Growing up in Florida, golf courses were more common than Starbucks. What began as a quintessential green space for the upper middle class has diminished into an acute problem. Early on in the golf boom, public courses offered new recreation options for all, but in the end could not keep up with high running costs and the pristine designs of the private golf sector. When golf’s popularity started to decline, many of these public courses fell victim to high running costs and were further paralyzed by the housing bust.
In June’s LAM article, Fairways under Fire, many readers like myself began to understand this trend and the factors that caused this predicament. The article does an outstanding job explaining the issues and investigated some alternatives to this problem. Univ. Cal. Berkeley students redesigned the Lincoln Park Golf Course to include tree farms, cemeteries, aquifer recharge zones, and composting facilities. All which would do wonders in the case of my dying hometown course. These and many other program elements can be mixed into functioning courses to allow a larger variety of use and profit generation.
While city planners and progressive designers are looking for solutions to suburban sprawl and golf foreclosures. Partners like the USGA and Audubon International are also due their credit. Their sustainable and environmentally sensitive approach has led to initiatives that decrease water and fertilizer applications and increase wildlife habitat.
This past weekend, while watching NBC’s coverage of the U.S. Open Championship at the Congressional Course in D.C, Mike Davis, exec. director for USGA, set the golf world in a tizzy. The redesign of Pinehurst #2, for the 2014 U.S. Open, will bring sustainability to the forefront of the game by irrigating fairways only and restoring natural sand dunes and wiregrass as omnipotent hazards for world class golfers.
Stone Creek Creek Golf Course in Oregon has been another success stories. By leaving their rough taller, birds are nesting year round and after adding aerating bubblers instead of green bleaching their ponds; geese, ducks and frogs now call them home.
National golf superintendent manager Greg Lyman, summed up the change in trend perfectly in an interview by Eric Mortenson for OregonLive.com, “Golf courses understand that being proactive environmentally and pushing the envelope on sustainability is directly linked to the success of the industry and the game,” …… “It’s a game played on a plant. We have to do it responsibly, otherwise this is a shrinking business.”