Green on the Green

G Magazine

Rena Merchant liked her golf, but not the chemical cocktail splashed on most greens. So she set up her own spray-free course and organic orchard, armed with a secret weapon - worm poo.

Rena Merchant on her organic golf course

Rena Merchant on her organic golf course

Credit: Vincent L. Long

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An entrepreneur with an ecological outlook, Rena Merchant decided that there had to be a way to tee off that wasn't toxic.

"I was sick of being sprayed whenever I played on conventional [golf] courses. The people I played with complained of migraines, itchy skin and eyes," she says.

So in 2001, Merchant, co-founder of surf clothing brand Billabong, opened Kabi Golf Course. About 25 minutes drive from Noosa at Boreen Point, it takes its name from the local indigenous people. The Queensland course is 100% certified organic.

Merchant, a self-described "old hippie from way back", has been eating organically for 25 years, but says that people still think of organic living as a mildewy habit left over from the '70s.

"The golf course idea started out as fun, but now it's serious," she says.

At Kabi, spraying has never entered the equation. Instead, seasonal weeds are controlled mainly by hand-weeding.

Pests such as mole crickets, black beetles and ants are kept in check through biodynamic practices and the use of various botanical oils.

Mulch around trees increases drainage from the greens and improves the soil. In addition, pinto peanut (Arachis pintoi), a low-growing legume, is grown around the treebases. This 'living mulch' suppresses the growth of weeds, increases the soil's available nitrogen and water retention and protects topsoil from wind and water erosion.

Troy MacLaren, Kabi's superintendent greenskeeper, has worked at some big-name courses on the Gold Coast and he says Kabi does everything differently. The secret ingredient to Kabi's success, he says, is vermicast, or worm poo.

"We take worm vermicast one step further and brew our own compost tea," he says.

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