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Study: Golf courses actually aren’t bad for the environment

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Historically, golf courses haven’t had the greatest reputation among environmentalists. For those concerned about the impact of these recreational venues on their surroundings, some news out of the University of Missouri ought to quell their fears: Researchers at the institution have found that salamanders native to golf course environments are not only surviving, but thriving. Obviously, this flies in the face of the perception that golf courses are generally toxic to native organisms.

The study uses salamander health as a benchmark of the overall suitability of golf courses for wildlife. In short, it seems what’s good for salamanders is good for other creatures, including those traipsing around hacking up these beautiful green spaces.

As Ray Semlitsch, Curators Professor of Biological Sciences in the College of Arts and Science at the University of Missouri said:

If you look at the literature on golf courses, historically they get a lot of bad publicity. It’s always been thought that course managers not only clear the land, but they add a lot of chemicals to the environment. In terms of maintaining the turf of the golf course, managers use herbicides, insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers. We went into the research study thinking these things were going to be really toxic and really bad to the salamanders. What we found was quite the opposite—golf courses can actually provide a wonderful habitat for salamanders and other organisms where they can survive and thrive.

As for the the particulars of the study, the researchers examined 10 golf courses in the southern Appalachian portion of western Northern Carolina. In addition to studying both salamanders and larvae from the golf courses’ fairways, those conducting the study also examined water quality on the course for chemicals and other “adverse substances.”

In keeping with the USGA’s “brown is the new green” thrust and industry trends toward less manicured courses, the researchers suggest that:

A more natural course that includes streams with leaf litter, sticks and twigs that offer a natural habitat for different species is preferred. Turf and golf course managers are taking note of these practices, and it is making a real ecological difference.

Certainly, the University of Missouri study deals with a small sample and specific area of focus, and as the PGA of America, the USGA and the GCSAA seem to agree on the matter of golf and environment: further research is necessary. However, as this study indicates, the idea that a healthy ecosystem and a functional golf course can’t exist in the same space may be fundamentally flawed.

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16 Comments

  1. Jason

    Jun 5, 2014 at 1:38 am

    I work at a course that has been in the top 10 of most environmentally friendly courses in the US that is put out by Links Magazine.

    Our past superintendent was really into the enviro causes and made sure we were on the up and up. He has now moved on to the National Golf Course Superintendents Association. Our new super is following in his footsteps and keeping the same standards.

    Some courses do use too much of everything but some do it right. Look at the research the National Golf Course Superintendents Association and what they are working on. They know courses have a bad wrap and that keeping courses watered down the line is going to be hard. They are doing a great job and you should follow them.

    Jason
    Shot Caddy on Kickstarter.com

  2. Ad

    Apr 15, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    What happens to all the lost balls that are never found? You know, the ones that Jack Lemmon hit into the ocean to pollute the Pacific?

  3. Evan

    Apr 15, 2014 at 7:57 am

    Water consumption and wildlife habitat are only part of the conversation. The real issue/ concern is pesticides/ fertilizers used on golf courses. While organic food is seen as being better for us and more sustainable, golf courses typically use 10 to 15x the amount of pesticide and fertilizer as crop farmers. Granted, we don’t eat our divots… but just think of the impact on animals and the local water shed. I’m not sure what salamanders resistance to pesticides are, but I’m guessing it’s pretty high. This seems like a study that golf course superintendents will use to battle the increasing pressure to stop using so many chemicals.

    A golf course could be an excellent addition to any community if our expectations for turf quality are lowered a bit. Golf is played in nature, nature is not perfect. Maintaining grass without chemicals also requires less water. Applewood golf course in Golfden, CO and The Vineyard Golf Club in Martha’s Vineyard are two examples of golf courses who have stopped using standard chemical treatments. Applewood was actually forced to stop using chemical turf treatments because it was poisoning the water supply (which is used to brew beer).

    • Evan

      Apr 15, 2014 at 8:18 am

      This study was funded by the USGA… follow the money/ incentive when looking at a study. Here is another article about amphibians and pesticides. http://blogs.kqed.org/science/2013/07/31/adapting-to-stress-early-exposure-gives-amphibians-higher-tolerance-to-pesticides/

      This study is incredibly misleading. If a golf course uses 10-15 times the toxic/ harmful pesticides as common agriculture, there is no way the the soil and surrounding watershed are “beneficial” to nature. It is not golf courses who are under attack, it’s the chemical companies and there LONG TERM relationship with golf and golf course superintendents. In the world of turf management, chemical companies have a lot of influence.

