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Cliff Hamm

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Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« on: January 22, 2023, 09:13:31 AM »
From Golocalprov.com column by Robert Whitcomb:


Cape Cod Crises
“Yet each man kills the thing he loves….”
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Anglo-Irish playwright and poet

Poor old Cape Cod, once rural and now exurban and suburban.

There’s not enough money at the moment to replace the old (from the 1930s) and too narrow Sagamore and Bourne bridges. And pollution from septic systems, fertilizers and pesticides (lawns and golf courses are major sources) kills life in many freshwater ponds. There are 42 golf courses on the skinny glorified sand bar we call Cape Cod!

What to do? Year-round passenger-train service to reduce car traffic to and fro and on the peninsula? (This would be via the charming railroad bridge over the Cape Cod Canal.)  A Barnstable County-wide bond issue to pay to extend sewerage? Close some golf courses?


Golf continues to have at a minimum a PR problem around the environment.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2023, 09:16:11 AM by Cliff Hamm »

Charlie Goerges

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2023, 11:02:24 AM »
Yes, golf has a similar PR problem here that we have with water usage. We also often have a frustratingly similar answer that we have in that case as well, which is to point at others and say that they are worse than us. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that not being the absolute worst won’t save us when the time comes. We might well be better served by beginning to make pretty radical changes to the expectations of conditioning to reduce chemicals so that we’re on the right side of the issue when the time comes.


So I’ll ask in this context as well, what kind reduction might we be looking at with a significant change in conditioning (say 1” fairways etc)?
Severally on the occasion of everything that thou doest, pause and ask thyself, if death is a dreadful thing because it deprives thee of this. - Marcus Aurelius

Craig Sweet

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2023, 11:36:10 AM »
Like an obese human, any plan to reduce inputs, and costs, will be different course by course
He's nuttier than a squirrel turd.

Adam Lawrence

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2023, 11:43:23 AM »
Yes, golf has a similar PR problem here that we have with water usage. We also often have a frustratingly similar answer that we have in that case as well, which is to point at others and say that they are worse than us. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that not being the absolute worst won’t save us when the time comes. We might well be better served by beginning to make pretty radical changes to the expectations of conditioning to reduce chemicals so that we’re on the right side of the issue when the time comes.



Correct, Charlie. I've been saying for a long time that 'We're not as bad as agriculture' is not a winning argument for golf. Food production is rather more important than golf.
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
www.oxfordgolfconsulting.com

Author, 'More Enduring Than Brass: a biography of Harry Colt' (forthcoming).

Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

Charlie Goerges

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2023, 12:12:58 PM »
Yes, golf has a similar PR problem here that we have with water usage. We also often have a frustratingly similar answer that we have in that case as well, which is to point at others and say that they are worse than us. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that not being the absolute worst won’t save us when the time comes. We might well be better served by beginning to make pretty radical changes to the expectations of conditioning to reduce chemicals so that we’re on the right side of the issue when the time comes.



Correct, Charlie. I've been saying for a long time that 'We're not as bad as agriculture' is not a winning argument for golf. Food production is rather more important than golf.


Indeed, and in the US we have the added fact that suburban-style lawns also tend to use more chemicals per acre than golf courses. But again, does being marginally better than another non-essential thing put a halo around our heads?
Severally on the occasion of everything that thou doest, pause and ask thyself, if death is a dreadful thing because it deprives thee of this. - Marcus Aurelius

Charlie Goerges

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2023, 12:33:31 PM »
Like an obese human, any plan to reduce inputs, and costs, will be different course by course


Fair enough Craig, but I feel like that fact that it’s somewhat individualized makes it easier to avoid talking about the issue. Additionally, talking about changing standards rather than just reductions is to protect vulnerable courses and good actors. If golf should cut inputs by X%, it feels fairer to come up with new conditioning standards that would meet that goal in aggregate and begin to try and hit that. It keeps historic bad actors from merely cleaning up their act to hit percentages.


I think the best way is for people who are deeply involved or deeply invested in the game to talk about this sooner rather than later. And who knows, we might find that “reductions” in conditioning standards actually increase our enjoyment.
Severally on the occasion of everything that thou doest, pause and ask thyself, if death is a dreadful thing because it deprives thee of this. - Marcus Aurelius

Steve Lang

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2023, 09:38:18 PM »
 8)   I think its best for people not to generalize on pollution issues, let alone solutions.  The answer to almost every environmental question begins with " It depends..."  the site specifics have to be addressed properly.


There are plenty of appropriate technologies and approaches that can mitigate if not solve environmental problems, costs don't have to control everything!
Inverness (Toledo, OH) cathedral clock inscription: "God measures men by what they are. Not what they in wealth possess.  That vibrant message chimes afar.
The voice of Inverness"

Tom_Doak

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2023, 11:51:58 PM »
I don't believe the fertilizer problem on golf courses is anywhere near as bad as it's made out to be.  But, in the planning and zoning meetings for High Pointe, all of the significant questions were about fertilizer use and groundwater, and there aren't any certain answers to be given in response.


