Golf courses: our planet's environmental sanctuaries
Presented by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America
Have you ever looked at those lush golf courses in your community and wondered how
much water and how many chemicals were used to make them look so beautiful? You
say to yourself, "Golf courses can’t possibly be good for the environment, right?"
Well, take another look. You’ll see that golf courses are a lot friendlier to Mother
Nature than most people realize. A well-managed golf course provides substantial
ecological and community benefits.
"The game of golf is a release for many," says Greg Lyman, GCSAA's director of environmental
programs. "But I think more and more people are recognizing the value of well-maintained
golf courses. The facilities not only offer recreation, but also provide an environmental
sanctuary to numerous plant and animal species. I would guess most don’t realize
the cleansing effect golf courses have on air and water, which filters through local
communities. Superintendents have long known the benefit of golf courses, now others
are learning our little secret."
After all, golf courses provide community green spaces that offer not just recreational
opportunities for people, but key sanctuaries and habitat for wildlife. The trees
and turfgrass produce vast amounts of oxygen while cleansing the air of pollution
and cooling the atmosphere. The golf course also provides a recreational place for
non-golf activities, such as jogging, walking and bird watching, with some restriction.
Healthy turfgrass is an excellent filter that traps pollutants, preventing them
from reaching groundwater supplies. And golf courses can actually serve as catch
basins for residential and industrial runoff. In fact, golf courses are effective
disposal sites for effluent wastewater.
The water used on a golf course can be an excellent investment in both economic
and environmental terms. Many courses use recycled water as a part of their irrigation
practices. When effectively irrigated, healthy turf provides numerous environmental
As a result of computerized irrigation systems and improved turfgrass varieties,
courses now use less water efficiently to achieve the same level of conditioning.
Continuing research will provide even more “low-water” turfgrass varieties in the
Creating a golf course also is a good way to reclaim and restore an environmentally
damaged site, like a landfill.
Environmentalists are sometimes at odds with golf courses, citing their use of pesticides,
impact on water and soil quality, and the amount of water wasted in irrigation.
But university and government studies indicate that properly applied pesticides
and fertilizers do not leach into groundwater in amounts to cause risk. And modern
turfgrass management practices greatly reduce the potential runoff.
In addition, no golf course superintendent worth his or her mulch would cover an
entire course with pesticides and fertilizers. Most of the property often consists
of natural areas with little maintenance. These areas include diverse varieties
of native plants and trees.
Golf course superintendents take their relationship with Mother Nature very seriously.
The vast majority has two- or four-year college degrees in agronomy, horticulture
or related fields. They enter the profession because they love nature and the outdoors.
And surveys have shown they give high priority to management practices that have
a positive impact on the environment.
For more information about how golf course superintendents are helping the environment,
contact your local superintendent or the GCSAA at 800-472-7878 or