May 012010

Going Green, or what the proponents like to call the “ecological management of our resources,” is probably going to change the look and feel of your favorite golf course over the next several years and probably also change the way that people play golf.

Two recent studies at the University of Illinois are suggesting that well manicured golf courses with the nice short grass that players like to hit off does not benefit biodiversity as much as would a more naturalized landscape that features native grasses. What that means in plain talk is that the university geeks want to make the rough on your golf course higher and thicker because that is what the natural grass in your particular area looks like.

What do you think about that? Are we going to be playing on golf courses like those we see in the British Open where a ball hit a few yards off the fairway becomes impossible to even find nevermind get a club on it if you do find it. And not because it’s better golf but so that biodiversity can be benefitted? I must admit however that I do like those British courses. I have played on more than a few so-called cow pastures and never felt like I was being abused so long as the greens were good enough to get a true roll on.

I also remember playing a tournament at an unnamed fancy West Coast Florida country club where the crowned fairways sloped abruptly into a natural rough that no sane person would ever wander into unarmed. I don’t know what critters lived in there but if they can eat Titleists they ate good that day. Play was unbelievably slow, scores were unbelievably high, and the entire experience was rather unpleasant. I hope that is not what benefitting biodiversity means.

In an unrelated University of Missouri study researches bemoan the fact that about 70% of the land comprising the more than 17,000 golf courses in the US, they estimate, is not used for play. It was not clear from the summary whether they meant those areas of the golf courses that were not fairways and greens on were referring to undeveloped areas of land that may be near the golf course itself. Anybody who lives in an urban area on the East Coast knows that there isn’t much extra unused land on any golf course they know of.

The gist of the Missouri study is more foreboding because the researches are suggesting that human recreation should be balanced with the protection of wildlife. Now that all sounds well and good and nobody would disagree with the general tenet but salamanders, the wildlife that was the focus of this study, do not pay greens fees.

Consider also that the ecological management of our resources in California has rendered huge swaths of formerly fertile agricultural land into a barren landscape that grows nothing but natural grasses because irrigation has been stopped to protect a small fish. Unemployment is permanently above 25% and many small farmers have been impoverished.

Green is good. We humans have an obligation to husband our natural environment but let us all remain aware that “balance” does not mean putting a thumb on the scale for the salamanders.

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Author: Peter Boston
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Peter Boston

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