By Mike Jiggens
Long before the term “green” was synonymous with environmental awareness, it was part of Copetown Woods Golf Club’s history.
Green fields of flourishing broccoli plants have been cultivated on the Forth Farms property for close to 30 years. When Gord Forth and his brother Neil, the owners of the property, determined the land was not producing the quality of product up to their standards, an investigation into an alternative use for the gently-rolling 200-acre site was initiated.
The free-draining, naturally sandy soil lacked the necessary water retention to produce an acceptable crop. Gently rolling hills, sandy soil and wide open spaces lend themselves perfectly to another type of “green”…an 18-hole, links-style golf course.
Since its opening in June of 2003, Copetown Woods Golf Club, located just west of Hamilton, Ont., has been recognized as a leader in offering guests a private golf club experience at a public golf course price. From the time guests enter the white picket fence gates and meander down the long, winding driveway to the Victorian era farmhouse/plantation-style clubhouse, they are surrounded by lush green fairways, neatly trimmed tee decks and wispy fescue grasses blowing gently in the breeze. It’s a green jewel set amidst rural Ontario farmland.
As a farmer who has worked the land for most of his life, Gord has developed an appreciation and ability to utilize resources in the most efficient and effective ways. In harmony with this philosophy, Copetown Woods Golf Club has been actively engaged in operating under “green” guidelines. Every aspect of the golf course’s operation, including waste management, recycling, composting, use of eco-friendly products and even technology, have set it on the path of becoming a leader in the golf industry as a sound environmental steward.
The green philosophy adopted by Copetown Woods began back when the course opened in 2003 as an effort to reduce the amount of waste produced by the golf course. This was achieved by implementing a strict recycling program in which plastics, glass and paper products were sorted and sent to local recycling centres. This practice alone produces approximately 480 bags of recycling each season which is the equivalent of 143 cubic yards of recycling that is diverted from the landfill every year.
While this was a huge achievement for the golf course, it was determined that there was still room for improvement to reduce the amount of waste generated. It was concluded that a majority of the waste continually produced was generated by food scraps and other organic matter. This “green waste” became the next stepping stone in furthering the already successful recycling program.
The green waste generated by the golf course led itself naturally to a large-scale composting program that is now in its third year of operation. Located just off the 12th fairway, tucked behind a mixed stand of forest, lay two large mounds of compost that have been slowly turning into a nutrient-rich black soil to be used in the perennial gardens as divot mix or any other gardening project on the golf course.
Incorporated into the compost is a mixture of grass clippings, leaves, corrugated cardboard and food scraps from the clubhouse. This operation has further allowed Copetown Woods to reduce the amount of waste produced by incorporating 90 pounds of green waste into the compost every day. This accumulates to 12 tonnes of material that is diverted from the landfill over the course of a single season.
One might wonder, “What else can they do? It appears as though they are either recycling or composting everything they can.”
This, however, is not the case. Copetown Woods has taken recycling and composting a step further.
Ever advancing technology and the advent of biodegradable products has allowed Copetown Woods to go above and beyond in terms of its waste reduction strategies. Coffee cups, paper towels, napkins, cold beverage cups, takeout containers, lids and straws utilized by food services have been specifically chosen for their biodegradable properties.
Although the initial cost of these products is higher, Copetown Woods has determined that it is an environmentally-sound choice that enables the club to work better within the environment in which it operates. All of these biodegradable products are incorporated into the compost that is essentially “recycled” on the golf course. This compost, in effect, becomes an economic savings for the property since the amount of nutrient-rich soil that was once purchased is now produced on site.
The cost of maintaining a garbage dumpster at $1,400 (20 dumpsters at $70 each) and a cardboard dumpster at $300 (10 dumpsters at $30 each) per year along with the combined savings of $1,820 (70 yards at $26 per yard) through producing its own soil/compost accumulates to a savings of more than $3,500 per season.
Prior to initiating this program, Copetown Woods Golf Club produced six cubic yards of garbage every week, which is typical of most golf courses. Today, the club is down to only a few bags of garbage each week.
Aside from the successful recycling and composting program, Copetown Woods has also adopted several other “green strategies” in its daily operations. Beginning with the construction of the golf course, a sophisticated drainage system was installed to collect 80 per cent of rainwater through a series of drainage tile and catch basins. This collected rainwater is diverted to an irrigation reservoir that is used to water the golf course. The advanced irrigation system allows for the precise application of water to the turf, minimizing any water loss through a few clicks of the mouse on the computer.
When it comes to keeping the golf course looking as green and healthy as possible, Copetown Woods has turned to nature to provide the backbone of its fertilizer program. An organic mixture of molasses, carbon and fish products has been part of the fertility program on the turf for three seasons. This program has progressively produced a healthier plant and soil conditions every year. A healthy soil naturally leads itself to a healthy plant that has an increased drought tolerance and disease resistance with limited inputs. An all-natural alternative to de-icing walkways around the clubhouse during the winter months is also used. This product is safe for vegetation and does not leach contaminants into the environment.
Energy conservation is also practised in all buildings on the property. The clubhouse and maintenance facilities are equipped with motion sensor lighting fixtures along with energy-efficient fluorescent lighting which uses considerably less wattage. Diffusers on water taps contribute to a reduction in water consumption as well. The five furnaces located in the clubhouse also have programmable thermostats that automatically decrease the temperature at night, further minimizing power usage.
Gord and Neil Forth continue to farm the land surrounding the golf course today, growing 300 acres of broccoli that has become a staple on the menu at Copetown Woods. Utilizing fresh, local produce whenever possible, along with the on-site herb garden, lends itself to a fresh menu for guests to enjoy.
Copetown Woods Golf Club has taken a lead in setting a positive example of how a full-service golf operation can continue to meet and exceed the expectations of its guests while reducing its carbon footprint by protecting and conserving the environment.
As a member of the Audubon Society and conscious of sharing the ecosystem with flora and fauna, every effort has been made to preserve the natural environment in which it operates. Looking ahead, Copetown Woods sees greener things to come.