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July 12, 2013

Eco-friendly golf courses providing prime habitat for wild creatures

Posted at 11:00 AM by Golf.com | Categories: turtles

We all know crocs and gators have made their homes on golf courses, but these days, there are some other, kinder reptiles showing up in the ponds near tee boxes, fairways, and greens.

As National Geographic reports, more and more well-managed courses have become refuges for turtles looking for homes

No one advocates flattening an ancient woodland to build 18 new holes. But scientists say that a golf course in the right place, built and maintained in the right way, can be an oasis for creatures from bluebirds to beetles.

For the turtles of North Carolina, golf ponds "are providing something that other ponds are not," says University of Kentucky herpetologist Steven Price, a co-author of the two new turtle papers.

"So maybe they're the lesser of two evils."

Steven Price and his group of researchers found that the two most common turtles in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area are the painted turtle and the slider.  They’re not quite as fearsome as the snapping turtles golf ball divers have to tangle with, so they’re a welcome addition to the burgeoning ecosystems of golf courses.

Golf courses have always been targets of environmentalists for their heavy use of water and pesticides—except for those Golf.com has highlighted in the past—so the idea that more and more of them are becoming eco-friendly is not only a good sign for the courses, but for the environments within and around them.

"There's potential for [courses] to be really good habitat if they're managed properly" and contain enough suitable water and land, says Guzy.

Turtles aren't alone in enjoying a little time on the links. When researchers did a summary analysis of a host of studies comparing golf courses with other kinds of green space, they found that courses were more ecologically valuable than farmland in nearly 65 percent of the comparisons made in the studies. More surprisingly, golf courses outstripped state parks and nature reserves in ecological value in half the cases.

What scares off turtles from the lush lifestyle of a golf course pond? Housing developments.  Turtles will flee when there are more and more people and cars around the area. The big question is, should golf courses be more integrated with the environment it’s entrenched in, or should they cater to the housing demands of the towns around them?

(Photo: John Biever / Sports Illustrated)

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