A green golf course? But aren't they all green?
Actually, aside from their perfectly manicured grass, many golf courses aren't very green, and some are notoriously detrimental to the environment, and surprisingly wasteful of some important natural resources.
Just consider water: Golf courses can use over 200,000 gallons of water each day (especially in arid golf meccas like Phoenix and Palm Springs), according to some reports. World Watch magazine estimates that golf links around the world use an estimated 2.5 billion gallons of water a day for irrigation. And much of that water is potable water that could be better used as drinking water.
But golf courses have to water the grass.
True, which is why many green golf courses are now switching to new types of grass that require less water to stay lush and verdant. And some golf courses have started using treated wastewater instead of drinking water. Others are choosing to irrigate smaller areas of the golf course, irrigating more efficiently, or raising mowing heights to help the grass stay green in dry weather. So not only does a green golf course save water, it also has a lower water bill.
What else makes a green golf course?
Pesticides -- or fewer of them. According to some reports, about four million pounds of monosodium methanearsonate (an arsenic
-based pesticide) is applied to U.S. golf courses and cotton fields each year to control weeds. Not only do pesticides present a risk to golfers and maintenance workers, it also can affect people and wildlife near the golf course and downstream of the links.
So how do green golf courses control pests?
Many green golf course managers have adopted integrated pest management, or IPM
, to control weeds, bugs, fungi and other pests, while still delivering a beautiful green to their golfers. IPM encourages the use of non-chemical pest control methods whenever possible, and applying chemical solutions judiciously when no other options exist. Not only do these strategies make the golf course safer -- while keeping the fairway and greens in excellent condition -- they also reduce downstream pollution and lower pest control expenses.
What about green golf courses and wildlife?
Golf course managers, the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the International Golf Federation (IGF) have found that there are many ways to make a green golf course into a wildlife habitat. Audubon International -- one chapter of the Audubon Society -- has devised an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for green golf courses.
What does the Audubon International program do?
In addition to encouraging water conservation, water quality control, reduced chemical use and environmental education, the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program asks golf course managers to set aside some areas of the course for animal habitat. For example, creeks, ponds and other water hazards often have a buffer zone of greenery that's not mowed, which improves water quality and provides food and habitat for birds and other wildlife. Some courses, like The Old Collier Golf Club in Naples, Fla., has over 100 acres set aside as habitat corridors to give wildlife a protected passage across and within the green golf course. So far, over 600 green golf courses worldwide have been certified by Audubon International as green golf courses.
How can I find a green golf course in my area?
There are over 600 green golf courses in 24 countries that have been certified through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program
, and more are on the way every year. Additionally, there's a GEO OnCourse
program -- mostly in Europe -- that certifies green golf courses through their environmental program. If you're an avid golfer, consider asking your local club to join one of these programs. It's great for the reputation of your golf course, safer for those who use or work on the course, and much better for the local environment.