      • Xreb

        Apr 16, 2014 at 4:51 pm

        Kudos on actually finding out who funded the study ! I wish more people were rational enough to do this instead of taking every study at face value. The article and I assume the study specifically mentions salamanders and ‘seems’ to make a sweeping generalization from this. If this is the case, then not only is it poorly executed research but also quite possibly intentionally misleading.

        • leftright

          Apr 16, 2014 at 8:54 pm

          Intentionally misleading…shades of “Global Warming” and that fake University in England who forged all the data. Anything that come from a progressive point of view take with a grain of salt, it is probably false, wrong, fraudulent, fake, plagiarized, or just flat out made up.

          • Xreb

            Apr 17, 2014 at 12:10 am

            Didn’t take long for you to make it political… Can you go ahead and cite your sources for all the ‘facts’ that you are apparently stating. Reading blogs and listening to talk radios run by the ‘other side does not make you an expert. What fake university in England are you talking about ? The University of East Angilca ? Of course there are zealots in every group of society, including climate scientists but I fail to see a motivation for a Global warming conspiracy as opposed to a motivation for corporations to suppress such information if it was true.

      • leftright

        Apr 16, 2014 at 8:51 pm

        Why don’t you take the Pelosi/Obama/Biden/Reid sticker off your car and throw it in the recycling bin. The progressive ideology is about to take a big hit. If you play golf…quit, please. We don’t need you type on the golf course.

      • leftright

        Apr 16, 2014 at 9:03 pm

        As a manager of a large Research facilities Health and Safety department, with a degree in Environmental Science, CHMM, CSP and MBA, I mention this because liberals like the education part of stuff, and being 57 years old, I know for a fact that EPA and environmental concern (non-industry) are very misleading. 42 pesticides have been taken off the market over the past 10 years and it is a struggle for superintendents to keep the “bugs” away. The secrets is to have all the golf courses that can survive…but have “less” water. Also, the water can be treated to make many existing pesticides “inert” and lessen the effects. It is ironic that man has existed for thousands of years, riding bicycles without helmets, driving without seatbelts and playing golf on courses full of insecticides and pesticides but for some reason progressives think they are saving up from ourselves while murder rates go up, bugs on golf courses “go up”, more get killed in cars, bicycles and motorcycles and more children than ever have congenital abnormalities despite not being exposed to “less” golf course bug killers. Do yourself a favor and don’t allow yourself to be a victim of the ideology of do as I say, not as I do and live in the log cabin with a wood stove, while I live in my mansion and drive my Hummer. It is all bunch of BS…period.

    • Philip

      Apr 15, 2014 at 11:18 am

      Golf courses can be a lot greener but a lot of it depends on locating a golf course in an area that can maintain a golf course naturally. Obviously having a course in a desert is just plain stupid from an environment point of view.

      My course in Quebec, Canada belongs to an environment standards program and has obtained level 3 of 4 levels (Par3 Program). I’ve seen them risk losing 7-8 greens and a dozen fairways before they resorted to using pesticides (and even then only on the worst hit greens).

      The course is a breath of fresh air. I didn’t realize that as a kid the smell of a golf course was actually the pesticides – this course is a healthy change in the right direction.

  4. Bobby Bottleservice

    Apr 14, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    I’d love to meet the idiot that said they were.

  5. Elmo

    Apr 14, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    Honestly, in my opinion where theres a golf course, theres not a concrete jungle. Therefore, I have always viewed golf courses as environmentaly friendly especially in large cities. It allows for wildlife and ecosystems to thrive where they normally couldn’t.

  6. cole

    Apr 14, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    Interesting, you never really think of things like this as you play..

    • guy

      Apr 14, 2014 at 8:14 pm

      i guess. i mean, i do all the time, but no one likes it when i bring up irrigation efficiency and how a course could be less wasteful while playing… i can understand that…

  7. Tony

    Apr 14, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    Interesting. As an avid golfer and someone who is very concerned with environmental issues, this has always been a complicated issue for me. For me the two biggest things that concern me with (certain) golf courses are:

    A) Water consumption, especially in historically dry areas.
    B) Fuel use partaking in an activity usually located nowhere near public transit. I usually try to carpool with my entire foursome to do my little part.

