Press Releases

Another State-Owned Golf Course Gets Enviro Stamp of Approval

State of Tennessee Press Release, Oct. 20, 2010:

Montgomery Bell State Park Golf Course Named Groundwater Guardian Green Site; Joins Bear Trace at Harrison Bay and Paris Landing as Third Site in Tennessee

BURNS, Tenn. – Environment and Conservation Commissioner Jim Fyke is pleased to announce the Montgomery Bell State Park Frank G. Clement Golf Course’s recent recognition as a Groundwater Guardian Green site. The Montgomery Bell course joins Bear Trace at Harrison Bay State Park and the Paris Landing course as the only three sites in Tennessee with this designation from The Groundwater Foundation.

Groundwater Guardian Green Sites are places with significant green space – such as golf courses, ball fields, educational campuses and office parks – that implement effective groundwater and surface water practices to protect water quality. Montgomery Bell’s Frank G. Clement Golf Course documented an array of groundwater-friendly practices to earn this exclusive designation. The golf course is actively protecting local water supplies by optimizing fertilizer applications, applying natural organic products when possible and creating vegetative buffer areas around wetlands and shorelines.

In an effort to protect surrounding waterways and groundwater supplies, Montgomery Bell’s golf course has utilized native plants and buffer zones. Unique to this particular effort is the construction of a greenhouse. Partnering with the Friends of Montgomery Bell State Park, the greenhouse also is part of the park’s effort to pursue Audubon certification. Overall, these decisions have reduced fertilizer and chemical inputs into the environment and also decreased the amount of water required to irrigate these areas.

“A large amount of the state’s public water supply is provided from groundwater and improving upon its protection is important to the safety and health of all Tennesseans,” Fyke said. “I commend Jeff Kuhns, Darrell Hartsfield and the entire team at the Montgomery Bell State Park’s golf course for their innovative green strategies and conservation leadership. Their hard work serves as an example of how good environmental stewardship can truly make a difference.”

Another example of Montgomery Bell’s environmental practices includes the park’s eight environmentally friendly villas, which were unveiled in October 2009. These contemporary accommodations feature energy efficient and environmentally responsible practices such as a geothermal systems, compact fluorescent light bulbs, outdoor furniture made from recycled plastic and indoor/outdoor recycling equipment.

Groundwater Guardian Green Sites is a program administered by The Groundwater Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Lincoln, Nebraska, with a mission to educate and motivate the public to care about and for groundwater. The program began in 2007 to recognize good stewards of groundwater by encouraging managers of highly managed green spaces to implement, measure and document their groundwater-friendly practices. The Groundwater Guardian Green Site program is supported by Cargill, the Nebraska Environmental Trust, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 Pollution Prevention Program, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. To learn more, please visit

Montgomery Bell State Park is located in Burns, Tenn., just seven miles east of Dickson. Coupled with outstanding accommodations and recreational opportunities, the 3,782-acre park is home to fox, squirrel, raccoon, opossum, deer and a wide variety of birds and wildflowers. For additional information about the park, please call toll free at (800) 250-8613 or visit the Web site at

Montgomery Bell State Park Golf Course was built in 1973 and redesigned by designer Gary Roger Baird in 1988. With its fairways lined with hardwood trees and four bunkers to protect the green, Hole #2 is a 446-yard long par 5 and considered the course’s signature hole. To learn more about this beautiful golf course, please visit

Tennessee’s 53 state parks offer diverse natural, recreational and cultural experiences for individuals, families or business and professional groups. State park features range from pristine natural areas to 18-hole championship golf courses. For a free brochure about Tennessee State Parks, call toll free 1-888-867-2757. For additional information, visit our Web site at

Environment and Natural Resources Tax and Budget

State Golf Courses Still Laying Up Short of Profitability

A foursome of Republican lawmakers made headlines recently after a Nashville television station revealed they’d spent a leisurely legislative-day afternoon this spring out on the links.

In fact, a lot of golfers who might not realize it are shooting publicly subsidized  rounds when they tee off at courses owned by the state government, according to a recent report by a spending watchdog group.

Taxpayers, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research says, are getting clubbed for a portion of the greens fees.

Since TCPR began scoring the financial performance of state government-managed golf spots five years ago, the public has sunk nearly $7 million down the hole.

That may seem like a lot of green, but government administrators are quick to extol the management of their facilities. And one of the most worthwhile aspects of the tax-funded greenskeeping, they say, is that three government courses have won prestigious awards for going environmentally green — even as their budgets have spent years in the red.

Last month Fall Creek Falls Golf Course was awarded designation as a “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary” for meeting “specific criteria in the areas of environmental planning; wildlife and habitat management; outreach and education; chemical use reduction and safety; water conservation; and water quality management.”

During the last budget cycle at Fall Creek, lawmakers teed up $731,000 for the golf course to operate. However, the facility is expected to only generate about $478,000 in revenue, according to numbers provided by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, which manages the course.

By taking measures to qualify for the environmental sustainability award, the course will save about $1,400 in lawn care costs and reduce water usage by 16,000 gallons a year, according to TDEC.

Two other courses that have previously won the international Audubon award also operate at a loss. In the FY2008-09 budget year, Harrison Bay dropped $20,482 more than it earned in revenue and Paris Landing closed out $59,959 in the rough.

Tennessee is home to 11 state-owned golf courses. The government spent about $8.5 million last year on the facilities, while collecting only $6.9 million from users – a loss to taxpayers of about $1.6 million, concluded TCPR’s 2010 “Pork Report.”

“It’s not fair for Tennessee tax payers who don’t golf — many of them can’t golf — to subsidize those who choose to golf,” Justin Owen, acting executive director for the Nashville-based group, said.

Courses handicapped by low revenues ought to at least be charging user fees a fair ways closer to profitability, said Owen. And if the government can’t operate the facilities in the black, the fiscally sub-par courses should be sold off or leased out so the private sector can take a swing at running them, he said.

Jim Fyke, Department of Environment and Conservation commissioner, acknowledged in an interview with TNReport that “golf is in a tough time right now.”

“I’m not going to tell you golf courses, in immediate times, are going to start to make money,” said Fyke. He added that the Audubon award is “a feather in our cap when we’re getting our negative publicity on our lack of play at these courses.”

Furthermore, said Fyke, the courses are closer to solvency than the TCPR study suggests. All but three of golf courses are destination locations, or “hospitality centers,” situated near state-owned inns, restaurants, camp grounds, swimming pools, hiking trails, and marinas that attract visitors, he said.

Add up the costs of tourists’ golf fees, lodging, food and other expenses, and the recreational hubs are 99.1 percent solvent, said Fyke.

“It’s really, I think, a little bit unfair to single (golf courses) out,” he said.

Two Republican legislators, Rep. Joshua Evans of Greenbrier and Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet, also looked at slicing the facilities this spring, proposing that the state lease or sell any courses that under-perform for two years straight.

The measure was never heard in committee.

Lawmakers tentatively agreed to get rid of two courses next year, anyway. The Legislature OK’d one-time funding for Old Stone Fort and T.O. Fuller golf courses in the latest budget, but will force the facilities to close when that money runs out in 2011 unless the General Assembly calls a Mulligan.

Courses handicapped by low revenues ought to at least be charging greens fees a fair ways closer to fair market value, said Owen. And if the government can’t operate the facilities in the black, the fiscally sub-par courses should be sold off or leased out so the private sector can take a swing at it, said Owen.