September 25, 2018 at 3:27pm

Blue Heron Flying Over Golf CourseAlthough nature sanctuary might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about golf courses, Mark Kosbab, golf course superintendent for Sportsman’s Country Club is working to transform that perception.

For a second time, Northbrook Park District’s Sportsman’s Country Club has been recognized by Audubon International for its environmental stewardship. The golf course at 3535 Dundee Road, is retaining its certification as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses.

Facilities that receive this honor must demonstrate maintenance of a high degree of environmental quality in a variety of areas, including environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, outreach and education, chemical use reduction and safety, water conservation and water quality management.

“The Audubon recertification validates our stewardship efforts,” Kosbab said. “It’s a way of getting the message out there that we’re doing the right thing.”

Featuring 27 holes of golf, a 33-stall lighted practice range, miniature golf course, three putting greens, a golf shop and clubhouse dining room, Sportsman’s is only one of 43 sites in Illinois and 905 courses in the world to receive this certification. Sportsman’s first certification was in 2015.

Among stewardship efforts that impressed John Patrick Maksymiu, a local representative for Audubon International were Sportsman’s continued efforts to create naturalized areas on the golf course, which help to provide water, food and habitat for local and migratory wildlife. A variety of wildlife were seen at the course during Maksymiu’s recent site visit, where connected patches of native grasses between holes offer wildlife corridors for movement. Audubon officials also noted the course posed minimal disturbance to soil and the natural surrounding landscape.

“Sportsman’s Country Club has shown a strong commitment to its environmental program,” said Christine Kane, CEO at Audubon International. “They are to be commended for their efforts to provide a sanctuary for wildlife on the golf course property.”

Kosbab is particularly proud of work that began in 2011 to rebuild the shorelines of 15 ponds at the golf course—a project that involved removing cobblestones and replacing them with native plants.

“The deep roots of the native plants help to stabilize the shoreline better than cobblestone,” Kosbab said. “In turn, it beautifies the golf course and provides habitat for birds, animals, dragonflies and butterflies.”

In addition to providing more wildlife habitats, the stabilization from the native plants also creates a buffer to filter out pesticides and fertilizer, enhancing water quality.
Future conservation projects Kosbab is looking to bring to Sportsman’s include expanding habitat for monarch butterflies and to create additional habitat for bees and other pollinators that are native to Illinois.

Audubon International is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) environmental education organization dedicated to providing people with the education and assistance they need to practice responsible management of land, water, wildlife, and other natural resources. To meet this mission, the organization provides training, services, and a set of award-winning environmental education and certification programs for individuals, organizations, properties, new developments, and entire communities.