    • guy

      Apr 14, 2014 at 8:11 pm

      couldnt agree more with tony, except in Boston I am lucky enough to be able to take a 20 minute MBTA bus ride to 2 different courses!

      i like being able to take the element of having to use a car out of playing golf, helps me reconcile with my ideals a bit… always get funny looks when bringing a golf bag onto the bus tho 🙂

      this is something that deserves A LOT more attention than it gets from the golfing community IMO and warrants much further research.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

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There is a sense that this is the week where the 2018 PGA Tour season truly gets underway. An iconic golf course playing host to a world class field, which includes none other than Tiger Woods. Last year, Jon Rahm won the event in sparkling fashion, draining a monster eagle putt on the 18th green to take the title by three strokes at 13-under par.

With a top field usually on show here, it’s no surprise that the role of honor list is so impressive. Besides Tiger Woods having won the event a remarkable seven times, the likes of Snedeker (twice), Jason Day and Bubba Watson have all won here in recent years — the only surprise victor in the past seven editions being Scott Stallings in 2014. With this being his first event of 2018, Tiger will grab the headlines no matter what happens, and I think every golf fan will be fascinated to see how the 14-time major winner will perform on a course he dearly loves.

The event is played over two courses on the opening two days, Torrey Pines (South) and Torrey Pines (North) before switching to the South Course for the final two days. The South Course is a real test, measuring more than 7,500 yards and usually with thick rough. The shorter North Course offers up the best opportunity for scoring, which adds pressure to each player’s solo trip here during the week. There is even a difference on the greens, as the South Course uses Poa Annua while the North Course has Bentgrass.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Jon Rahm 8/1
  • Rickie Fowler 12/1
  • Hideki Matsuyama 14/1
  • Justin Rose 16/1
  • Jason Day 18/1
  • Tiger Woods 22/1
  • Marc Leishman 22/1

On such a long golf course such as the South Course here at Torrey Pines, there is no doubt that length off the tee is important. But the ability to find the fairway is equally so. It was a surprise that up until last year Justin Rose (16/1, DK Price $10,600 ) had never displayed his best golf at Torrey Pines, but a T4 in 2017 shows that at long last he may have finally figured out the course.

The usually reliable Rose ranks sixth in this field for Strokes Gained Tee to Green over his last 24 rounds and third in Strokes Gained Total. With limited birdie opportunities available, certainly on the South Course, I expect Par-5 scoring to be crucial this week… and Justin is a player with the ability to eat up Par 5’s. He sits fourth in Strokes Gained on Par 5’s in this field over his last 24 rounds. Performance on Par 4’s in the range of 450-500 yards should also prove vital with both courses containing five holes each in this range. Rose is 15th in Efficiency on holes of this length and sixth in Strokes Gained on all par 4’s in his last 24 rounds.

Rose made an important birdie on his final hole last Friday to make the cut in Abu-Dhabi, and in doing so seemed to shake off some of the rust in his game over the weekend. The current Olympic Champion shot bogey-free rounds of 67 and 69 over the weekend, giving him good momentum for this week. Rose finished ninth in Driving Distance last week and 10th in Driving Accuracy. If he can replicate that sort of form with the driver, then he should be able to give himself an excellent chance come Sunday afternoon.

The Farmers Insurance Open is an event which Tony Finau (35/1, DK Price $8,700 ) seemingly loves. In three appearances, he’s improved each time with finishes of  T24, T18 and most recently T4. His reliable Tee to Green game is a key factor behind his joy at Torrey Pines. Finau ranks 11th in this field in Strokes Gained Tee to Green over his last 24 rounds and ninth in Strokes Gained Approach. On the important 450-500 yard Par-4 range, he sits 13th in Efficiency over the same period. The long hitter also excels on the Par 5’s. In his last 24 rounds, he ranks third in this field for Strokes Gained on Par 5’s. As usual with Finau, the question mark surrounds his putting. But he seems to be a little more comfortable on the greens at Torrey Pines, where he has gained strokes over the field on the greens in all three previous visits here.

If you’re looking for reliability in your DraftKings lineups this week, then it’s hard to look past Charles Howell III (45/1, DK Price $8,300 ). In his last five trips to Torrey Pines, the Augusta native has finishes of T9-T37-T5-T16-T2 with a career Strokes Gained Total of +39 here. DraftKings players using Charles this week will also be glad to know that he has never missed the cut at this event in 15 visits. He scores very well on the key statistics for the week, suggesting another high finish may be in the offing.

