Wildhorse Audubon Recertification Process is Sweet as Honey

Wildhorse Golf Club has a long, interesting history, and a new chapter has been added with the facility earning recertification from the Audubon Society as a “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.” Superintendent Darden Nicks led the effort to ensure Wildhorse remained as one of only three courses in Southern Nevada to earn the honor, which is as sweet as honey. –By Brian Hurlburt, LasVegasGolfInsider.com.

Wildhorse was first designated by the Audubon Society in 2002 and is one of 900 courses in the world to currently enjoy the status. The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses is endorsed by the United States Golf Association and provides information and guidance to help golf courses preserve and enhance wildlife habitat and protect natural resources.

“Wildhorse has a shown a strong commitment to its environmental to its environmental program,” said Christine Kane, CEO at Audubon International. “They are to be commended for preserving the natural heritage of the area by protecting the local watershed and providing a sanctuary for wildlife on the course property.”

Nicks, the 2020 Southern Nevada Golf Course Superintendent Association superintendent of the year, appreciates Wildhorse for the golf, but also says there are other unique aspects throughout the layout.

“What is most interesting about Wildhorse are the micro climates that are actually on the property with the different types of water,” said Nicks. “There are lakes near Warm Springs Road (that borders the course), and there’s a reason and history behind that name. There are warm Springs out here on this property. They’re naturally there, but they are 10,000 parts per million of salt. That kind of sets the course apart because you have these springs out in the middle of nowhere. And because of the salt, there are different kinds of wildlife. We have crayfish, that we call desert lobsters, and I would have never thought I would see stuff like that out here in Las Vegas. That’s pretty cool.”

Wildhorse is a City of Henderson course managed by Elite Golf and is a favorite of many local players. The course originally opened as Paradise Valley Country Club decades ago and is located in the older area of Green Valley. The greenery is an oasis for area residents and wildlife, and the course features 18 holes of regular golf in addition to a permanent disk golf course.

Nicks says his favorite part of the process has been the relocation of bee hives, which, in turn, has led to the harvesting of honey.

“As part of the recertification process, we have to do a project every five years,” says Nicks. “We had huge bee hives on and around the property in certain areas, and I knew could be a liability. We partnered with Las Vegas Bees to relocate them and create an apiary. Now, in a remote location on our property we have an apiary and we get half of the honey for free. They also remove any additional hives for us when they are found in sprinkler valve boxes from time to time.”

Besides the bees, Wildhorse is home to plenty of other wildlife. How Nicks and his team preserve the habitat is always part of the process of how he and his team care for the course.

“There are certain areas that we have that are native areas, and we just kind of let them grow because that creates areas for the wildlife to live,” says Nicks. “When people come out and see those areas, they’re okay that they are there because they realize that it is a home for the wildlife. Being this close to downtown, we get a lot of activity and movement through here. We have four or five coyotes that come out here pretty regularly and wander through the property. I think the course offers a refuge for animals that are in the neighborhood. There are a lot of rabbits and we have an ornithologist who has been coming out every month for 15 years to count all of the different birds. We are a western flyway for different birds that are coming up here through Mexico to Oregon at different times a year. We see a lot of different birds here and that is pretty neat. Recently, we had a sighting of a brown pelican and we see so many other species.”

Wildhorse joins TPC Summerlin and TPC Las Vegas as the Southern Nevada courses that have earned the Audubon certification. To play and experience Wildhorse, visit golfwildhorse.com. Wildhorse is a partner of LasVegasGolfInsider.com.