I was surprised by the questions; years ago the topic always came up in such settings, and there were a handful of "consultants" who went around to such meetings asking vague questions on the subject.  The golf business responded with a lot of research into groundwater contamination . . . the problem is, no one believes it, because the research was funded by the golf business. However, the opponents seem more interested in raising doubt than in funding their own studies.

Charlie Goerges

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2023, 10:03:21 AM »
Why do I get the feeling nobody likes talking about this kind of stuff?  ;D

Severally on the occasion of everything that thou doest, pause and ask thyself, if death is a dreadful thing because it deprives thee of this. - Marcus Aurelius

Charlie Goerges

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2023, 10:28:58 AM »
I should say that I would probably agree that golf's transgressions are likely not as bad as its worst critics state. That said, it doesn't preclude the possibility that we're still way worse than we should be. The problem I see is the insularity of the community and our willingness (or lack thereof) to talk about the issues.


I feel like this is a discussion we should be having. If the way I talk about it isn't right, I'm open to suggestions as to how it should be talked about.
Severally on the occasion of everything that thou doest, pause and ask thyself, if death is a dreadful thing because it deprives thee of this. - Marcus Aurelius

Adam Lawrence

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2023, 10:34:42 AM »
I don't actually think the reality of golf's environmental impact is the key issue. What really matters is perception. As long as there is a widely-held perception that golf is harmful to the environment, it will strengthen the hand of the anti-golf forces.

It may well be that this is a no-win situation for golf, and that those people who believe that golf is harmful are not susceptible to being convinced otherwise no matter what evidence is presented. But still, I think it is important for the game to talk about its environmental positives. For example, I think golf, properly managed, is an excellent steward of sensitive ecosystems such as sand dunes, because the interests of the course and of the ecosystem are very similar. There is, for example, no doubt whatsoever in my mind that, given the current state of the ecosystem at Coul Links in Scotland, the presence of the golf course would be a net environmental gain.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2023, 10:37:42 AM by Adam Lawrence »
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
www.oxfordgolfconsulting.com

Author, 'More Enduring Than Brass: a biography of Harry Colt' (forthcoming).

Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

Charlie Goerges

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2023, 11:50:45 AM »
What really matters is perception. As long as there is a widely-held perception that golf is harmful to the environment, it will strengthen the hand of the anti-golf forces.




Ultimately yes, perception is the issue. Now, whether we're better than the critics say or merely as bad as they say, neither circumstance would seem to be improved by the silent treatment. That's what I don't get.
Severally on the occasion of everything that thou doest, pause and ask thyself, if death is a dreadful thing because it deprives thee of this. - Marcus Aurelius

Tim Martin

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2023, 12:04:40 PM »
For example, I think golf, properly managed, is an excellent steward of sensitive ecosystems such as sand dunes, because the interests of the course and of the ecosystem are very similar.


Adam-My takeaway from this statement is that the common interest is to leave the sand dunes undisturbed while integrating them into the design. Do I have this correct? Thank you.

Adam Lawrence

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2023, 02:36:41 PM »
For example, I think golf, properly managed, is an excellent steward of sensitive ecosystems such as sand dunes, because the interests of the course and of the ecosystem are very similar.

Adam-My takeaway from this statement is that the common interest is to leave the sand dunes undisturbed while integrating them into the design. Do I have this correct? Thank you.

Every site is different, but sand dunes require management if they are to stay in the best condition. They can very easily be overrun with weed species and the like, and if they are used for golf, it is in the interests of the course to keep them as pristine as possible.

Machrihanish Dunes is a very good example of this. The site was highly protected, and the course was only permitted because the developers signed up for an incredibly rigorous set of constraints that basically amounted to no movement of earth -- at all -- except for greens and tees. If turf was lifted from a dune, it had to be relaid facing the same direction. And the course was overseen by an inspector appointed by Scottish Natural Heritage, who had to approve everything, including otherwise normal greenkeeping type stuff.

The relationship between the course staff and the SNH inspector was, at first, rather confrontational. But over time, SNH came to realise that the golf course was not going to destroy the ecosystem of the dunes, and if anything enhanced it, and the relationship became much more congenial, to the extent that, now, there is a proposal to build a second course there, although only a few holes of it would be inside the Site of Special Scientific Interest -- if it happens, it will mostly be inland, on farmland.

Contrast this with Trump Aberdeen where, because the Scottish government was seduced by the prospect of huge investment in the area, permission was granted to grass over a huge mobile (ie exposed sand) dune system. The SSSI status of the site has now been removed, because the grassing of the dunes destroyed the ecosystem for which they were prized.

Or think of the heathland courses of southern England. Two hundred years ago, huge swathes of Surrey and neighbouring counties were covered in lowland heath. But much of it was destroyed as the area developed economically, and now most of the heath that remains is little islands, a lot of which is in the care of golf courses. And much of that, over the past century, has been denatured, because heath, if not grazed, reverts to low quality woodland fairly quickly (heath is a manmade landscape, created thousands of years ago when primitive farmers cleared the native forests for their crops and flocks).

