When the Masters Golf Tournament opened at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia this week, all eyes were on green.
Keeping a golf course in top shape has traditionally required large amounts of water, fertilizers, and toxic pesticides that end up running off the land into lakes and rivers and giving golf a bad name.
But, over the past two decades there have been a few game-changers. A rising consumer consciousness about sustainability, an economic recession, and new technologies in turfgrass, sprinkler systems, and carbon-neutral engineering are all helping golf earn a greener reputation.
“People working in golf are really starting to embrace a comprehensive sustainability agenda, and many are looking for ways to reduce unnecessary capital expenditures and ongoing maintenance expenditures,” says Jonathan Smith, CEO of the Golf Environment Organization (GEO), an international non-profit based in Scotland that advocates for and recognizes sustainability in golf. “There’s a return of emphasis towards ecologically and environmentally driven golf development and management, that works closely with the land and ecosystems.”
While Augusta, a 365-acre former indigo plantation, is not officially certified as a sustainable course, it boasts of reduced pesticide, fertilizer, and water use because it uses “natural timing”—meaning that groundskeepers at this elite private course are lucky that the dogwood trees bloom and the Bermuda grasses flourish, for the most part, on their own during tournament season.
“Augusta takes sustainability seriously,” says Golf Course Superintendents Association of America’s (GCSAA) Environmental Programs Director Gregory Lyman. “But their product is just different than everyone else’s . .. . each blade of grass has a name.”
See which other golf courses around the globe come in under par in water and energy use, and green design.
Tasha Eichenseher (source – National Geographic – “National Geographic News series on global water issues.“