Howell III is fourth in this field over his last 24 rounds on Par 4’s between 450-500 yards, while he’s 19th in Strokes Gained on Par 5’s in this same period. He is also trending upward in 2018, finishing T32 at the Sony Open and T20 at CareerBuilder last week. It would hardly be a shock to see Charles post his best finish of 2018 at a site he loves, and if he is ever to win again it would probably be less surprising to see him do it at Torrey Pines than anywhere else.

In terms of value down the board, J.J. Spaun (90/1, DK Price $7,500) jumped out right away at being a little undervalued this week. It seems like Torrey Pines is a good fit for the California native. Last year he finished an impressive T9 on his debut. It also seems like Spaun is hitting the ball better than ever at the moment. Over his last 24 rounds, he ranks ninth in Strokes Gained Tee to Green, seventh in Ball Striking, fourth in Approaching the Green and seventh in Strokes Gained Total — excellent statistics that he will be eager to see manifest into positive results soon. Spaun is sixth in Par 4’s ranging between 450-500 yards over his last 24 rounds and is also very competent on Par 5’s, where he sits 21st over the same period. At a price of $7,500there seems to be good value in adding Spaun to your DraftKings line up this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Justin Rose 16/1, DK Price $10,600
  • Tony Finau 35/1, DK Price $8,700
  • Charles Howell III 45/1, DK Price $8,300
  • J.J. Spaun 90/1, DK Price $7,500
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Opinion & Analysis

More Distance Off the Tee (Part 1 of 3): Upper Body Training

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If you read my previous story, Tour Pro’s Revealed: 3 Tests to See How You Stack Up, you are well aware of the fact that improving your upper body power is one of three sure ways to increase your distance off the tee. If you have not, I strongly suggest you check it out to gain some context about what is to follow and what is critical for your golf game.

Through our testing and the testing done of many of the industry leaders in golf performance, we have found that the ability of golfers to generate “push power” from their upper body is critical to maximize efficiency and speed in the swing. The way that you can test your power is simple. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Keeping your back on the chair, chest pass with both hands a 6-pound medicine ball as far as you can. When you compare this to your vertical jump as described in More Distance Off the Tee (Part 2 of 3): Lower Body Training Plan, the number in feet you threw the ball should be relatively close to your jump in inches.

If you threw the ball and it went 5 feet, you have an upper body power problem. If you threw the ball 25 feet and jumped only 14 inches, your upper body is not the problem — you probably need to focus on your lower body. It’s not rocket science once you understand what you are looking for. What can be challenging is knowing how to improve your power once you identify a problem. That is where the rest of this article comes in. What I am going to outline below are three of the most common upper body power exercises that we use with our amateur, senior and professional golfers.

The key with any power training exercise is to make sure you are as rested as possible between sets so that you can be as explosive as possible for the repetitions. Try not to do more than 6 repetitions in a set to assure that each one is as fast and explosive as possible.

Med Ball Chest Pass on Wall

This is one of the most basic exercises there is for developing upper body push power. Make sure your feet are about shoulder-width apart and don’t be afraid to use your legs to help maximize the punishment you deliver to against the wall!

Med Ball Wall Ball

Watching the video, you may be scratching you head and wondering why this is in the upper body power article when clearly the athlete is using his legs. The reason is that in the golf swing, power starts with the legs.

Med Ball Sky Chest Throws

This one is simple. Laying on your back, all you need to do is push the ball up as high as you can, catch it on the way down and the explode it back up into the air as high as you can. If you incorporate this exercise into your routine even once a week, you will see huge gains in your ability to swing faster if this was a problem area for you.

That being said, power creation requires not only speed but also strength development. It is also important that you have a solid strength program to increase your ability to generate more force. While this is beyond the scope of this article, finding yourself a solid golf fitness expert will help you create your ideal program.

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GolfWRX Forum Member dpb5031 talks about the TaylorMade Twist Face Experience

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Forum member dpb5031 (aka Dewey) joins TG2 to talk about his Twist Face Experience at The Kingdom. Recently, him and 6 other GolfWRX Members went to TaylorMade HQ to get fit for new M3 and M4 drivers. Does Twist Face work? Dewey provides his answer.

Listen to the podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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