Highland Links Golf Course Goes Green

golf course with lighthouse in background

Widely believed to be Cape Cod’s oldest golf course 1, the Highland Links Golf course, located in the Truro Highlands Historic District within Cape Cod National Seashore, is not only focused on preserving its past, but also implementing sustainable practices to provide for the future.

Johnson Golf Management, the management company for the Highland Links course, and George Price, Cape Cod National Seashore Park Superintendent have teamed up to perform organic turf management at the course. 2 Starting with the first hole, including the tee box, fairway, and green, the team at the Highlands is moving away from chemical fertilizers. Traditional chemical fertilizers deliver nitrogen and other elements to grass to make it greener. The use of these chemicals presents significant risks to human health and environmental wellness; mainly through ground water infiltration. 3

Analysis of the soil at the Highlands determined that the landscape already had healthy biological components in its soil. In the new approach to land management, the plan is to rebuild the soil’s natural processes and break down organic forms of nitrogen to make them available to plants. Groundskeepers have started added tiny protozoans that eat bacteria and release nutrients for the grass to take in, and nematodes that attack pests. These natural processes supply the grass with its required nutrients without using chemical fertilizers.

“The development of organic lawn care, and natural turf management, is in response to a growing concern around synthetic intervention in the landscape,” said Chip Osborne, an expert in sustainable turf management and Cape Cod National Seashore staff member. “It is in development of science-based strategies from the natural perspective that involves healthy soils, natural, organic products, and very specific and revised horticultural practices,” he continued 4.

The staff at Highland plan to continue these more natural practices for a few seasons, after which an evaluation will be done to measure the effectiveness of these ‘green’ products. If deemed successful, they hope to expand their use further at Highlands, as well as other golf courses Johnson Golf Management manages throughout Cape Cod.

1 Dca, Rob. “Five Cape Cod Golf course holes with history.” June 7, 2014. The Boston Globe. Retrieved on September 3, 2015

2 Frasier, Doug “Greening up the greens organically at Highland Links.” Sept. 3, 2015. The Cape Cod Times. Retrieved September 3, 2015

3 Sowl, John. “Regional Turf Stewardship Pilot Project Underway.” November 4, 2010. Inside NPS.

4 National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. (2015). Highland Links – The Greens are Going Green. [Press Release]