Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

May 2018

National Golf Day Celebrates Green Practices

By Dave Ramont

National Golf Day took place April 25, a day when leaders in the industry join together to celebrate the benefits of golf. The golf industry generates nearly $70 billion in economic impact annually, generates around $4 billion in charitable giving and impacts close to 2 million American jobs.

For the second straight year, as a lead-up to National Golf Day, industry leaders—including members of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America—took part in a community service project on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the host city of National Golf Day for the past 11 years. This year, the project aimed to concentrate on an area from the U.S. Capitol Building to 14th Street. In coordination with the National Park Service, participants divided into teams to work on edging, sodding, raking, aerating, over-seeding and sprucing up walkways and gravel pathways.

Steve Mona, chief executive officer of World Golf Foundation, and administrator of the WE ARE GOLF organization, said the event is a great example of golf's dedication to the environment. "The community service project was a huge success in its first year, with the volunteer work by industry leaders saving the National Park Service nearly four months of labor."

The recognition of sustainable practices in the golf industry is one of the things that National Golf Day celebrates. Many golf courses these days are working to be more eco-friendly, to lessen their footprint and provide a more natural experience. Architects and planners are utilizing new technologies and mindsets, and many older courses are being renovated to reflect more sustainable practices.

Between 2006 and 2015, U.S. golf courses reduced water use by nearly 22 percent, nitrogen use by 34 percent, phosphorus by 53 percent and potassium by 42 percent. Since 2005, about 46 percent of golf facilities have increased their acreage of natural/native or unmowed areas. And the number of facilities participating in recycling initiatives has risen from 38 percent in 2005 to 53 percent in 2015.

Reducing the amount of potable water used for irrigation is indeed one of the top priorities for many facilities. This might be accomplished by implementing so-called smart sprinkler systems, watering certain areas by hand and installing resilient grasses, one of which is Paspalum, a type of grass that thrives in extremely dry or wet conditions. It can be irrigated with reclaimed wastewater or desalinated ocean water. Fescue is another type of eco-grass gaining popularity that has a lower requirement for water, fertilizers and pesticides. Many courses no longer irrigate natural areas or areas outside of play. Some courses are fertilizing with chemical-free products made from bio-solids, which is nutrient-rich sewage sludge, and others use only organic, slow-release fertilizers.

Other ways that facilities are becoming more eco-conscious include installing solar panels and energy-efficient lighting in buildings. Some utilize solar-powered golf carts or encourage walking by promoting their caddy programs, while others have switched over to walk-only policies. The use of naturally drought- and pest-resistant native plants is becoming more common, with some courses propagating native plants in their own nurseries.

Wildlife is certainly benefitting from these practices. Hundreds of golf facilities across the United States are designated as sanctuaries; they limit insecticides and fungicides and enhance wildlife habitats. Some install bird boxes and encourage bird counts and banding. Others create habitats for butterflies and bees by growing wildflowers. By promoting these green initiatives, many course managers feel that they can help native flora and fauna survive and thrive.

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