Using science to work alongside nature at Mill Run Golf Club

Mill Run Golf Club operators have embraced a number of environmental initiatives over the years. Recently, Mill Run in Uxbridge collaborated with University of Toronto researchers to allow them to conduct vegetation inventories for 6 plots on the course. In 2011, the course owners undertook a million dollar project to rehabilitate the Pefferlaw Brook. The project protected and restored fish habitat, while ensuring irrigation needs of the course were met in an environmentally-responsible manner. Construction involved in-creek work to remove an old dam and necessitated that the brook be re-routed. Mill Run won an Environmental Heroes designation from the Uxbridge Watershed Committee for this project.

Regular communication is essential, since—as Mill Run’s course Superintendent Jeff Hewitt says—“it takes a team effort to maintain the property.” Decisions related to turf management draw from the expertise of all staff members, and are made in conjunction with the Greens Committee. External to the golf course—course operators participate in the Uxbridge Golf Course policy committee comprised of representatives of other courses in the area and city council members.

Turf management decisions are grounded in science and utilize the most current knowledge. Cultural practices are central to building healthy turf and include leaving grass clippings on the course, removing thatch which harbours disease, letting the grass grow a little longer to reduce stress, and expanding naturalized areas. Topdressing with sand allows grass roots to more easily access water and air. Scouting (or visually inspecting) the property helps operators identify dry spots or pest infestations. Weather and disease computer models help operators determine the best time to apply treatments. Mill Run also works with an agronomist to analyze soil nutrients and fertility—something that allows for precise application of chemical inputs and reduces the amount used.

Some of the newer natural products that have been used at Mill Run include algae green to provide micro-organisms and nutrients, and compost derivatives. Course operators continue to evaluate the potential of other products that are newer to the market. Mill Run has both a licensed exterminator and an Integrated Pest Management (IPM)-certified individual on staff. Using a more natural approach requires time, patience and a long-term plan.

All wells in the area are monitored, and water withdrawals are recorded digitally. Wetlands on the course are separate from the irrigation system. Practices that remove thatch actually help increase water absorption—thus aiding conservation. The automated irrigation system in use ensures that no over-watering takes place and that leaks are quickly detected.

For the future, Mill Run is looking into upgrading the current fleet of electric carts, purchasing permanent rain sensors to turn off sprinklers when rain is pending, and completing requirements to become Audubon International certified.




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