Published on 07/07/99

New Golf Course Nestled in Nature

Local legend has it that a Choctaw maiden named Cateechee warned settlers of an impending Cherokee invasion. The Cherokees then chased the young woman, papoose in tow, into hiding on a ledge underneath a waterfall, where she later escaped.

Many golfers can now find refuge from everyday hassles at the new golf course that bears the maiden's name.

Cateechee is no ordinary golf course.

The public course just outside Hartwell, Ga., is only the 14th golf course in the world to earn the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program's "Signature Status" stamp of environmental approval.

"We want to reach people where they live, work and play," said Ronald G. Dodson, president and chairman of the board of Audubon International, Audubon Society of New York State, Inc., at the dedication ceremony June 28.

"Some people wonder why the Audubon Society is involved in golf," he said, "because they see golf as a creator of environmental problems. We created this signature program to work on making golf courses with sustainability and environmental compatibility. And, we don't give it out like candy. You have to work for it."

An existing golf course can't be retrofitted to the profile of the Audubon Signature Program. It has to be part of the plan from the beginning.

Cateechee found a partner in planning at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

"They called us looking for a water-monitoring program," said Bill Segars, the UGA water quality coordinator. "In our research, we came across the Audubon Signature Program. We liked their guidelines and decided to go with that program."

The program is designed to encourage landowners to assess and develop strategies for a variety of natural resources issues during planning and construction.

It focuses on six environmental areas:

* Wildlife conservation and habitat enhancement.

* Water conservation.

* Water quality management and monitoring.

* Integrated pest management.

* Energy efficiency.

* Waste reduction and management.

Part of the monitoring plan UGA helped develop for Cateechee will also save the City of Hartwell big bucks.

"They will be using wastewater from the city," Segars said. "The city's facilities have reached their capacity, and city officials were facing having to build a new wastewater treatment plant or find a way to go to land application. This is their answer."

About 15 other Georgia golf courses use wastewater for irrigation.

Once construction on an Audubon Signature course is completed, the landowner must follow a natural resource management plan. Annual reports are required, and biennial audits are conducted. If the plan is not strictly followed, the golf course risks losing its designation. Several have.

Cateechee is the first golf club in Georgia to earn the designation. There are only four others in the Southeast.

Dodson said the Audubon program believes golf courses are adopting many of these principles because they make good economic sense.

"You don't want to buy and use more products than you have to," he said. "Our program simply gives recognition to those who have chosen to do it right."

"Our participation in the Audubon Program is based on the premises that our golf course is an asset to the community and that golf courses make good wildlife sanctuaries," said Buck Workman, Cateechee's superintendent. "We did as little planting as we could for the greens and fairways and just left the rest for nature to do its thing."

Segars said the university plans to take what they have learned from this project and help Georgia's golf courses become more environmentally friendly.

Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.