"Golf is a good walk spoiled."
He might not have had an affinity for the game, but at least Mark Twain enjoyed the environs of the golf course. And though he might have found the game difficult to master, Twain would no doubt be heartened by the fact the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and experience nature remains a popular reason people enjoy the game of golf.
Thanks to advances in science, technology and the skills of golf course superintendents, golf courses have demonstrated they can provide benefits to the communities of which they are part. From filtering runoff to offering wildlife habitat to preventing erosion to generating oxygen to purifying the air, golf courses are an important green space. Combining those attributes with the economic contributions (increased property valuation, employment, charity funds) and the recreational/social aspect of the game, there is ample evidence to support golf facilities as being among the most valuable of small businesses.
"The golf industry has made very significant strides in areas like water and energy conservation and reuse, (reduction of turfgrass to decrease inputs), preservation of native vegetation, habitat protection, wetlands conservation, recycling, wastewater treatment, fertilizer reduction, integrated pest management and storm water runoff management, just to name a few," Rob Wood, director of the EPA Office of Water's Engineering and Analysis Division. "The integration of these principles at any specific course is really leading to those courses having a lighter environmental footprint."
Similar to many other industries, golf has been examining its ability to meet the needs of its customers today, without impacting its ability to meet the needs of future generations. That is the essence of sustainability. From a practical standpoint, it is the striking of a balance between the desires of the customer (people), the environment (planet) and remaining an ongoing business (profit).
"Superintendents are resource managers at their core," Golf Course Superintendents Association of America Director of Environmental Programs Greg Lyman said. "They take inputs and deliver a product that must satisfy communities, not only today, but tomorrow as well. Therefore, they must implement programs that meet the sustainability equation of people, planet and profit. This has long been a professional challenge, but it has become even more so since the recession of 2001 heavily impacted the golf industry. As raw materials, labor, natural resources have become more scarce or have climbed in price, adjustments have had to be made."
Among the measures superintendents are taking to steward the golf course environment:
- Establishing an environmental/sustainability policy and setting goals - Developing a policy to support and communicate the sincerity, importance and commitment of making advances toward sustainability.
- Implementing the means to measure key metrics - Collecting and monitoring quantifiable information in order to establish a baseline of resource use or waste generation and measure change.
- Employing Integrated Pest Management - A continuous system by which pests (weeds, diseases, insects or others) are identified, action thresholds are considered, all possible control options are evaluated and control(s) are implemented. Control options – which include biological, chemical, cultural, manual and mechanical methods – are used to prevent or remedy unacceptable pest activity or damage. Choice of control option(s) is based on effectiveness, environmental impact, site characteristics, worker/public health and safety, and economics.
- Professionally managing inputs (water, energy, labor, chemical) in accordance with best management practices.
- Creating and preserving golf course landscapes that provide habitat and corridors for wildlife.
- Maintaining proper storage, handling and disposal practices with chemicals and fuels.
- Advocating the positive nature of course management programs with facility leaders, golfers, adjacent landowners, policymakers, media and others.
- Conserving water - Auditing and properly maintaining irrigation systems to enhance efficient use of resources. Utilizing water-sensing technology to aid in water use decision-making.
- Engaging staff in professional development activities, including membership in GCSAA, to keep attuned and trained on best management practices.
- Reducing waste - Analyzing supply chain and production processes to recycle, reuse and reduce whenever possible.
- Conducting an energy audit - Using an energy audit to identify areas in need of improvement and establishing goals to effectively use or reduce energy and the facility's carbon footprint.
Lyman indicated that by its definition, sustainability's focus is on continuous improvement, not as a means to a specific end. He said that facilities with limited budgets should not be daunted as sustainability is based on doing what one can with available resources.
Within the last 10 years, GCSAA has significantly ramped up its environmental programming thanks to the efforts of its philanthropic organization, the Environmental Institute for Golf. Its mission is to foster sustainability through research, awareness, education, programs and scholarships for the benefit of golf course management professionals, golf facilities and the game.
In recent years, the EIFG has funded the first-ever comprehensive survey of golf courses in regard to the physical characteristics, environmental programs, water use and conservation, energy use and conservation, and pesticide use. It has also funded on-course research and provided dozens of environmentally focused education courses for golf course managers, scholarships, outreach to demonstrate the value golf provides to communities, a best management practices guide, and an integrated pest management template.
About the EIFG: The EIFG is the philanthropic organization of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, and has as its mission to foster sustainability through research, awareness, education, programs and scholarships for the benefit of golf course management professionals, golf facilities and the game. With respect for the game and the environment, the EIFG inspires environmental, social and economic progress through golf for the benefit of communities. Collaboration between the golf industry, environmental interests and communities will lead to programs and services beneficial to all who come into contact with the game of golf. Visit the EIFG at www.eifg.org.
About GCSAA: GCSAA is a leading golf organization and has as its focus golf course management. Since 1926, GCSAA has been the top professional association for the men and women who manage golf courses in the United States and worldwide. From its headquarters in Lawrence, Kan., the association provides education, information and representation to nearly 18,000 members in more than 72 countries. GCSAA's mission is to serve its members, advance their profession and enhance the enjoyment, growth and vitality of the game of golf. Find GCSAA on Facebook, follow GCSAA on Twitter, and visit GCSAA at www.gcsaa.org.