Skip to content

Keeping it Green on a Golf Course

2013 March 11

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Steve DiMattei

Golf has faced the wrath of environmentalists over the years. But golf is a wonderful game and courses have changed over time. I started playing when I was nine years old and still enjoy being outside on a golf course. I will always have special memories of the times I spent with my dad playing golf.

For some people, cutting down trees and clearing out large areas of land for golf courses was bad enough. But widespread use of fertilizers and pesticides really upset many environmentally-conscious people.   While pesticides made golf courses greener than green, they were not necessarily environmentally friendly.

A funny thing happened around the millennium, though, as golf courses began to consider environmental impacts. Courses were designed using more natural landscape and minimizing the amount of earth moved around by heavy construction equipment. Wetlands were incorporated into course features, and alternatives to heavy fertilizer and pesticide applications were used. These concepts have caught on, and are spreading.

In New England, where development pressures have been intense, golf courses have at times provided an economically sound alternative to development on former farms.

Since 1995, EPA has been working to find common ground between the golf industry and environmentalists. Meetings including representatives of both groups yielded environmental principles for golf courses. Meetings now underway involve efforts to put these principles in place. A “Collaboration Guide” will suggest how golf course managers and communities can work together towards the ecological sustainability of golf courses.

Golf courses pride themselves on being good neighbors and some have even received prestigious accolades for environmental efforts. For instance, Widow’s Walk in Scituate, Mass., in 2002 became a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary golf course. Widow’s Walk voluntarily provides benefits to the environment. They have established avian nesting boxes and provided habitats for numerous other species. The course uses an integrated pest management program to apply the least amount of water, pesticides and fertilizer possible and thus minimizing its impact to the surrounding environment.

Other courses are also making efforts to be more eco-friendly. I’ve seen several courses stake wetlands or water hazards as environmentally sensitive areas where golfers are banned.  So go ahead, enjoy a round of golf knowing that chasing a little white ball around on a beautiful landscape is probably going to do more damage to your ego than to the environment.

Bio:  Steve DiMattei works in the Quality Assurance Unit at EPA New England’s Lab, and is an avid golfer.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Richard Bauer permalink
    March 11, 2013

    Golf is a great game and in most existing courses were probably built before a general realization of the benefit of trees. But I have seen a lot of taxpayer money go into recent stream restorations that run through golf courses. They do probably somewhat reduce erosion and downstream sediment, but they do much more for the golf course to protect the greens and fairways along the stream. Often they are lie an armored channel that wisks the water away. Attention to aquatic habitat is secondary. More disturbing from an environmental point of view, golf courses resist fiercely creating adequate vegetative buffers that protect the stream from sheet run-off which carries fertilizer and pesticides into them along with excess water. Evidently, such buffers create too much difficulty and undesirable need to walk through the rough to find the ball. I have seen Audubon Certified Golf courses thay allow this. Audubon probably needs to tighten its requirements.

    Rich Bauer

  2. Arman.- permalink
    March 11, 2013


    I am smiling to see the desert in Dubai changing in green golf course to become tourism industry. And I hope also the other regions, cause tourism industry add employment and to increase real earnings. Green don’t to be scared by the elites, but they could contribute greener…!

  3. Master Melvin M. Lusterio permalink
    March 12, 2013

    The Good Force be with you!

    You’re right, Steve! Golf courses are okay as long as it is eco-friendly and ecologically sustainable.

    Live forever & prosper!

  4. Alan White permalink
    March 12, 2013

    wow, it’s very meaningful to discuss about the relationship between human entertainment activities and the environment. If we want to live happier and go further, we need to learn how to get along with the nature better.

  5. Precision Greens permalink
    April 1, 2013

    This weblog provides valuable information to us I enjoy reading your posts. Thank you very much for sharing this information.

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS