Golf tourism ticking back up in Vietnam

First held 52 years ago, Earth Day is a now global event celebrated
each year on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental
protection. Born on the heels of Rachel Carson’s 1962
book, “Silent Spring,” which documented the adverse environmental
effects of indiscriminate pesticide use, former Wisconsin Gov. Gaylord Nelson
planted the seeds (pun intended) for environmental teach-ins to take
place on college campuses across America using the environment to serve
as a vehicle to spark political change.

Regardless of your
political affiliations or the evolving history of the Earth Day
movement, as professional turfgrass managers I believe we can all agree
we play a key role as caretakers of Mother Earth. For decades, our
industry has been accused of environmental harm, and perhaps some of
those accusations were warranted many years ago. But the industry has
come a long way from the days of arsenic and mercury, with many new
plant protectants derived from natural compounds with low-use rates and
even lower doses of active ingredient.

Many professional
turfgrass managers say they enter the business because they love the
outdoors. Do you know any outdoor lovers who purposely harm the
environment? I did not think so. The truth is those early
superintendents did not set out to harm the environment, either. They
were trying to make the most of what tools they were provided. Today we
are provided with the best tools ever available in order to create a
sustainable environment.

From the youngest of ages, we are taught
how plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. It seems pretty
simple. We live in a world where we are told carbon dioxide levels are
rising to dangerous levels, and we need more plants and greenspace in
our urban jungles. And golf courses are some of the best examples of
natural habitat in environments where no other habitat is available.

2017, the USGA began funding a first-of-its-kind research project led
by researchers at Michigan State University and the University of
Minnesota. Called Natural Capital Golf, the project looked to examine
the ecosystem services provided by various forms of land use, including
golf courses.

The initial project compared 135 golf courses in
the Minneapolis-St. Paul area to other land uses such as parks,
farmland, residential homesites and industrial areas. The research
revealed that parks and natural areas contain fewer nutrients than golf
courses (no surprise, considering golf courses are fertilized and parks
and natural areas are not), but golf courses absorbed and retained more
nutrients than neighborhood home lawns. Again, no surprise, considering
your home lawn sits adjacent to impervious roads with storm drains.

more important, the research revealed that golf course fairways can
store about one metric ton of carbon per acre per year and provide
important temperature cooling to nearby urban heat islands where heat is
trapped by buildings, streets, sidewalks and car parks.

Dr. Brian Horgan
of Michigan State said, “A person driving by a golf course might think
of many other ways that land could be used, but what they don’t
understand is there are tangible and intangible benefits they are
receiving from that course. I would even argue that a community that’s
subsidizing a public golf facility might be spending the best money they
can spend, because they are preserving green spaces as well as access
to the services the community receives from it.”

This research is valuable because earlier this year Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia
of California proposed legislation to incentivize local governments to
convert existing public golf courses to affordable housing. We all want
to see more affordable housing for our communities. But given the
tangible and intangible positive benefits the golf courses provide to
our environment and communities does it really make sense to remove them
and reduce the amount of greenspace?

More communities need to
get behind this research and help tell our story that golf courses are
good for the environment. Actually, golf courses are great for the
environment. If folks are looking for ways to improve their communities
and provide affordable housing, they should look to those areas already
comprised of concrete and asphalt. I am talking about the rundown
commercial strip malls that sit vacant in every town and city.

not rehabilitate these under-utilized impervious areas to construct the
affordable housing needed and simultaneously replace a little
greenspace in the heat island by surrounding the new homes with a park, a
playground or … a golf course?