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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

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

“I Love You, Tiger!” At Big Cedar lodge, an outpouring of affection for Tiger Woods

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What a difference a year makes.

About one year ago, Tiger Woods was in Branson, Missouri at Big Cedar Lodge to announce that he was designing a golf course there; Payne’s Valley, his first public course. That day was attended by hundreds of national and local media, the Lieutenant Governor of Missouri and Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops owner and the visionary behind the amazing golf complex that has been established at Big Cedar Lodge.

That day, Woods had not played competitive golf for awhile, and he was recovering from multiple surgeries. Woods took a couple of ceremonial swings, the last of which clearly left him in physical distress. Days later, he was in surgery again and his playing career looked to be all but over. The situation became worse when Woods was arrested for driving under the influence, found with multiple substances in his system. It seemed as though the sad mug shots from that arrest might be as prominent in his legacy as the smiles and fist-pumps that accompanied his 79 wins and 14 major championships.

Fast forward to yesterday, where Woods was back in Missouri to do a Junior Clinic at Big Cedar. An estimated crowd of over 7,000 kids and parents showed up on a school day to catch a glimpse of Woods. The atmosphere was carnival-like, with sky divers, stunt planes making flyovers and rock music blaring from giant speakers. When Woods finally arrived, the reaction was electric. Mothers and their kids were chanting. “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” at the top of their lungs. Photographers battled soccer moms for position to get a picture of his swing. Some of the kids were as young as 6-years-old, which means that they had probably not seen Woods hit a meaningful shot in their life. At one point, when Woods was hitting shots and explaining how to execute them, a woman shouted, “I love you, Tiger!” Not to be out done, a woman on the other side of the crowd, who was their with her husband and kids, shouted “I love you more, Tiger!” Maybe the only people with more affection for Woods would be the people in the golf business. A senior marketing official in the golf industry leaned over at one point in the event and said, “God, we could use just one more from him.”

Woods swing looks completely rehabilitated. He was hitting shots of every shape and trajectory on-demand, and the driver was sending balls well past the end of the makeshift driving range set up for the event. But even more remarkable was the evidence of the recovery of his reputation. Surely there are still women out there that revile Woods for the revelations of infidelity, and no doubt there are those that still reject Woods for his legal and personal struggles. But none of them were in Missouri yesterday. Mothers and children shrieking his name confirmed what we already knew: Tiger Woods is the single most compelling person in American sports, and he belongs to golf.

Unlike a year ago, Woods is swinging well, and seems as healthy and happy as he as ever been as a pro. Add to that the unprecedented outpouring of love from crowds that once produced a combination of awe and respect, but never love. Fowler, McIlroy, Spieth and the rest may get their share of wins and Tweets, but if the game is to really grow it will be on the broad, fragile back of Tiger Woods. It’s amazing to think what can happen in one short year.

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Opinion & Analysis

12 reasons serious golfers don’t realize their potential

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What stops serious golfers from realizing their potential? If you are an amateur who wants to get better, a young player trying to achieve more, or a young professional with big dreams, this article is for you.

I’ve made a career out of helping athletes maximize their abilities, golfers in particular. And the things I see young playing professionals doing prior to our work together is often what is holding them back. The reality is that most young players, no matter what their level, have three key problems:

  1. They’re distracted by what’s not important
  2. They have no detailed structure and plan to reach the targets they determine are important to them
  3. They have no formal process to develop mindset and attitude

In the list below, I share what I see working with these young players and some common blind spots.

1. No real plan and steps to achieve targets

Most players do not know how to create a long-term and short-term plan that outlines all steps needed to reach targets. Players should have yearly plans with targets, steps and actions and weekly plans to organize/schedule their time and prioritize key needs.

2. Not focused enough on the object of the game

This goes hand in hand with No. 1. Surprisingly, players seem to forget that the object of the game is get the ball in the hole in the least amount of strokes. Trophies and checks are not issued for the best swing, the best putting stroke or most balls hit.

3. Not enough pressure in practice

Most young players have loose practice. The intensity of feelings between the practice tee and the course are too different. Focus and intensity must be a part of all practice. Add competition and outcomes to sessions so some urgency is created.

4. Too much practice time on full swing

The data is clear — most shots in golf happen from 100 yards and in from the green. If the majority of practice time is not spent on these shorter shots, practice time is wasted.

5. An obsession with the look of the swing

Players are not generally prepared to own their own swings and embrace the differences that make them unique. Obsessing over swing mechanics is a major distraction for many players. Many players convince themselves that if it doesn’t look “good” on their iPhone, their swing won’t get results.

6. No structure with the driver

Since scoring is the main goal, a consistent, reliable shape to each shot is important. My experience has been that if players are trying to go both ways with the driver, that is a sure-fire way to elevate numbers on the card. Pick a shape and eliminate one side of the course. Predictability from the tee increases a player’s confidence to put the ball in the fairway more often, creating more opportunities to score.

7. Expectation that they will hit the ball well everyday

Many players have the unreasonable expectation that they will hit lots of fairways and greens every time they play. This expectation leads to constant disappointment in their game. Knowing that the leading professionals in the game average about 60.6 percent driving accuracy and 11.8 greens in regulation per round should be a good benchmark for the expectations of all players.

