Golf Courses Aren’t So Green

Though the golf industry says it’s been striving to lighten its ecological impact, golf courses are increasingly flashpoints of environmental controversy. According to the Worldwatch Institute, the U.S. is home to some 18,000 golf courses — more than half the world’s 35,000 — covering 1.7 million acres and using 4 billion gallons of water every day. Strict grooming requirements lead to heavy pesticide and herbicide use, which can pollute groundwater and pose health hazards to course employees and nearby residents. Particularly in the West, where drought conditions have created severe water shortages, enviro and community groups are increasingly fighting new courses, which can also impinge on threatened wildlife habitats. The golf industry touts eco-friendly strategies such as improved irrigation, varieties of grass that require less water, and pesticides that break down more quickly. However, the growing popularity of the sport has increased its overall ecological footprint considerably.