Golf Courses Benefit the Environment

By Parkes, Marty | Parks & Recreation, April 1996 | Go to article overview

Golf Courses Benefit the Environment


Parkes, Marty, Parks & Recreation


Golf course can play an integral role in improving the environmental standing of many recreational facilities nationwide. What's most needed is a bit of planning, a core group of hard-working folks, and an underlying commitment to setting and achieving goals.

The idea of golf courses benefitting the environment is quite a departure from what we see and hear in much of the media these days. Major newspapers routinely run headlines with eye-catching titles like "Environmental Disaster on Golf Course" or "Golf Courses Are Denounced as Health Hazards." They are often followed by passages so terrifying that they can convince some people never to set foot on a golf course again.

Many broadcasters have followed suit. Even the familiar radio personality Paul Harvey has adopted the posture of a latter-day Paul Revere during his widely syndicated radio broadcasts. Sounding that alarm against golf courses throughout every village and town, Harvey has coined such jolting phrases as "Death stalks the golf course" and "If there were snakes in the grass of your golf course, there'd be a loaded shotgun in your golf bag" to introduce his diatribes.

The intentions behind these messages are honorable, but the information upon which they are based is often distorted or, in some cases, even suspect. While it's possible to contend that every single golf course in the nation is located, constructed, and maintained in a manner beneficial to the environment, it is possible to argue that the golf industry, in general, has chosen to move toward ensuring a healthy environment for all beings, both four- and two-legged. Educating yourself about these efforts, and ensuring that a suitable plan, based upon sound environmental stewardship, is implemented in your community can help ensure that your recreational facilities - including golf courses - can improve, rather than harm, your community's environment.

What the Golf Industry

Has Done

The United States Golf Association (USGA), primarily through its Green Section, has undertaken many programs to examine golf's effect upon the environment. Other allied associations, such as the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), have lent their support or sponsored their own programs. The golf industry as a whole has not sat back idly and waited for problems to develop before acting. Instead, it has been proactive in searching for solutions. What it may be most guilty of is not educating golfers and the general public about its programs and resources in this area.

The USGA Green Section celebrated its 75th anniversary last year; a landmark that demonstrates the association's longstanding commitment to providing excellent playing conditions coupled with sound environmental stewardship. Toward this end, the Green Section involves itself in every phase of golf course maintenance and management.

Turf Advisory Service and

Research Programs

One of the Green Section's major programs remains its Turf Advisory Service (TAS). More than a dozen, highly skilled USGA agronomists - plant and soil specialists - located in regional offices throughout the country annually visit approximately 1,600 golf courses from coast-to-coast. Founded in 1953, the TAS offers the opportunity to reap the benefits of expert advice about golf course maintenance and environmental practices to individual facilities. Visits result in a comprehensive review of each course's maintenance and environmental practices, with suggestions for enhancements. The USGA provides an annual subsidy close to $1.5 million for this service, which is available to both public and private facilities.

The USGA simultaneously supports the largest private turfgrass research effort in the world. Since 1983, the association has funded more than 98 research projects at 33 major land-grant universities across the country. These projects alone have cost the organization more than $12. …

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