Newton Country Club: The Environment and Education

by Les Carpenter, Newton Country Club, Newton, NJ

Newton Country Club is a modest, private golf club located in beautiful hill country Sussex County N.J. that will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2016. The course is situated on 266 acres of rolling land in Andover Township. The club has always strived to be a positive contribution to our local community and in 1998, we decided to pursue our Audubon Certification with a group of members and the grounds staff leading the way.

As most of you know, there are many dividends to gaining the distinction of being an Audubon Sanctuary. We have been re-certified eight times and are proud of our accomplishments across almost two decades of service. You must gain certification in six different categories; each of which presents its own group of challenges and rewards. Environmental Planning’s rewards are in knowing what you are doing on the course is always done keeping the best interests of the environment in mind. The main challenge we face is ensuring environmental protection while still providing favorable conditions on the golf course. Wildlife and Habitat management has many rewards, usually resulting in more wildlife on the course and less acreage to maintain. The real test is convincing the membership to agree to take areas out of play and encouraging them to spend time building and maintaining ecological projects like nest boxes.

When you delve into critical areas such as Chemical Use and Reduction, Water Conservation, and Water Quality, the benefits are obvious: you as a person are doing your best in areas essential to the environment and the additional work and attention to detail that are required on the superintendents’ part are well worth it to reap those benefits.

Lastly, I want to talk about the Outreach and Education aspect of the program. There is some previously established work here, such as newsletters and posters to the members, and outreach to local community groups. We have even had a local TV network produce a short piece on the course and have been the subject of several newspaper articles. On the reward side, we sponsor a local school in the Adopt-a-School program, but the real fun for us is in running our nest box program with local cub scouts. Each season we invite one or two local cub scout groups to the course for a Bluebird Nest Box Program. We load the kids and group leaders into hay wagons and take them out onto the course. Each cub scout receives a nest box handbook and is assigned a personal nest box. We provide insight on cavity nesting birds and the insects they eat. We teach them how to distinguish bird species by observing nest design and spotting adult birds nearby. We also take time to highlight our other constructive course and environmental initiatives. A few weeks later, the kids are invited back to revisit their nest boxes and discover if their birds have hatched or fledged. The scouts, along with our staff and members, thoroughly enjoy seeing how their birds matured. Before the children leave, we give them cold drinks and a logo ball from the club. It’s a wonderful time for the kids, a worthwhile experience for our staff, and it just reinforces the many reasons to be involved in the Audubon program and the great business of golf.