Montgomery County Revenue Authority’s Needwood Golf Course in Derwood Recognized for Its Environmental Efforts by Audubon International

by Patrick Herron
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For Immediate Release: Monday, March 21, 2022

Needwood Golf Course in Derwood, one of nine courses operated by the Montgomery County Revenue Authority (MCRA), has retained its designation as a “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary” through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses. Needwood was first designated by Audubon International as a Certified Cooperative Sanctuary in 2013 and is one of about 900 courses in the world to hold that certification.

Needwood, which has an 18-hole course and a nine-hole “executive course” over its 230 acres adjacent to Lake Needwood, is one of only two courses in the MCRA system that only uses captured runoff and stormwater for irrigation. There are no wells on the property and it does not utilize municipal water to irrigate the property. Needwood has 65 percent fewer sprinkler heads than the average 18-hole golf course.

One of the unique features of Needwood is that it collects, filters and discharges stormwater to Lake Needwood, one of the tributaries to Rock Creek that leads to the Potomac River. It maintains vegetative buffers around bodies of water to help reduce erosion, lower water temperature and generally improve the aquatic habitat. Those buffers, in addition to the taller grass in the surrounding rough areas, help by slowing surface runoff and improving rainwater infiltration to recharge local groundwater.

Needwood has a significant number of acres of “naturalized areas,” grassy areas that have been allowed to grow tall and provide habitat for small animals and where birds can forage on seed stalks during a snowy winter. The areas also provide a corridor for wildlife movement throughout the property. They are mowed a couple times a year to help control the spread of invasive weeds, but are not treated with herbicides.

“Needwood Golf Course is uniquely situated adjacent to Lake Needwood and offers rolling terrain that provides an interesting mix of beautiful scenery, as well as thousands of trees,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. “Among our goals in County Government is to protect and enhance our natural resources. We also want to provide recreational opportunities for our residents. When we have facilities that provide both, such as Needwood Golf Course, we increase our efforts toward reaching our climate action goals.”

Needwood historically hosts among the highest number of golf rounds (around 72,000 per year) played annually among MCRA-operated courses (Northwest hosts more than 78,000). The Needwood course is a challenging Ault-Clark design and generally draws a wide customer base.

“Golf Course Superintendent Harlyn Goldman has done an amazing job managing the entire outside operation at Needwood, from daily course preparation to project management,” said MCRA Chief Executive Officer Keith Miller. “We strive to manage Needwood, and all our golf courses, in a way that minimizes inputs to the playing surfaces.  Needwood is a great place for golf, but also a refuge for local wildlife and a filter for stormwater runoff in our growing community.”

Three other courses operated by MCRA—Little Bennett, Northwest and Poolesville—also have received the Audubon certification designation. The five other MCRA courses are pursuing the designation.

The Montgomery County Revenue Authority was created in 1957 as an instrumentality of Montgomery County and a public corporation. The MCRA’s two primary functions are to operate self-supporting public facilities and to finance public facilities.

The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses, which is endorsed by the United States Golf Association, provides information and guidance to help golf courses preserve and enhance wildlife habitat and protect natural resources. Golf courses from the United States, Africa, Australia, Canada, Central America, Europe, Mexico and Southeast Asia have achieved certification in the program.

“Needwood Golf Course has shown a strong commitment to its environmental program,” said Christine Kane, CEO at Audubon International. “They are to be commended for preserving the natural heritage of the area by protecting the local watershed and providing a sanctuary for wildlife on the golf course property,”

To reach certification, a course must demonstrate that it is maintaining a high degree of environmental quality in Audubon International’s definitions of environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, outreach and education, chemical use reduction and safety, water conservation and water quality management. Courses go through a recertification process every three years.

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