July 1, 2016 - First Green, a unique STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education program that uses golf courses as environmental learning labs, is preparing for its 20th year celebration by looking back at its origins.

In First Green, golf course superintendents and/or local golf course representatives host students on field trips where they test water quality, collect soil samples, identify plants, design plantings, assist in stream bed restoration, and are involved in the ecology and environmental aspects of the golf course. The students are also introduced to many other aspects of golf.
First Green was co-founded in Washington in 1997 by Jeff Gullikson, golf course superintendent at Kalispel Golf and Country Club in Spokane, Wash., and Bill Meyer, golf coach. They aimed to connect golf course superintendents and agriculture teachers, while introducing students to the game of golf. Jeff Gullikson reflects on the beginnings of First Green, “We didn’t know how fun it would be. Teachers are high energy. They can make those environmental education lessons come alive in the classroom. Then, they can bring their students out to the golf course to experience it hands-on. First Green field trips give us an opportunity to show what a golf course really is and not what it’s perceived to be.”

Golf course superintendents are the focal points of First Green’s trademarked STEM program. They need to be highly-trained in STEM to manage their golf courses; they share this knowledge with teachers and students, showing real world applications that inspire student interest in STEM.

Karen Armstead, First Green executive director says, “As First Green has expanded from Washington across North America, we are seeing other youth-based golf programs attempting to add STEM to their offerings. We are fortunate to be working with the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) regional field reps. It’s really the golf course superintendent who knows STEM on the golf course.”

The USGA has provided grants to First Green for the creation of educational videos, STEM lesson plans and an enhanced website.