Resources. 2016. ( Accessed Nov. 29, 2016.
  8. Schwartz, B. 2015. Release of DT-1 bermudagrass. 69th Annual Southeastern Turfgrass Conference Proceedings, April 28, 2015, Tifton, Ga.
  9. Shipnuck, A. 2016. Chambers Bay, one year later: Lessons learned from its 2015 debut on the big stage. SI Golf +, June 14, 2016. ( Accessed Nov. 29, 2016.
  10. Thomas, M.V. 2002. Developing producer buy-in for water quality BMP in Florida. Presented at the 2002 ASAE TMDL Specialty Conference, Fort Worth, Texas. ASAE, St. Joseph, Mich. doi: 10.13031/2013.7579
  11. 11.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2016. Clean Water Act, Section 502 General definitions. ( Accessed Nov. 29, 2016.
  12. 12.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2016. Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force. (; click on “Hypoxia 101” under the “learn” box) Accessed Nov. 29, 2016.
  13. 13.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2016. Polluted runoff: Nonpoint source pollution. 319 grant program for states and territories. ( Accessed Nov. 29, 2016.
  14. 14.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2016. Polluted runoff: Nonpoint source pollution. Regional contacts for NPS programs in your area. ( Accessed Nov. 29, 2016.
  15. 15.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2016. Polluted runoff: Nonpoint source pollution. State contacts for NPS programs in your area. ( Accessed Nov. 29, 2016.
  16. 16.U.S. Government Services Administration (GSA). Government-wide Section 508 Accessibility Program. ( Accessed Nov. 29, 2016.

J. Bryan Unruh is a professor and associate director of the West Florida Research and Education Center, University of Florida, Jay, Fla.