Golf Courses More Than a Walk in the Park: (Though They Can Be Used for That, Too)

By Whitney, Mark | Parks & Recreation, January 2011 | Go to article overview

Golf Courses More Than a Walk in the Park: (Though They Can Be Used for That, Too)


Whitney, Mark, Parks & Recreation


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Each year park and recreation officials assess the benefits afforded by every program available to citizens. They analyze the best use of land and the overall value of a program or service provided. It is no different for those responsible for the thousands of park and municipal golf courses in the United States.

What is the true value of a golf course? In a recent NRPA survey, more than 90 percent of municipal golf managers recognized that golf courses of all types provide economic, environmental, and social benefits to their communities,

The American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) members and golf industry partners are working together to quantify the benefits a golf course brings to its community, Economic benefits like jobs and tax resources are rather easy to put into numbers, but it is not so easy to quantify such social and health benefits as spending time with family or friends and being outdoors.

Then there are the environmental benefits, The positive environmental impact a golf course makes on a community is both tangible and powerful, "There is an inherent goodness to the community which comes from the positive environmental, financial, and social impact of a golf course," ASGCA President Erik Larsen said, "The benefits to green space, wildlife and plant sanctuaries, and water filtration are quite valuable."

And the beautiful setting is intrinsic to the very game of golf. Seldom does someone refer to the "beauty" of a basketball court or a bowling center, yet the word is used regularly in regard to golf. The lush, serene setting helps players relieve stress, clear their minds, and fully enjoy their leisure time.

Making Best Use of Nature's Host Abundant Resource

The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) recently surveyed more than 16,000 golf courses. Since 1996, 96 percent of golf facilities have completed at least one environmental improvement, with 57% having implemented at least five improvements. The most common upgrade was to the irrigation system.

GCSAA also notes only 14% of golf facilities use water from municipal systems.

Each of these improvements serves a dual purpose. It improves the golf course for players while enriching the experience of others who might use the facility as walking trails, cross country skiing sites, etc. Second, such improvements provide long-term costs savings through preventive maintenance and long-term planning.

A number of regions around the U.S. were impacted by record rains during the past summer. Those rains demonstrated the extent to which many communities rely upon golf courses to help handle torrential rain and subsequent flooding. "A properly designed and maintained course provides a home for storm water, allowing for water filtration while keeping groundwater clean," said ASGCA Vice President Rick Phelps. "ASGCA members are committed to the design and renovation of golf courses that work with Mother Nature, including designing areas for storm water retention. A well-designed and maintained course provides a positive environmental benefit to homes and businesses near the course, and the entire community."

Communities benefit when a golf course is designed or redesigned to make the most of water--whether that water is wanted or unwanted. Two examples are:

* Groesbeck Municipal Golf Course, Lansing, Mich. A vital community partner in assisting the city and township's handling of storm water flow, thanks to a project designed by Jerry Matthews, ASGCA. Nine holes of the course were redesigned, in part, to include seven acres of storage ponds used for excess water flow during heavy storms. Today, the 30-acre wetland system, including the golf course, can handle 10 million gallons of water per day. That is the equivalent of two "25-year storms" back-to-back.

* Deerpath Golf Course, Lake Forest, Ill. …

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