Father’s Day is here again, and as my thoughts turn to family and children, they also turn to a much more serious matter: my yearly ritual of 18 holes of Father’s Day golf. And as I worry about my short game, my bigger concern is the perceived, and not unfairly, eco-unfriendliness of the game.
I’m more than used to golf punishing me on a very personal, individual level. That’s what makes golf so damn fun. But with the size of a golf course averaging between 100 and 200 acres — the loss of habitat, huge water use, pesticide, herbicide and fertilizer use, the stubborn practice of continuing to supply gas powered carts — all add up to an ecological quadruple-bogey that can make even the most dedicated golfer mothball, I mean, cedar block, his clubs.
But there’s reason to take heart! Over the last 20 years or so, there’s been a growing progressive movement — green revolution, in golf course design — one that shows a greater respect for the environment, and a real concern about the overall ecological footprint of golf. Witness the creation of the Environmental Institute for Golf, the philanthropic organization of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, founded to “strengthen the compatibility of the game of golf with our natural environment.” And even the United States Golf Association is getting into the action of promoting cleaner air on the golf course:
Turf also improves the air we breathe. The turf growth process takes carbon dioxide from the air and releases the oxygen we need. A landscape of turf, trees, and shrubs about 2,000 square feet in size generates enough oxygen for one person for one year. Some studies have shown that certain types of turf can even absorb carbon monoxide. This is especially beneficial near roads where carbon monoxide is most concentrated.”
Witness also Justin Timberlake (yes, that Justin Timberlake), who spent millions to create The Mirimichi Golf Course, adding wetlands and native plants (far less pesticide intensive), recycling and re-irrigating. In October 2011, he received the Futures Award at the Environmental Media Awards for his green-friendly course. It joins a handful of courses in the country certified as eco-friendly by Audubon International.
That, of course, is the rub. We need other courses to follow suit, lots of other courses. Until we end pesticide/herbicide/fertilizer fairway runoff into the water and emissions from polluting gas-powered golf carts into the air, golf will continue to live up to its description as “a good walk spoiled,” …for all the wrong reasons.
So, as I move aside cicada husks to line up my final putt on the eighteenth green, I’ll leave you with…
5 simple suggestions to help you to “green” your golf game and breathe easier:
- WALK! It’s healthier, cleaner, and much more fun. If you absolutely must ride, be sure that your course of choice provides electric carts or better yet, solar golf carts.
- Stay out of environmentally-sensitive areas! These are clearly marked, and you don’t really need that ball, anyway.
- Recycle and Re-use! If your course doesn’t recycle cans and plastic bottles, how hard is it to bring them home? With that big old golf bag? Easy. Better yet, bring water or juice (or whatever) to the course in your own reusable container (or flask).
- Look for environmentally-friendly golf courses.
- Put out the cigar! Your game is probably Groucho Marx-like enough as it is! Your partners will thank you, the air will thank you, the deer will thank you…and in 17 years, the cicadas will thank you!
And please don’t forget to SEND DAD A MOMS CLEAN AIR FORCE ECARD!