The gently rolling landscape of National Pines has been crafted to integrate with the surrounding natural environment. Central to the course is the creek, which has been given at least a 30 yard natural buffer by the course operators. This buffer helps reduce erosion, improves water quality, provides natural habitat and enhances the golfer experience. As a longstanding member of the Audubon International (a participant that has not reached certification), National Pines operators take care to support the creatures that frequent the golf course. An area near the creek was taken out of play to provide a home for local turtles. The Lake Simcoe and Region Conservation Authority regularly tags fish in the creek to monitor populations and recently University of Toronto forestry students conducted a plant inventory for four sections of the course. Deer, fox, coyotes, rabbits, turkey, and beavers all inhabit the property.
Cultural practices are the basis of methods used to minimize the need for chemical inputs. Sophisticated computer models and calculators arm course operators with valuable information to help them manage diseases. These include temperature models which help operators anticipate the potential disease pressure. Measuring soil temperature provides a great deal of valuable information, as does soil testing. In response to past soil tests, National Pines operators use amendments to balance the PH of the soil, and apply calcium to make other nutrients more available to plants.
Decisions around when and where to use chemicals are made judiciously and are grounded in scientific knowledge. Diseases that don’t affect play do not need to be treated. Topdressing, aeration, and the use of customized fertilizers encourages strong growth. Spring and fall treatment are key to maintaining disease and weed-free turf, and operators rely on visual inspections and historical knowledge of the land. They have found that rolling the greens reduces dollar spot. When chemical interventions are necessary, current formulations are very specific and contain less active ingredient than in the past. The all-electric fleet of golf carts reduces emissions and the need for maintenance.
In line with the ClubLink corporate focus on water conservation and water quality protection, National Pines operators closely monitor all water use. National Pines now has a system which diverts septic effluent into the irrigation pond. Water quality is closely monitored by an external consulting firm. The low-lying nature of the course reduces the need for irrigation, yet operators strive to conserve as much as possible. Being one of the ClubLink courses, National Pines has access to 35 golf superintendents for learning and problem solving in addition to traditional industry resources.
Next visit to National Pines, take time to enjoy the environment around the stream which is central to the course. Not only does it provide a pleasing backdrop, but it also attracts a variety of wildlife. Remember, however, to take care and pay attention to signs around these protected areas.