I was in the airport and had a quick scan in the book store to see what was in the current of Golf Digest issue beyond instruction - and the front cover said, “Plus - The Most Important Article We’ve Ever Published - page 196.” I opened it up to see what this article was about and read the title “How Green is Golf?” I didn’t need to read any of it and simply walked to the counter and paid my money to buy the article – they threw in the magazine. This was the first issue of Golf Digest that I have bought in a lot of years – and I’ll buy lots more if they give me one article a month as good as this.
John Barton opens his article with a mention of the first Golf and the Environment conference in 1995 and allows that to become the opening. It gives the impression that the movement is new but actually it has greater roots than that – but most don’t realize that the Golf Superintendents have as an industry been trying to become leaders in this area for quite some time. They often take a beating in this article – but I can tell you through personal experience that the leaders in the industry are well out in front on this issue. The difference now of course is that the subject of golf and the environmental impact has become a political hot button for non-golfers. The Golf Industry finds itself under enormous pressure.
This is an excellent article - and I think you should go out and buy the magazine and read this article.
Where it works best is the fact that John takes seven completely different people from all sides of the issue and gives them a voice. He begins with “The Golf Course Architect” Michael Hurdzan to speak for the architects but ends up speaking on behalf of the golf industry. He then turns “The Activist” Jay Feldman to talk mainly about the inherent risk of pesticides but also talks about some common misconceptions – some of this is either eye-opening or controversial – but well worth the read to understand where certain opinions stem from. The one I enjoyed the most was “The Golf Course Superintendent” Jeff Carlson who runs the only truly organic golf course in the United States. This section will inform you a great deal about what the environmentalists and public seem to want and what it means to you as a golfer.
“The Regulator” with Robert Wood seemed a little out of place with the others and deals mainly with his role in protecting wetlands. “The Advocate” with Ronald Dodson of Audoban International was one I looked forward to since he has played such a large role in getting the environmental movement going with-in golf, but strangely John seems more interested in following the controversy over the name Audoban than the actual role of the organization. This is an opportunity clearly lost. Everybody likes the goal of the organization, but I think John’s note about cost ($9,500 for new development) does explain some people’s questions about the money involved.
“The Grass Expert” James Snow is an interesting contrast useful to explain where the problems will come for golf in trying to go organic. His explanation about why the US can’t adopt the UK style because of climate is fascinating. Finally John concludes with the perfect choice with “The Environmentalist” Brent Blackwater. Imagine a lobbyist for Friends of the Earth who is also a single digit handicap golfer – nothing better than understanding the issues from both sides. He certainly makes a strong case for change - but also makes it very clear that golf has a place. He simply feels that we can be much better environmentally as an industry – and so do many people working in the industry.
Environmentalism in golf isn’t going to go away – this is just the early stages of what will be the most remarkable change the game has seen since the introduction of the Haskell Ball.
I’ll begin tomorrow by touching on each person’s comments – except Robert Wood and Ronald Dodson because I see no point - and discuss what they had to say. I’ll also touch on the sidebars which deserve some minor comment too.
To Part 2