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