Par Frog

How about some newts on the back nine? Or a toad near the tee? With a few strokes of inspiration, golf courses could provide amphibians with some desperately needed habitat, a new study concludes.

“The average golf course occupies 150 acres of land and consists of approximately 16% non-turfgrass vegetation and 7% waterbodies,” Daniel Jackson and colleagues from the University of Guelph in Canada note in Landscape and Urban Planning. That means about 35 hectares of forest, naturalized areas, and ponds or streams – and potentially “valuable opportunities” to create amphibian habitat that might aid frog, toad and salamander populations suffering from habitat loss and other threats. Course managers and builders, however, currently don’t have a checklist on how to make 18 holes amphibian-ready, so the researchers decided to create one.

First, they studied what pond-breeding amphibians living in the Great Lake Regions of Canada and the United States needed to survive. Then, they interviewed golf course superintendents and managers to identify practical, workable strategies for creating habitat that wouldn’t detract from the game. Finally, developed design guidelines that “synthesize amphibian habitat requirements and golf course design principles to ensure the successful integration of amphibian habitat into golf course landscapes.”

Among the tips? Ponds must be free of predatory fish and American Bullfrogs, which often eat species that conservationists are trying to save. And it might help for them to have gradually sloping sides, which can help create desirable habitat. On land, the best places to locate “natural or environmentally sensitive areas” is in “out-of-play areas,” such behind tee boxes, behind greens, and the long spaces between the tees and the fairways. “Understanding how these environments affect players of varying skill levels will help ensure quality habitats are spatially arranged in suitable areas,” the authors note. In other words, they don’t want less-skilled players constantly ending up in the rough.

Golf courses could be “an ideal land use to aid conservation efforts,” especially in suburban areas, the authors conclude, especially given ”the game’s long-standing symbiotic relationship with nature, the industry’s desire to showcase their sensitivity towards the environment and wildlife,” and growing pressure to reduce maintenance costs. Maybe “Fore!” could become “Frog!”David Malakoff | August 16, 2011

Source: Jackson, D. B., et al. Design guidelines for integrating amphibian habitat into golf course landscapes. Landscape Urban Plan. (2011), doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2011.07.007




  • Richard K. Kessler August 16, 2011 at 7:35 am

    I hope the researchers considered the potential impact of pesticides on the amphibians that find their way to these ponds. There must be an integrated approach here or else frog ponds may actually become frog sinks!


  • Krystyn Wasylyszyn August 16, 2011 at 8:10 am

    They should consider only using semi-private or private golf courses as these tend to attract more skilled golfers who are more likely to adhere to the rules of the course. This would decrease the chances human-wildlife conflict


  • lee August 16, 2011 at 9:02 am

    Sharp Park Golf Course, Pacifica, CA

    “frog and snake restoration efforts spurred by the federal Endangered Species Act were bearing fruit on public lands surrounding Sharp Park. Soon it became apparent that water pumps installed by the golf course to transport freshwater across the sea wall were killing red-legged frogs: as the pumps lowered the water levels, frog egg masses became stranded on aquatic vegetation and entire frogs generations were put into jeopardy. Even worse, ongoing operation and maintenance of the golf course itself was killing San Francisco garter snakes: as the snakes basked in the upland areas around Laguna Salada, they’d be run over and killed by lawn mowers.”


  • For Tomorrow August 19, 2011 at 10:57 am

    This is good news! With human populations constantly on the rise and the available wildlife habitat on the decline, it is important to find mutually non-invasive ways for humans and flora and fauna to co-exist! Something like this is ideal because it involves minimal sacrifice from both ends.


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