Editor's Note --- Junior Shane Lebow shares a thoughtful and challenging paper he wrote in 2012 for a school class - his paper is about environmental issues facing golf courses everywhere. An excerpt is included below followed by a link to his entire 13-page paper (Note - it's a large 2.4 Mb file).
Is Golf Really Green?
When most people think of a golf course, they immediately think of green grass, rolling hills, and a natural setting. Since the 16th century people have been attracted to golf because the challenge of the game and the connection created with the surrounding environment. However, with the transformation of golf courses over the last 100 years, golf has moved away from this harmonious relationship with nature. Golf courses have emerged as a leader in making our planet less eco-friendly and less “green.” Environmentally damaging design and maintenance practices have disrupted wildlife habitats and continue to deplete our natural resources. In a time of increasing environmental instability, golf in its present form is yet another roadblock in the path towards a sustainable world. As a self-proclaimed “environmentalist” and a golfer myself, I want to see the sport I love have a positive environmental impact. Golf can be a sustainable sport that peacefully coexists with the environment; however, it takes smart ecological planning and management. In my analysis of golf course maintenance I will examine both the environmental problems and solutions for the golf industry. Ultimately, the sustainability and future of golf lies directly in the hands of golfers themselves. The golfer’s perception of the “perfect” golf course has to change in order for golf to continue to grow and even exist in our world.
With technological advancements and more effective maintenance practices, golfers have come to expect a certain quality in the golf course they are paying to play. They expect to find vibrant grass, interesting design, and impeccable playing conditions. This expectation fuels competition between golf courses and has allowed golf to become the 65 billion dollar industry that it is today. But this competition has also started a maintenance arms race that increasingly sacrifices the environment for the cause of having the most “perfect” golf course. Water, pesticide, fertilizer, and land use have all exponentially increased in the 20th century solely because this new perception of what a golf course should look like.
Link to Shane Lebow's entire 13-page paper (http://stanfordmensgolf.com/images_other/LebowGolfGreenPaper.pdf) - 2.4 Mb file