Golf has long been critiqued for its negative environmental impact. Historically, many of these complaints were accurate, as golf courses often destroyed large swaths of natural habitats, consumed large quantities of water, and released harmful chemicals back into the environment.
Recently, these harmful effects have begun to change, golfers enjoy the game largely because it is an activity to experience the beautiful outdoors.
Some of the most awe-inspiring courses in the world like Pebble Beach, Chambers Bay, Torrey Pines, and thousands of others are not breathtaking because of the ultra-fast greens or well-groomed fairways, but instead because of the natural beauty of their surroundings. The industry recognizes this and alongside everyday golfers, have begun to make serious changes.
Firstly, courses are constructed in vastly more environmentally friendly ways. Environmental impact reports protect endangered habitats and species from being negatively affected by the construction of new courses. Likewise, several courses are leading the way in sustainable golf courses management.
Vineyard Golf Club in Edgarton, Massachusetts has tackled environmental responsibility head-on. The course was planned alongside naturalists, regulatory bodies, and environmental experts. Most uniquely, the management at Vineyard Golf Club has implemented a pesticide-free cultivation process.
Historically environmentally damaging pesticides free cultivation process. Historically used environmentally damaging pesticides have been replaced by fertilizers and bio-stimulants. By switching to less damaging course management, Vineyard Golf Club is protecting the fragile ecosystem it is situated in.
Other courses are taking steps to improve sustainability as well. One such course is Chambers Bay in University Place, in Washington. Host of the 2015 US Open this incredible location has changed the meaning of an immaculate golf course.
The course is planted with Fescue, which is a drought-resistant grass that causes Chambers Bay’s natural tan color. The magnificent course is also decorated with vast quantities of natural plants. Coupled with the choices in plants and grass, the course management also utilizes state-of-the-art bio-solid wastewater irrigation systems.
Overall, these environmentally friendly management processes are becoming increasingly prevalent throughout the industry. Golfers must advocate for changes as well.
The classic bright green course must become less desirable than a more natural and hearty course like Chambers Bay. The future will see golf courses and environmental preservation work hand in hand.
Environmental impacts go beyond golf courses themselves. Golf equipment and accessories mark a place where golfers and consumers can help make major strides towards sustainability. The key concepts reduce, reuse, and recycle.
“Reduce” is the most important. Golfers should focus on quality over quantity. Try to purchase equipment and accessories that will last. Likewise, reusing equipment is the next best solution. Trading in, passing down, or giving away used clubs can keep them out of landfills. Obviously, equipment does not last forever. When it comes time to purchase some new gear, here are some eco-friendly choices.
It has been estimated that over 100,000 golf balls are lost along the California coast alone. These golf balls break down and release microplastics into the ocean and the environment. Biodegradable Golf Canada has taken the initiative and developed a biodegradable golf ball that dissolves in water.
These balls are made out of just Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA) and cornstarch. While these balls are not as performance-oriented as standard plastic golf balls, they present a vastly more responsible option for golfers who may potentially pollute balls into the environment.
Sun Mountain has tackled the recycling aspects of reducing our environmental impact. The Eco-Lite Stand Bag is constructed using Repreve fabric, which is created out of 25 20oz plastic bottles.
Sun Mountain’s renowned build quality also means the Eco-Lite bag will have a long lifespan. Thus, you can reduce the amount of golf bags manufactured and their subsequent environmental impact.
Golfers can make small decisions to reduce their impact as well. One small choice is to choose wooden tees over plastic ones. Wooden tees will successfully break down over time, while plastic tees release microplastics.
Another small decision is to walk instead of riding a cart. Not only is this healthier, but it reduces your carbon footprint and energy usage. While golf carts are electric, the process to manufacture them and the energy used to charge them is often not sustainable.
All in all, golfers and course management are working together to make the sport vastly more environmentally friendly. It takes time, understanding, and patience from all involved as these changes are implemented.