American golf courses hold themselves to a high standard, when it comes to maintaining the thick perfectly manicured and weed free turf on greens and fairways. To attain this standard golf course managers rely on a toxic assortment of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and other chemicals. These practices have been linked to numerous diseases in humans including cancer, as well as damage to local wildlife. In recent years however golf course managers have begun to work with environmental experts to maintain their greens in ways that are less damaging to the environment and human health.
The methods used to maintain an organic golf course are similar to those used to maintain any organic lawn or turf. Maintaining organic turf starts with healthy soil. This may require aerating compacted soil. Earthworms and other organisms will aerate soil naturally, but they are usually absent from soils treated with large amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Soil should be tested for pH and nutrient content. Watering and drainage should be carefully monitored. Too much or too little water will encourage weed growth. The variety of grass should be carefully selected, to ensure it can thrive in the given climate.
While there is currently no system in place to certify a golf course organic, interest continues to grow and many golf courses are making an effort to reduce the amount of chemical pesticides used. For more information, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Lawns and Landscapes page.
- Read, “Poisoned Golf A groundskeeper speaks out on contamination and poisoning,” from the Summer 2011 issue of Pesticides and You.
Selected resources and activist tools:
- Background information on golf, pesticides and organic management
- Environmental Principles for Golf and the Environment.
- Lawns and Landscapes webpage: Hazards and alternatives.
- Organic turf management: 8 Steps to a Toxic-Free Lawn.
- Health Effects of 30 Commonly Used Lawn & Golf Course Pesticides.
- Environmental Effects of 30 Commonly Used Lawn & Golf Course Pesticides.
- Detailed information on common golf course pesticides: 2,4-D, bensulide, chlorothalonil, dicamba, maneb, mecoprop, thiram, trichlorfon, ziram.
- More: Studies, alternatives, news and other resources.
Golf Digest: How Green Is Golf?
In what it calls the most important article it has ever published, Golf Digest in its May 2008 issue published an article, “How Green is Golf?,” which asks the hard questions about the environmental impact of golf in a series of in-depth interviews, including a builder, golf course superintendent, regulator, environmentalist and activist – Beyond Pesticides executive director, Jay Feldman (read the interview). See also, Beyond Pesticides response to EPA’s criticism of Mr. Feldman’s interview
Principles for Golf and the Environment
Beyond Pesticides also serves on a steering committee that seeks to develop a collaborative strategy with the golf course industry in an effort to effect change. This group developed the Environmental Principles for Golf Courses in the U.S. Increasingly, players and golf course managers are asking the right questions and looking for answers that result in meaningful reductions in pesticide use.