By Jenn (TinyChoices.com) | July 28, 2009
Over beers recently, an acquaintance told me about his love of golf. This subject was on my mind lately, as another friend has recently taken up the game and found, to her delight, that she’s a natural ace. Both of these folks expressed that one of the things they really enjoy is being outside in the fresh air all day, on gorgeously lush green grass, surrounded by nature.
After I told them each that I’ve been wanting to give the sport a try, I quickly added that I’m hesitant to even tread on a closely-clipped green because of the incredible eco-unfriendliness of the game. Both parties (individually) expressed confusion… after all, what’s seemingly more nature-loving than undulating green expanses as far as the eye can see? And this is where I felt like an environmental spoil-sport (pun intended):
- Loss of habitat: Golf courses destroy the native habitat of local wildlife, and migratory birds and insects. And then we’re amazed to see bears in backyards and deer downtown, and we wonder where the butterflies went…
- Immense water use: At an average size of 110-200 acres, golf courses require vast amounts of water to thrive. Watering a property of this magnitude amounts to pouring clean, treated drinking water directly into the ground. Add in the fact that many courses are located in drought-prone areas and the problems start to multiply. WorldWatch states that 2.5 billion gallons of water per day are used on golf courses, which is the same “amount of water it would take, per day, to support 4.7 billion people at the UN daily minimum”
- Immense chemical (pesticide, herbicide, & fertilizer) use: It takes a whole lot of science to keep that grass pristine. Chemicals applied on the course seep into the soil and runoff into streams, lakes and rivers, spreading pollution much futher afield than the putting green. Worldwatch (again) provides another depressing statistic: “Average amount of pesticides used per acre, per year, on golf courses: 18.0 pounds. Average amount of pesticides used, per acre, per year, in agriculture: 2.7 pounds.”
- Privatizing land: When a golf course is created, it removes potential parkland from local residents and creates a pricey oasis accessible only to those with the means to pay for it. Instead of public space for families of all income levels to enjoy, only folks of a certain level of disposable income can use the land.
Apparently there are approximately 23,000 golf courses in the U.S., so multiply those four bullet points above X 23,000 and we’re looking at a pretty large issue.
But all is not lost! It’s Justin Timberlake to the rescue, with the opening of Mirimichi, an eco-friendly golf course: “We stumbled upon the environmental thing. We had to gut it and re-irrigate the course and I just said, in re-irrigating this, is it possible to reuse the water in a way that would zero out our ecological footprint. And as it turns out, you actually can make a golf course eco-friendly.” Mirimichi will be a Platinum LEED certified green course… The first in the United States of America.”
So if Justin’s just stumbling across the environmental thing, we can hope the more progressive golf course designers/architects/builders already have this on their minds and are starting to build accordingly.
Of course, Justin’s not the only one trying to green golf. There’s the Environmental Institute for Golf, whos Mission Statement declares: “The Environmental Institute for Golf is committed to strengthening the compatibility of the game of golf with our natural environment.” And here’s a list of “enviro-friendly golf courses and country clubs” and a Greenopia article outlining the “Seven Most Gorgeous Eco Friendly Golf Courses“.
As gardening guru Dick Raymond said back in ’99: “Only 15 percent of golfers in the world break 100 on 18 holes… What about the other 85 percent? Do they give a rat’s bum about bumps on a green? They want to have fun! Golf is a social game. We need more affordable, family-style recreation. If we can’t provide some outdoor, healthy, family recreation to our community, what are we doing? ”
Do you golf? How do you feel about the sport?
[Image by Evil Erin via Creative Commons]
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