The Vineyard Golf Club

Case Study Details

The Vineyard Golf Club, Martha's Vineyard, USA
Date of Opening:
Golf Course Architect:
Tom Mackenzie
Donald Steel & Co Ltd
Landscape & Ecosystems, Environmental Quality, People & Communities,

Key Theme:

Environmental Quality (air, water, soil quality, pollution prevention)

The Vineyard Golf Club on Martha’s Vineyard USA was designed by Tom Mackenzie and Donald Steel. It is the only truly organic golf club in the USA and was voted ‘Most Environmentally Friendly Course in the USA’ in 2009. The course was designed with the organic management regime firmly in mind.

The Vineyard Golf Club, hole #2

The Vineyard Golf Club, hole #2

The organic management regime meant that the selection of grass species was crucial. A blend of creeping bent varieties was selected for the greens which offered the greatest possible disease resistance without pesticide use. On the fairways, a blend of Colonial bent creeping bent and fescue was used, although the maintenance team is now using solely fescue in the divot mix as it has performed well. A pure fescue was used in the golf rough with a wild flower and native grass mix beyond that.

The golf course sits on the local town’s drinking water aquifer and so it was agreed that the club would closely monitor water throughout the site to ensure that nitrogen and other fertiliser run-off is negligible.

No pesticides are used for disease or week control.

The water supply is from a deep borehole with water then stored in a large lake for use during hot and dry summer periods. The independent test results have shown that the water quality from run-off is good and these are reviewed by the island’s Conservation Commission.

The water quality issue was a big concern of the local conservation commission who perceived a risk that nitrogen and other run off would reach the ground water aquifer. It was agreed that all greens would be lined with sealed PVC sheet and that all drainage run off would be “day-lighted” so that it could be tested and also so that the water could soakaway through established fairway or rough turf.

Other Themes:

Landscape and Ecosystems

The site is home to Northern Harriers whose breeding areas were avoided and protected. The site had been planted up with a species of non-indigenous oaks as a forestry project. These were removed and in out of play areas, the ground vegetation was retained and the stumps ground out to retain the native ground flora. Locally sourced wild grass seeds including Little Blue Stem were seeded.

The existing landform was retained largely undisturbed and native trees were carefully plotted and retained during the construction process.


During construction all trees were chipped (they had not reached any significant size) and stumped were ground up. This material was then either re-used on paths or sold locally on the island. In the rootzone mix, composted sewage effluent from a local brewery was used to introduce beneficial bacteria into the sterile sand.

People and Communities

The local Conservation Commission monitors the environmental performance of the Club. It is a publicly accountable organisation that has open meetings, so the local population have excellent opportunity to review the performance of the Club.

The club owners agreed as part of the planning negotiations that although the club would be private with a significant joining fee, there would also be a number of local island members who would be allowed to play for a dramatically reduced annual subscription with certain restrictions. The Club has a caddy programme which encourages local youngsters to train up and earn money. The Club constructed a staff accommodation block to house them as required.

The club developers employed a project manager / course superintendent with considerable experience in organic golf course management. He was involved with all of the planning negotiations and was then on site throughout the construction and was in charge of the grow in and remains there to this day. This helped to ensure that enforceable planning conditions were agreed and that someone on site knew exactly what had been agreed and ensured that they were followed correctly. The architect was also involved with the planning process and spent a large amount of time on site during construction as well.

Golf Course Design
Reasons to join