Golf, a game played in nature, has for years been lambasted by tree-huggers as a despoiler of the environment. Some of the criticism was deserved, but the industry overall has self-corrected since the millennium, pioneering cost-effective ways to become better stewards of the environment. In honor of Earth Day on April 22, here are what golf courses nationwide are doing to preserve the game’s natural heritage.
As golf courses in drought-stricken California are discovering, water is a very precious commodity. Throughout the nation, water conservation is no longer an option for golf courses. It’s an imperative. In addition to maintaining irrigation equipment to maximize efficiency and minimize waste, superintendents use recycled or reclaimed “gray” water, devise efficient storm water retention systems to capture runoff, allow out-of-play areas to go native during dry periods, and hand-water dry spots to avoid running the entire irrigation system.
Hand-in-glove with water conversation is efficient management of water resources. Initiatives include mitigating erosion to water bodies (streams, lakes, and ponds); using environmentally sensitive plant management techniques near water hazards; designating “no spray” zones near all water bodies; and maintaining soils and turfgrass to maximize water absorption. “Bio-controls” like algae-eating fish (white amurs) are used by Westchester County Club (N.Y.) and other facilities to replace heavy chemicals previously used to control pond algae.
Seamlessly integrated into 235 acres in Edgartown, Mass. on Martha’s Vineyard, Vineyard Golf Club is the nation’s only all-organic golf course. No synthetic pesticides are allowed. Only composted fertilizers are used. In place of herbicides, weeds are killed with boiling water and a natural foam cocktail. Moss is removed with kitchen dish detergent. Microscopic worms are used to attack turf-ruining grubs. The mating cycle of Oriental beetles is disrupted with a strategically-placed scent. The club’s goal is course playability, not visual perfection a la Augusta National. Expect to see more courses following Vineyard’s example in the years ahead.