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Earth Day is Every Day at The Natural

Earth Day, celebrated on Thursday, April 22 for the 51st time via EARTHDAY.ORG, isn’t just a single day out of the year at the golf courses in the Gaylord Golf Mecca.

For instance, The Natural is naturally managed as if Earth Day is every day.

Kevin Henley, longtime general manager and superintendent at The Natural, for several years tested the groundwater as it entered the property surrounding and containing the 18-hole championship golf course, and then tested it again as it exited.

“It was always cleaner leaving and we did that for 15 years, and that never changed,” he said. “I’m proud of that and it shows grass is a great filter for groundwater.”

Henley said The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf, an education and certification program, and the safe practices and guidelines required by Michigan’s Environmental Stewardship Division have for several years helped golf shed an outdated reputation as poor for the environment.

“I look at it that we are a like a big park, and when the practices are correct and you are careful with how you do things, a golf course is great for the environment,” he said.

The Natural, since its opening in 1992, has implemented safe practices and Henley has been there 27 years doing it the right way.

“We do have some challenges here with the wetlands that are part of our course design,” he said. “With our fertilization we establish boundaries or buffer zones, and we do our best not to disturb the animal life. It’s important that phosphorous has been taken out of fertilizers, and there are safe quality products that are friendly to the environment out there.”

Henley said doubters just need to play a round of golf at The Natural – or any of the 17 Gaylord Golf Mecca courses in the area – and see for themselves how the game can serve nature.

Fawns at Black Lake Golf Club

“We have turtles, fox cubs playing in the bunkers, cool ducks, geese, a big owl population, several eagles and even sometimes a mama bear and her cub in and around No. 13, not to mention deer, rabbits, squirrels, birds, anything you can think of,” he said. “We like seeing the wildlife and our customers like seeing them, too. It’s a haven for nature out there in a way. Everybody likes a pristine, healthy environment. That’s part of the reason I live up north and people come up north.”

The Natural is also a haven for golfers. Jerry Matthews & Associates designed the course while working with state agencies and produced a tree-lined rolling escape that is a pure Northern Michigan golf experience. Multiple tee choices make it playable for golfers of various levels, too.

“I look at it as this gem of a course that has matured and that we work really hard to take care of,” Henley said. “It’s fun to play. People love it here. We get a lot of repeat business, and we get a lot of people who come because somebody told them about us.”

The Natural is set to open this year on May 2. Henley said there are some aerification, sod, bunker and tree trimming projects that are being completed before the season begins.

“The golf course is in great shape,” he said. “Mother Nature was kind to us this winter. Things came out wonderful. The phones have been busy. We’re looking forward to a great year.”

Part of The Natural’s “natural” layout

Happy Earth Day from your friends in the Gaylord Golf Mecca!

By Greg Johnson

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