Mark Hoban’s innovative and passionate pursuit of new approaches to golf course maintenance has earned him an Environmental Leader in Golf award from the Georgia Golf Environmental Foundation (GGEF).

As certified golf course superintendent at Rivermont Golf and Country Club in John’s Creek, Hoban’s organic maintenance philosophy significantly reduces the use of conventional inputs, namely water, fertilizer, pesticides and mowing. Hoban says his methods minimize environmental impacts while simultaneously saving money and labor that he can redirect to other aspects of the golf course.

Hoban, a past-president of the Georgia GCSA and the association’s Superintendent of the Year in 2002, has been described as a “mad scientist” by colleagues in the profession, including Richard Staughton, CGCS from Towne Lake Hills Golf Club in Woodstock, Georgia, who is GGEF vice-chairman.

“Mark has long been an advocate for ‘less pesticides is better,’ ” Staughton says. “His yearly agronomic plans have been aimed at maintaining his turf with more natural inputs and applying the minimum number of pesticide applications possible. He actually accomplishes just that.”

Hoban’s multi-faceted approach embraces the growing trend towards reducing the amount of maintained acreage, promoting native grasses and irrigating with recycled water. Less common is his philosophy of “feeding the soil rather than the plant.” To this end he composts clubhouse waste for a mini-worm farm that generates microbes and a compost tea that he sprays on the golf course. Hoban also integrates worm-castings and carbon into his aerification program.

“Overall, the methods send an important but understated message about how beneficial golf courses are in urban setting environments, bringing in wildlife diversity and habitats into the golfing experience,” Hoban says. “We have been able to take 20-plus acres and convert it into native grasses, which we harvest seed from and expand on each year. These are a spectacular accent and frame to the golf holes – and so much more than a ‘brown in the winter, green in the summer look.’ Again, the native grasses reduce inputs and bring in birds, bees and butterflies.”

Hoban has also introduced wildflower plantings to further promote native bee populations and most recently Rivermont added a monarch butterfly sanctuary.

“Mark and his mad scientist imagination with home-grown microbes may be onto something that could help all golf course superintendents and environment in Georgia,” Staughton says.