The dense, towering trees where deer graze and owls perch behind Brett Wisman’s home in northeast Columbia will soon be replaced by motorized carts and shouts of “fore.”
The nine-hole Links of Columbia golf course, just north of Clark Lane, will back right up to Wisman’s house on Goads Circle, spoiling a view he has come to appreciate.
“This is why we bought this house, because of the woods,” Wisman said. “If (golfers) are in my backyard they’re too close.”
It could be worse for Wisman and his neighbors. The Links plans to follow guidelines for golf course management developed by Audubon International, an organization that promotes the conservation of natural resources. Shawn Williams, Audubon’s staff ecologist, said the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program encourages course managers to incorporate wetlands, prairie habitat and wildlife gardens for out-of-play areas, such as the rough and around the tees. Each area would provide habitats for birds, rodents, butterflies and other animals.
“We want to let people know that the environment and golf course can co-exist,” Williams said.
Concerned about the course’s proximity to Hominy Branch creek, Jerry Wade, chairman of the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission, suggested that Audubon International be consulted. Wade noted that many golf courses rely on herbicides and pesticides that create chemical runoff.
“Audubon International has a set of practices and criteria on how to manage golf courses in a sound way,” Wade said. “What I hope we’re able to do is to minimize the pollution impact because of the way in which they manage the golf course.”
Williams said the Audubon program requires courses to test the water quality of any stream or body of water on the property.
“They should do tests for phosphorus and nitrogen,” Williams said, “and if they’re found in the water we suggest they add oxygen through a fountain or aerator instead of using chemicals to treat the problem.”
The Links at Columbia is part of a new apartment complex being developed by Lindsey Management. Dennis Collins, supervisor of golf course management for the developer, said the Links is the first course managed by the company that will follow the Audubon guidelines. Collins said that a few holes had been moved in the design to maintain a natural “buffer” to protect both sides of Hominy Branch.
“We think it’s a good program,” Collins said.
Audubon International, which is not affiliated with the National Audubon Society, is a cooperative endeavor with the United States Golf Association. Audubon leaves all decisions about how the program is implemented to course officials and places no restrictions on the property as a condition of participation, according to the USGA Web site.
From 2000 to 2001, a survey of courses that follow the sanctuary program found that 89 percent use native plants in their landscaping, compared to 49 percent of unaffiliated course.