8. Trying to be too robotic and precise in putting

Some players get so caught up in the mechanics of putting that their approach becomes too robotic. They become obsessed with precision and being perfect. Feel, flow and instinct have to be a central part of putting. This can get lost in an overly robotic mindset trying to be too precise and perfect.

9. No process for assessment and reflection

Players do not have a formal process for assessing practice or rounds and reflecting on the experience. The right lessons are not consistently taken away to ensure step-by-step improvement. Knowing how to assess practice, play and ask the right questions is key to development.

10. Getting in their own way

The voice inside of most young players’ heads is not helpful for their performance. It’s often a negative, demanding voice that insists on perfection. This voice leads to hesitation, frustration and anger. The voice must be shaped (with practice) into the right “emotional caddie” to support efforts and promote excellence over perfection.

11. A focus on the negative before the positive

A default to the mistakes/flaws in the round before looking at the highlights and what worked. When asked about their round, most players highlight three-putts, penalty shots and any errors before anything else. Emphasis should always be on what went well first. Refection on what needs improvement is second.

12. The blame game

Young players love excuses. Course conditions, weather, coaching and equipment are a few of the areas that are often targets, deflecting responsibility away from the player. Many players do not take full responsibility for their own game and/or careers.

I hope this provides some insights on roadblocks that could get in your way on the path to reaching your targets in the game. Whether it’s lowering your handicap, winning a junior tournament, working toward the PGA Tour — or just general improvement — considering these observations might help you shorten the road to get there.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Valero Texas Open

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With one of the weakest fields of the year, TPC San Antonio hosts the Valero Texas Open this week. Only one player from the top-20 in the Official World Golf Rankings will tee it up here. That man is Sergio Garcia, who co-designed this course with Greg Norman.

Just like last week at the RBC Heritage, the wind can wreak havoc at TPC San Antonio. The course features an exposed layout, making the level of wind is often unpredictable. Expect it to be a factor yet again this year. Unlike last week, the longer hitters do have an advantage on this course, which measuring more than 7,400 yards with little rough off the tee.

Last year, Kevin Chappell held off a charging Brooks Koepka to post 12-under par and win his first title on the PGA Tour.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Sergio Garcia 14/1
  • Matt Kuchar 18/1
  • Charley Hoffman 18/1
  • Luke List 25/1
  • Ryan Moore 28/1
  • Kevin Chappell 28/1
  • Adam Scott 30/1

From the top of the market, it’s hard not to love Luke List (25/1, DK Price $10,000) this week. The big-hitting American is still looking for his first win on the PGA Tour, but he is knocking on the door relentlessly. In his last eight events, List has finished no worse than T-26.

He was so close once again last week, and he should take plenty of confidence from that performance onto a course that theoretically should suit him much better. On this long track, List will have a significant advantage as one of the longest hitters on Tour. Over his last 24 rounds, he ranks 5th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee and 1st in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green. List is also flushing his irons. He was second in the field last week for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, and over his previous 24 rounds he sits 3rd in the same category.

It’s not only his long game that is highly proficient right now, either. List’s short game has been stellar over this impressive stretch, too. He ranks 8th for Strokes Gained-Around the Green and 28th for Strokes Gained-Short Game over his last 24 rounds.

The one department holding the big man back is his putting, where he ranks 145th for the season. The rest of his game is so sharp at the moment that he’s in the enviable position of not needing that hot a week with the flat-stick to win. He only needs an average week on the greens to finally break through and claim his first PGA Tour event. There’s nothing to suggest List isn’t going to play well once more this week, and at 25/1 he seems undervalued.

Returning to a track that he adores, Brendan Steele (33/1, DK Price $8,900) is always a danger at this event. As well as winning the title here in 2011, Steele has finished in the top-20 three times since then. Whatever it is about TPC San Antonio, it’s a course that brings out the best in Steele’s game.

It’s been an excellent season for the West Coast native, too. He won his opening event of the season at the Safeway Open and has since finished in the top-30 six times. One of the main reasons for his strong run of form has been his work with the driver. Steele is ranked 1st in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee over his last 24 rounds, and he has only failed to post a positive Strokes Gained statistic in this category once since this event last year.

Recently, Steele’s game is showing trends that he may once more be close to hitting the form that saw him win at the back end of last year. In his previous 24 rounds, the Californian is ranked 10th in Ball Striking and 7th in Strokes Gained-Total. Always a threat at this event, Steele is coming into this week with all parts of his game in sync. He should be a live threat once more in San Antonio.

Another man who has played well all year is Xander Schauffele (35/1, DK Price $8,800). The Californian has made seven of eight cuts this year, and he has finished in the top-25 in four of those occasions. Excellent off the tee, TPC San Antonio should suit the 24-year-old this week, too. Schaufelle ranks 7th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee and 17th in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green over his last 24 rounds.

With wind likely to play a factor this week, pure ball striking will be necessary. That shouldn’t be an issue for Xander, who sits 7th in Strokes Gained-Ball Striking over his last 24 rounds. There is nothing off about Schauffele’s game right now. He ranks 21st in Strokes Gained-Putting over his previous 12 rounds and 5th in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green over the same period. It’s only a matter of time before the two-time PGA Tour winner puts himself in the thick of contention again, and there’s no reason why it can’t be this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Luke List 25/1, DK Price $10,000
  • Brendan Steele 33/1, DK Price $8,900
  • Xander Schauffele 35/1, DK Price $8,800
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