Although golf courses are large areas of open space, certainly more desirable ecologically than equivalent amounts of paved highway or polluting industrial operations, they are less "green" than they appear.

Golf maintenance operations use significant amounts of synthetic fertilizer and pesticides (more, acre-for-acre than farms in some cases), which can contaminate nearby lakes and streams as well as local groundwater.

A typical golf course uses about a half ton of chemical pesticides each year, at least some of which runs off into nearby groundwater sources. With nearly 20,000 courses now in operation across the United States and Canada, such problems affect just about every community from coast-to-coast.

Luckily several institutions and organizations have been working to minimize the environmental impacts of golf courses. According to researchers at New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), there are many ways to create and maintain golf courses that remain attractive to golfers without excessive use of toxic chemicals.

Examples include: selecting turf grasses that match local environmental conditions so as to reduce susceptibility to pests; mowing less often as longer grass increases natural pest resistance; using slow-release and natural organic fertilizers; taking into account pest forecasts to be better prepared for potential infestations; and introducing the natural enemies of problem pests and natural bacteria-based fungicides.


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