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Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program
for Golf Courses (ACSP)

Certification Overview

Audubon International awards certification to recognize golf courses that protect the environment, conserve natural resources, and provide wildlife habitats.  Achieving certification demonstrates a course’s leadership, commitment, and high standards of environmental management.

Who can achieve certification?
Golf courses enrolled in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses (ACSP) may apply for certification.  There are no restrictions on the types of golf courses that are eligible—  nine-hole par 3 courses, courses with tight layouts, municipal courses, resort courses, tournament courses, and country clubs are encouraged to become certified.

How long does it take?
Most courses achieve certification within one to three years, depending on how quickly they plan, organize, implement, and document their environmental practices. 

What does certification cost?
The annual registration fee for the ACSP is $150 ($200 international), which includes certification materials and review.  There are no additional fees for certification.

What is involved?
ACSP members receive a Certification Handbook to guide certification efforts and documentation.  The golf course begins by completing a Site Assessment and Environmental Plan form, provided in the handbook.  This information helps golf course personnel to take stock of current environmental management practices and plan improvements.

The course submits its Site Assessment and Environmental Plan to Audubon International and receives a Certification Status Report that offers suggestions to help it proceed toward certification.  Staff is also available via phone and e-mail to assist golf course personnel. 

Once the Site Assessment and Environmental Plan is reviewed by Audubon International, the course implements its plan and documents its efforts and results in each environmental quality area. Designation as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary is awarded to a golf course upon meeting environmental management standards in the following five areas:

Wildlife and Habitat Management
The golf course enhances existing natural habitats and landscaping to promote wildlife and biodiversity conservation.  Flexibility is essential to account for each course’s location, size, and layout, as well as special wildlife species and habitat considerations.

Chemical Use Reduction and Safety
The golf course implements best management practices at the maintenance facility and on the course to ensure that chemicals are stored, handled, applied, and disposed of safely.  In addition, maintenance staff employ integrated pest management strategies to track and target specific pests and minimize chemical use.

Water Conservation
The golf course employs conservation management strategies to maximize the efficient use of water.  These include determining proper irrigation; reducing irrigated acreage where possible; recapturing and re-using water; and incorporating drought-tolerant plant species.

Water Quality Management
The golf course implements Best Management Practices to eliminate potential nutrient or pesticide contamination of water sources.  The course also employs environmentally-sensitive management practices in ponds, streams, and wetlands; proper equipment and chemical storage and handling; and water quality monitoring to verify results.

Outreach and Education
Golf course personnel build support for their environmental management program through a variety of communication, education, and outreach activities.  They also form a Resource Advisory Group of people who provide technical advice and volunteer assistance to help implement the environmental plan.  This helps to ensure the long-term success of environmental management practices, especially if staff assignments change.

How does Audubon International verify that the golf course is meeting certification standards?
Written and photographic documentation is required to achieve certification.  If required information is missing or management practices are not in place, Audubon International places a “pending” status on the certification request.  This enables the course to provide the needed documentation or further develop its management strategies.

On-site verification by a qualified third party is required within two years of the initial certification.  Recertification is required every two years to ensure that courses continue to uphold certification standards.  Courses that do not submit the appropriate documentation or are no longer meeting program requirements are decertified.

What are the benefits of certification as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary?

·         Environmental Quality– The environmental management practices required for certification help golf courses to improve the quality of our land, water, and air, and to conserve natural resources for future generations.

·         Image and Reputation– Proven environmental performance can help a course differentiate itself from others in a crowded market and add value by improving public relations and marketing opportunities that attract new golfers or club members.

·         Customer Satisfaction– Enhancing the nature of a course can enrich golfers’ experience of the game.  Surveys show that golfers rank “being outside in nature” among their top reasons for playing golf.

·         Financial Performance- An effective golf course environmental management program can result in reduced insurance premiums, as well as reduced costs for energy, water, pesticides, fertilizers, equipment wear, and labor.  

·         Worker Safety and Reduced Liability- Best practices for chemical management reduce exposure and liability risks associated with storing, handling, and applying chemicals.

·         Improved Efficiency– Proper environmental management cuts down on waste and promotes efficient operations.

For more information please e-mail Joellen Zeh, at or call (518) 767-9051 x14.


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