Keeping it Green on a Golf Course

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.