GOLF COURSES BE MORE ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY?
are impressed by my golf score, until they learn I played 9 holes, not
18. Like other ecologists, I enjoy spending time in the woods and along
lake edges, and I usually find more balls than I lose. Also, I like
to ride in the little carts.
real golfers enjoy nature on the golf course. I often hear friends speak
of a round of golf without mentioning their scorecard. Instead they
mention the fox that ran across the 7th fairway or the pileated woodpecker
in the big pine tree by the 15th tee or the alligator in the lake. My
son tells of three deer driven from the woods onto the fairway by my
wayward tee shot. Most golfers appreciate natural habitats and the associated
wildlife that can coexist on a golf course.
golf courses so appealing? One aspect is the manicured look denoting
the taming of nature, the human control of the environment. Parks and
golf courses give us an inherent feeling of security from whatever might
lurk in the untamed forest. But can golf courses improve their environmental
friendliness, not only for nature lovers who play golf but also for
those who oppose developing the landscape? Some simple changes could
increase or maintain the biodiversity of natural habitats in a region
while keeping the openness that provides a sense of well-being. These
changes would have a cost, including higher golf scores for people like
me, but making golf courses more environmentally stable and natural
would be a substantial benefit.
of lakes, aka water hazards, could be surrounded with native emergent
vegetation. Cattails, arrow weed and golden club are magnificent natural
vegetation. Having neatly trimmed margins so you can find your ball
at the edge is a clean-cut approach but not a natural one. Red-wing
blackbirds will nest in cattails. Green tree frogs will hide in them.
Lakes with sterile margins have fewer birds and frogs to create songs,
both night and day. Another benefit might be a decreased need for maintenance
at the lake's edge.
approach in the South is to plant cypress or other wetland trees along
lake edges. Bird-voiced or gray tree frogs might take up residence,
along with a greater variety of birds. Getting a golf ball across the
lake might be more difficult, but for someone like me, for whom every
shot is difficult, who cares? Besides, the cypress could take a century
to get big enough to pose a problem. Golfers should be used to them
meanwhile, has great potential for enhancing biodiversity. A simple
ecological formula is that the more diverse the natural vegetation,
the more diverse the native fauna. Planting a greater array of native
shrubs and trees might well result in a few more lost balls, but those
of us who spend a lot of time out there are used to it. And why remove
dead trees? They are not unsightly if you take the attitude that numerous
beautiful insects, flying squirrels and woodpeckers thrive because of
them. Dead trees are part of a natural forest, and the rough deserves
to be as natural as we can keep it.
forms of developed landscape, golf courses present one of the greatest
opportunities for using native flora and fauna, without detracting from
the blooming ornamentals. Because each course has its own array of environmental
circumstances, making sweeping statements about what could or should
be done for improvement is difficult. But on almost every course the
array could be managed better, including reducing excessive use of water,
pesticides and herbicides. Golf courses offer opportunities to enhance
the biodiversity of a region, a stroke that would make almost any golfer
happier. I doubt if the Augusta National Golf Course will make any changes,
and I know I won't be playing there, but I bet a golf course in your
area could probably use a facelift.
you have an environmental question or comment, email