In 2007, Justin Timberlake and his family purchased the Big Creek Golf Course, which was slated for closure. The Memphis area course was significant to Timberlake because he played golf as a child, and his mother and stepfather had their wedding there. The purchase wasn’t just for nostalgia, but it also was an opportunity for him to create a truly green course.
“Creating an eco-friendly course was a priority throughout the renovations,” Greg King, the initial director of golf at the Mirimichi Golf Course, stated when the public course opened in 2009. “We wanted to create a world-class golf experience that protected and enhanced nature’s canvas.”
Photo Courtesy Mirimichi Golf Course
The name Mirimichi was chosen for the new course because it is a Cherokee word meaning a “place of happy retreat.” With its lovely blend of rolling fairways, bunkers, waterfalls, and creeks, the Mirimichi certainly represents a paradise for golfers. However, it also represents a big step forward for sustainable green golf facilities.
“Golf is about more than hitting the perfect shot,” Rich Peterson, Mirimichi general manager, shared in 2009. “It is about promoting physical and mental well-being, preserving natural areas within urban environments, and supporting native plants and wildlife. At Mirimichi, both golfers and wildlife find a place of happy retreat.”
To help maximize Mirimichi’s environmental potential, the Timberlake team reached out to Audubon International. Russ Bodie, who served as Audubon International’s chief consultant for this comprehensive renovation, told the Memphis News that he would give Mirimichi an “ecological A-plus.” Bodie’s Audubon International colleagues concurred as they made Mirimichi the first golf course in the U.S. to receive an official Audubon Classic Sanctuary Certification, praising its native landscaping, wildlife preservation, environmental education, and water conservation.
Photo Courtesy Mirimichi Golf Course
On many levels, water was a core focus during Mirimichi’s construction. A water quality monitoring program was devised to ensure that clean water is fed into the course’s various ponds, wetland areas, and neighboring Big Creek and Caney Creek. Rainwater is reclaimed and reused for irrigation, and the irrigation system also serves to filter pollutants from the golf cart paths and the parking lots.
“Every drop of water that falls on this site — falls on a tee, a fairway, a green, a parking lot — that water is filtered, it’s cleaned before it even reaches a pond,” Bodie explained in the Memphis Daily News. “We like to think of ponds from a frog’s perspective.”
Along the banks of Mirimichi’s ponds and streams, aquatic vegetation was planted. This addition helped safeguard the water quality along with giving local wildlife easy access to clean water.
Part of the golf course’s reinvention as Mirimichi also involved eliminating approximately 100 acres of Big Creek’s mowable turf and replacing them with native grasslands, which required less upkeep and resulted in cutting down on fossil fuel usage. The native wildlife and local aquatic habitats were also protected through an Integrated Pest Management program that featured environmentally friendly pesticides, fertilizers, and other landscaping materials.
Photo Courtesy Mirimichi
An example of Mirimichi’s sustainability emphasis is its maintenance facility, which is designated a “natural resource management center.” Workers utilize a biodegradable treatment for the rinse water by capturing and processing the water used to clean mowers so it can be recycled to clean the mowers the following day. The maintenance team also follows “green practices” to limit the environmental damages caused by spills or other accidents.
Audubon International wasn’t the only organization to reward Mirimichi’s achievements. It was the first course in the Americas to be certified by the Golf Environmental Organization.
Mother Nature Network named Mirimichi one of the five Greenest Golf Courses in the World, and National Geographic placed it among the 10 Most Environmentally Friendly Courses in the World. Meanwhile, Golfweek included Mirimichi on its “best courses you can play” list for 2013 and 2014.
In spite of the course’s successes and accolades, the Timberlake ownership decided to sell Mirimichi in 2014 to fellow Memphian Fred Edmaiston — he owns a company that makes air pollution control equipment.
However, the sale didn’t end Timberlake’s “Mirimichi Connection.” He is an equity partner in Mirimichi Green, an award-winning pioneering company whose sustainable soil products are made with clean, non-toxic organic materials, including USDA-certified bio-based carbon. Mirimichi, has been hailed by Terrie Purdum, founding farmer of Turf Life, Inc., for setting “set a whole new standard for the turf industry” and has had the Miami Dolphins, Duke Energy, and the Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore among its clients.
Photo Courtesy Mirimichi Green