When climatologists talk about restoring the earth's ecosystems, they predict we'll need strong central planning and certain changes in human behavior. In the preferred scenario, those changes won't feel like harsh sacrifices, due to the common good they produce. A few of America's golf communities have already adopted this theme. Their master plans set aside land for nature preserves and mandate low-impact construction and maintenance. Like-minded residents catch the spirit. They pool their time and resources to improve wildlife habitats, and some pass the hat to fund worthy environmental causes. Below are three communities where responsible stewardship goes beyond replacing divots and fixing pitch marks.

Indian River Club

Vero Beach, Florida Now nearly a decade old, Indian River was an early convert to the values and practices spelled out by Audubon International, a nonprofit that advises communities committed to environmentally friendly growth. In its mission statement, the low-density, lushly cultivated club cites a logical link between the golfing spirit and conservation, and members are not shy about writing checks to support environmental efforts. When Audubon sought funding for a new golf-conservation effort, a dozen or so entities purchased charter memberships; most of them were major organizations, but Indian River was one of only two clubs to step up. Pictured is a courtyard-style home with direct lake views and a swimming pool. Visit

Old Greenwood

Truckee, California Luxury and good looks are not the only priorities at this sublime Tahoe hideaway. During construction, the use of recycled materials was also emphasized. Where other golf complexes have mere maintenance buildings, Old Greenwood built a "natural resource management center." In recognition of the community's environmental dedication, the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council recently gave it Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design status—something no other golf community has. Old Greenwood's Jack Nicklaus Signature course is one of only ten to achieve the highest rating from Audubon International. The units featured below are at the Villas, which join two or three homes under one roof (an energy-saving design) and overlook the first tee. Visit

Balsam Mountain Preserve

Sylva, North Carolina Chaffin-Light Associates established an industry standard for environmentally sound building practices at Colorado's Snowmass Village in the early eighties. CLA's new community in the Great Smoky Mountains will appeal to the eco-minded golfer wishing to tuck his luxury dwelling into untamed acreage with only one paved road and no streetlights. The home pictured is a Sugar Loaf Cottage, featuring a "lodge room" with an oversize stone fireplace and distant mountain views. It overlooks the fourth fairway of the community's almost-complete Arnold Palmer course. Two-thirds of this development is deeded to the nonprofit Balsam Mountain Trust and will remain untouched in perpetuity. The trust also manages a nature center and conducts joint research projects with universities and environmental groups. The community newsletter, Nature Phile, is part chatter column and part science quarterly. Visit