Greening the Golf Course: Lesson Plan

Learn about native North Carolina plants, then discover how plant scientists and groundskeepers have used plants that are native to North Carolina to create an environmentally-sustainable golf course.

UNC-TV Media

Alignment to NC Essential Standards

  • NCES.Bio.2.2.1 — Infer how human activities (including population growth, pollution, global warming, burning of fossil fuels, habitat destruction and introduction of nonnative species) may impact the environment. 
  • NCES.Bio.2.2.2 — Explain how the use, protection and conservation of natural resources by humans impact the environment from one generation to the next.

Learning Outcomes

Time Allotment Needed: 5 days (block schedule)

  • Students will identify grasses and other plants that are native to North Carolina, and compare them to popular non-native plants. 
  • Students will identify and explain the advantages of using native plants for a golf course. 

Essential Questions

  1. What are the economic and environmental benefits of landscaping with native plants?
  2. How can landscaping a golf course be environmentally sustainable?

Essential Vocabulary

  • Ecosystem
  • Fertilizer 
  • Irrigation 
  • Native plant 
  • Pesticide
  • Sustainable 
  • Vegetation 
  • Wiregrass


Ask students to brainstorm a list of familiar plants that they see every day around the school or in their neighborhoods. Record the list on the whiteboard. Examples of plants include grasses, trees, shrubs and common weeds, as well as garden and crop plants. Then list the following plants: wiregrass, toadflax, prickly pear cactus, foamflower and Carolina phlox. Ask students if they are familiar with any of these plants. Explain that the plants are native to North Carolina, meaning that they arose in the state and live in the wild. Discuss how people often use non-native plants for landscaping yards and public spaces, and farmers typically grow non-native plants for cash crops. Ask students to consider the benefits of re-introducing native plants to their original habitats.


Students will work independently to gather information about plants that are native to North Carolina and the benefits that these plants provide. 

North Carolina Native Plant Society — Have students explore the native plant database. In the drop-down menu for plant type, select "perennial groundcover" to gather information about potential substitutes for grass that are native to North Carolina.  

North Carolina Botanical Garden — Navigate to Plants & Gardening, and then Environmentally Responsible Gardening Practices to read about specific plants and gardening practices that are effective in North Carolina.

Going Native: Urban Landscaping for Wildlife with Native Plants — Navigate to Native Plants Attractive to Wildlife. In the entry field for common name, enter "wiregrass" to learn about a native grass to North Carolina. Or search on other native or non-native plants of interest.


Students will view the NC Science Now video Greening the Golf Course. After viewing the video, students should answer the following questions. They can then discuss their answers with a partner or in small groups.

  1. What is meant by the title of the video, "Greening the Golf Course?" 
  2. What are some of the native plants that were introduced to the golf course? What plants did they replace? 
  3. What economic and environmental benefits do the native plants provide the golf course?
  4. What are the reactions of the golfers, golf-course officials and others to the new landscaping? 
  5. Why do scientists and golf-course officials want to apply the new landscaping strategy to other golf courses across the country? 




Students will investigate one or more plants that are native to their region of North Carolina, how these plants are being used or conserved and the possible future of the plants. Encourage students to research native plants online or at the local library. If feasible, identify an expert for a small group of students to interview. The expert could be a plant biologist at a local college or university, a specialist at a nursery or greenhouse or an official from a gardening club, botanical garden or plant conservatory. Make sure that any particular expert is contacted only once by students from the school. Students will share their findings in an oral report to the class.


Students will prepare posters, flyers or an Internet site to promote the use of a plant that is native to North Carolina. The poster or other product should include a picture of the plant and useful information about it, as well as the benefits it could provide to North Carolina homeowners, farmers, gardeners or the general public. With the permission of school officials, have students display posters around the school or distribute flyers to other classrooms. If students prepare an Internet site, they may present it on the whiteboard to classmates.