For many travellers, a holiday means getting in at least a few rounds of golf and enjoying the great outdoors in the process. But golf courses don’t have the best environmental reputation when it comes to taking care of their manicured landscapes, which can put a damper on your day out in the sun.
Luckily, many courses around the world have taken steps
to conserve water, preserve natural habitats and limit – or even eliminate – chemical
use when getting the grass to look that green. And the change is not just
because of pressure from environmental groups or increasingly eco-conscious
consumers -- conserving resources also helps the bottom line.
“Primarily, it’s the right
thing to do,” said Kimberly Erusha, managing director for the Green Section
Department at the United States Golf
Association (USGA). But course superintendents also try to minimize
pesticide and fertilizer use because these products cost money. “They find that balance … on the economic and
agronomic side,” Erusha said.
Here’s a look at what some courses are
doing in three major environmental areas.
For the golf industry, water is big. Courses in the United States – of which
there are approximately 16,000 – use a total of about two billion gallons of
water per day for irrigation, according to a
report by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.
But some courses are using recycled and collected water and better irrigation
systems to improve conservation. Pebble
Beach Golf Links in California, for instance, converts local
wastewater so it can be used for irrigation, and the high-tech irrigation
system allows crews to factor in weather and soil conditions to water the
grounds only as needed. Portugal’s Belas Clube de Campo
captures water runoff to reuse in irrigation and to fill lakes on the course –
an effort that earned the course
an environmental certification from Scotland’s Golf Environment Organization (GEO).
The Vineyard Golf Club
on Martha’s Vineyard is an organic course, because the local community demanded
it. “Water quality is the big issue here,” Jeff Carlson, club superintendent, told Golf Digest magazine in 2008. “There's a
single-source aquifer for the whole island. They felt that any pesticides would
poison the water.” Applewood
Golf Course in Colorado ditched chemicals back in the
late 1980s, also because of an aquifer concern. (That same water is used by
MillerCoors to brew beer.) And Chambers
Bay along the Puget Sound in Washington state
earned kudos from Links magazine partly for generating fertiliser from a
Courses can preserve the surrounding habitat by letting the out-of-play areas
run wild. That means “no
mowing”, Erusha said, no irrigation and no fertilising. “We’re going to save
money, which is a positive…, and you’re improving habitat for the wildlife.
That’s one of the draws of the game… you’re outdoors and you’re able to enjoy
the outdoor environment.” Moon Palace Golf and Spa Resort in Cancun, Mexico, preserves two-thirds of
its property, providing habitat for birds, crocodiles and jaguars, and earning an
environmental certification from the Golf Environment Organization. Both the
Moon Palace and Belas Clube de Campo courses also were featured in National
Geographic last year for their environmental
eco-friendly courses, golfers can consult GEO’s directory of worldwide certified courses, browse case studies and research environmental
award winners on the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America
website, or look at
courses certified by Audubon
International – a group partly funded by USGA and not
affiliated with the National Audubon Society. More important, golfers can do
their part by lowering expectations of plush carpets of green grass. “They have
to remember that we’re dealing with nature, and it’s not supposed to be perfect,”
Lori Robertson writes
the Ethical Traveller column for BBC Travel. You can send ethical dilemmas to email@example.com.