Wildlife and Golf Courses

When was the last time you saw wildlife on a golf course? Probably the last time you were on one! The connection to nature is part of what makes golf such a special sport.

Why are wildlife attracted to golf courses? The simple answer is because golf courses provide habitat: food, water, and/or shelter. This is especially true in urban environments where there are not many other green spaces. Non-playing areas of golf courses make up about 20% to 40% of the property. This leaves a good amount of space to preserve native habitat that wildlife can use. The habitat areas are usually different throughout the property too, which attracts an even greater number of species.

On that note, I want to share some recent and exciting wildlife sightings on our own courses:

  1. In late September, The Cactus & Pine Golf Course Superintendent Association hosted a wildlife photo contest for its members on social media. Superintendents from around the state shared their best photos/videos they took of wildlife on their golf course. Here are some submissions from our Troon properties:
Elk at Torreon Golf Club, Show Low, AZ
Gopher snake at Kierland Golf Club in Scottsdale, AZ
Burros at Blackstone Country Club

I loved this contest because it provided an opportunity to publicly share the diversity of wildlife we find on golf courses. I was one of the judges for the contest and even I was blown away by the submissions! I counted around 45 different species total. You can view the winners and the final slideshow here:

  1. In addition to the photo contest, we had a very exciting find at the Saadiyat Beach Club in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Two birdwatchers spotted one of the rarest birds in the world in September just months after the property received its environmental certification from Audubon International. The bird is called the steppe whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus alboaxillaris). You can find the full story here: https://www.troon.com/rare-bird-sighting-at-saadiyat-beach-golf-club-in-abu-dhabi/

This is an important sighting because it was the first time a juvenile has ever been observed alive, anywhere in the world! It was also the first time any individual was observed during migration.

I was overjoyed by this discovery for a few reasons:

  1. It contributes to science. Very little is known about this bird. Ornithologists now have a record of a juvenile and they also have some confirmation about the migration route. It was only speculated that steppe whimbrels flew through the Middle East during migration, but now that hypothesis has some evidence. Lastly, ornithologists have a specific location to visit in the future to possibly catch the bird again, or others, and learn more about them
  2. It shows the benefits of collaboration between golf courses and their community. The two birdwatchers who found the bird have an ongoing relationship with Saadiyat. They regularly come out to survey for birds which contributes to Saddiyat’s Audubon International certification. This sighting would not have happened without the collaboration and there are many more opportunities like that out there!
  3. It opens the conservation about multifunctional golf courses. Golf is obviously the primary function of a golf course. However, these spaces can serve other functions without interfering with golf. We already know they make good wedding venues, support wildlife, and have other recreational activities. The steppe whimbrel shows the value in opening them to birdwatching. There are so many other possibilities out there including hosting educational field trips or building a community garden. I love the idea of a multifunctional golf course because it shows how valuable and how unique they can be.
Black bear at Torreon Golf Club
Tarantula at Troon Country Club
Duck family at The Westin Kierland