The responsible use of pesticides is essential to maintaining healthy turfgrass. Healthy turfgrass allows communities to enjoy many benefits including: creation of critical “greenspaces’, providing wildlife habitat, and ensuring recreational opportunities. There are many other environment benefits to healthy turfgrass including the capture of run-off pollutants in stormwater, temperature buffer, erosion control, and serving as a protective barrier to groundwater. In addition, many entities both public and private rely on healthy greenspaces like golf courses as a key component in maintaining financial revenues.

Pesticide laws and regulations should be based on sound science supported by credible peer reviewed data and university recommendations. Golf courses employ licensed pesticide applicators that are required to pass state administered exams and complete continuing education each year. These applicators are trained in the safe and proper use of pesticides within an integrated pest management (IPM) system. Golf course superintendents follow best management practices for proper pesticide management on the course. GCSAA launched  in 2017 the 50 by 2020 BMP initiative with the goal of having all 50 states with a BMP program in place by 2020 to ensure protection of human health and the environment and demonstrate the industry's commitment to environmental stewardship.

Golf course superintendents utilize pesticides as part of a system of integrated pest management (IPM) to control pests and maintain healthy turf. Best management practices, continuing education, peer-reviewed research and technology are important elements for an IPM approach for golf course superintendents. The latest technology in application equipment is used on golf courses which allows for precise application of pesticides. Pesticide production is highly regulated in the U.S. through the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. Pesticides used to maintain healthy golf course turf have been thoroughly tested by EPA. This agency evaluates pesticides to ensure they will not have unreasonable adverse effects on humans, the environment and non-target species when used according to label directions. The safe and responsible use of pesticides, and the continued availability of effective products, is a top priority for GCSAA and its members. This priority was reinforced in 2000 when GCSAA members passed an addition to the association’s bylaws creating new entry and maintenance membership standards for Class A members. As of July 1, 2003, to maintain their membership status, Class A members must obtain a state pesticide applicator license or successfully complete a GCSAA-developed IPM exam which tests on principles of pesticide usage. Specific pesticide issues include:

  • State Preemption of Local Pesticide Ordinances
  • Pesticide Regulation
  • Endangered Species Act Litigation
  • Pollinators

Over the past several years, U.S. golf courses have increased their reliance on non-pesticide pest control practices such as cultural control, plant growth regulators and biological control. In addition, there has been a significant downward trend, since 2007, in the degree to which superintendents feel that pesticide restrictions influenced their pest management programs. The 2016 Golf Course Environmental Profile (GCEP) Pest Management Practices Survey showed that reliance on conventional chemistries such as fungicides, herbicides, insecticides and nematicides has either decreased or showed little change. The data suggests that turf managers are using non-pesticide control practices in conjunction with conventional chemistries, rather than as substitutes for them.

GCSAA is a 22-year member of the U.S. EPA's Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP), which is a voluntary program that forms partnerships with pesticide users to reduce the potential health and environmental risks associated with pesticide use and implement pollution prevention strategies. EPA named GCSAA a 2002 PESP Champion.

In 2006, GCSAA’s philanthropic organization, The Environmental Institute for Golf, began funding the development of an IPM template that will guide superintendents in the preparation of written IPM plans for the golf courses they manage. The IPM Planning Guide was launched to the golf industry in July 2010.

In Spring 2008, GCSAA launched the Pesticide Use Survey, the fourth survey of the Golf Course Environmental Profile (GCEP). The overall goal of the GCEP is to develop an environmental profile of golf courses. This survey solicited information regarding pest management and associated practices on golf courses throughout the United States. This information will provide baseline data for documenting changes in environmental practices over time, help GCSAA respond to governmental inquiries, and answer the public’s questions about environmental issues. Data from the Pesticide Use Survey was released in 2012. In 2015, GCSAA launched the Pest Management Practices Survey as part of the second phase of the GCEP. In 2016, GCSAA published the Pest Management Practices Survey as part of the second phase of the GCEP.

GCSAA biannually participates in theEPA Office of Pesticide Program's Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee (PPDC) meetings at EPA HQ in Washington, D.C. The PPDC provides a forum for a diverse group of stakeholders to provide feedback to the pesticide program on various pesticide regulatory, policy and program implementation issues.

In 2012, GCSAA and its government relations and environmental programs staff were featured in two articles in PESPWire, a newsletter from the EPA's PESP program. The articles focused on integrated pest management in the golf industry and how GCSAA can help golf course superintendents learn more about IPM.

In April 2013, GCSAA partnered with RISE and CropLife America to host a tour at the Bethesda Country Club in Maryland for some 60+ RISE-CLA Spring Conference attendees to see first-hand the day-to-day implementation of IPM programs on the course and throughout the facility.

In 2014, GCSAA started attending the Association of American Pesticide Control Officials (AAPCO) and State-FIFRA Issues Research and Evaluation Group (SFIREG) committee meetings.

In 2014, GCSAA provided an overview of national pesticides issues impacting golf courses at the American Phytopathological Society annual symposium.

  • U.S. EPA Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP)
  • Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE)
  • Pesticide Policy Coalition (PPC)