Few people actually pay attention to the damage to the environment that occurs when golf courses are built. This is not due to apathy or stupidity – it is simply the result of ignorance of and lack of information that surrounds the topic. With increasing awareness and concern for the environment, many people are coming to terms with the idea that many of our modern conveniences, such as courses for golfers, are actually causing more harm and costing us more in “green fees” while much better alternatives are available.

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This is in fact a very pertinent topic as golf-related tourism is increasing around the world. This sport is spreading to many countries where the ecology is sensitive to change, and this heralds a new era for environmentalists as they try to combat the spread. These courses are particularly damaging in the sense that while they may look green, natural, and appealing to the eye through landscaping efforts, they actually wipe out all pre-existing plants and animals in favor of a landscape devoid of true nature. This leads to a false dichotomy – it looks like the outdoors, but golf courses are as far from nature as a sprawling asphalt parking lot.
To build a course, investors choose a site that is appealing to golfers – many of whom are in the upper and middle classes. Traditionally, these sites are around or within sprawling suburbs, but recently, a new form of golfing courses has emerged that caters to a sense of exoticism. Courses located on mountaintops, in jungles, and by coasts are becoming increasingly common as they attract huge numbers. These present many environmental problems as these areas are especially sensitive to destruction.

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Once  a site is selected, regardless of where it is – the landscape is decimated in an attempt to open up the space so needed for golfing. Trees are scythed down and the soil is churned up, destroying the homes of birds, mammals, and insects alike. All courses call for tightly manicured lawns – this signals the most pervasive form of environmental damage in the business. In order to grow the unnaturally vibrant grasses for golf, pesticides and fertilizers are used extensively. The grass is of an unnatural variety, unable to grow without close tending. It demands incredibly high levels of water, which is sucked up from the surrounding water table and causes a high loss of water to the nature surrounding the courses. In turn, the pesticides and fertilizers dumped on the grass dissolve into the ground water, causing extensive pollution of the ground water, and surround lakes and streams.

This sport is far from being ecologically friendly. It kills plants and animals alike with ambivalence, and the end result is a destroyed environment. Greater alternatives to outdoor activities would be simply purchasing land to preserve in its natural form, for use as a hiking, birdwatching, and nature refuge – not destroying it for something that only cheaply imitates the outdoors. That all sounds great and everything but I’m not willing to give up my golf game.

After all is said and done, new course architects and designers are slowly starting to address and accommodate environmental issues with respect and designing courses with drought resistant plants, grasses that require less pesticides and water, and even integrating the environment into the course design reducing the need for terra-forming. Now if they can only make the fairways wider and the holes bigger!

Another great Green article from Green Halo
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