Now, as we can see at places like Addington or Woking, heath is trendy again in golf, and the clubs are trying to regenerate it as best they can, cutting down the woodlands that have colonised the heaths, and encouraging the heather to regrow. Over time, this will have significant positive consequences for the biodiversity of those sites. But it will need constant management, with greenkeeper removing the sapling trees that will inevitably self-seed -- in other words, they will have to fulfil the role that was previously undertaken by sheep and deer. And the courses will have to work hard to keep the soil fertility down, ensuring that irrigation and fertiliser do not allow the heather to be outcompeted by other, less desirable species. But this too is in their interests: the fine-bladed fescues and bents that are the best surface for traditional running golf also require low fertility if they are not to be smothered by weed grasses.

In other words, golf can be an excellent steward of sensitive ecosystems. But it can also wreck them.
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
www.oxfordgolfconsulting.com

Author, 'More Enduring Than Brass: a biography of Harry Colt' (forthcoming).

Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

Sean_A

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #14 on: January 24, 2023, 03:56:58 AM »
The heathlands is an excellent example of potential environmental positive outcome for restoring ecosystems. It must be said the movement is still in infancy, however. I fear the greatest success will require more government/charity/golf club partnerships because its an expensive and time consuming process. Even so, golf clubs need to find ways to be successful. If clubs are successful it's great for their brands. Win-win.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2023: Cardigan, St David's City, Panmure, Kinghorn, Harrogate, Hinckley, Robin Hood & Ladybank

Charlie Goerges

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #15 on: January 24, 2023, 08:31:31 AM »
If clubs are successful it's great for their brands. Win-win.




Yes! And good for golf's brand.
Severally on the occasion of everything that thou doest, pause and ask thyself, if death is a dreadful thing because it deprives thee of this. - Marcus Aurelius

Bernie Bell

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #16 on: January 24, 2023, 11:04:29 AM »
"In other words, golf can be an excellent steward of sensitive ecosystems. But it can also wreck them."
Agreed.  Attached is recent op-ed [on page 7/8] from a professional ecologist on how the local golf courses in my new hometown, if managed properly, can be valuable environmental assets.  "Why Reston Needs Its Two Urban Golf Courses."  In context, he's fighting development, but I think the points are still valid.
https://irp.cdn-website.com/b7e28502/files/uploaded/Reston%20Letter%20January%202023final.pdf

Niall C

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #17 on: January 24, 2023, 11:54:33 AM »
There is, for example, no doubt whatsoever in my mind that, given the current state of the ecosystem at Coul Links in Scotland, the presence of the golf course would be a net environmental gain.


Adam,


I agree absolutely with everything else you say on this thread apart from the above. Not sure how you can differentiate between what they did at Balmedie and what was proposed at Embo. The comment also seems to jar with your other comment regarding perception and putting out a positive message.


As I said previously, on a number of occasions, Mach Dunes and Dumbarnie serve as a case study in how to do it while Balmedie and Embo would be the opposite.


As an aside, in terms of heathland regeneration, Walton Heath were clearing trees and endeavouring to regenrate heather more than 20 years ago.


Niall

Adam Lawrence

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #18 on: January 24, 2023, 12:35:16 PM »
Niall


We can agree to differ on Coul. I think you are 100 per cent wrong and it has far more in common with Mach Dunes than Trump.


MD and Dumbarnie have nothing in common. Dumbarnie deliberately (and sensibly imo) avoided the SSSI completely, it was totally shaped and built on farmland.



Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
www.oxfordgolfconsulting.com

Author, 'More Enduring Than Brass: a biography of Harry Colt' (forthcoming).

Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

Niall C

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #19 on: January 24, 2023, 12:56:33 PM »



MD and Dumbarnie have nothing in common. Dumbarnie deliberately (and sensibly imo) avoided the SSSI completely, it was totally shaped and built on farmland.


And that's the point, how they worked with SNH to avoid any issues. Can you really say that about Embo or Balmedie ?


Niall

Max Prokopy

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #20 on: January 24, 2023, 03:29:56 PM »



Some may find this interesting...God bless the hyper-wealthy small towns that have the time and money to commission this type of thing:


Microsoft Word - The Bridge tech review report by Petrovic and Cambareri Final Feb-23-2021 (southamptontownny.gov)

Max Prokopy

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #21 on: January 24, 2023, 03:31:06 PM »

John Emerson

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #22 on: January 24, 2023, 08:47:36 PM »



These numbers would continue to trend down rapidly with industry adoption of improved fertilizer recommendations, which are readily available for implementation. Hurdle is that people refuse to except the data and rely on outdated and wasteful methods of nutrient management. So, while we are trending downward it may not be fast enough.


N and P are the two elements of concern when talking about water quality. There are no federal drinking water standards for K.







“There’s links golf, then everything else.”

Charlie Goerges

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #23 on: January 25, 2023, 08:38:40 AM »

These numbers would continue to trend down rapidly with industry adoption of improved fertilizer recommendations, which are readily available for implementation. Hurdle is that people refuse to except the data and rely on outdated and wasteful methods of nutrient management. So, while we are trending downward it may not be fast enough.


N and P are the two elements of concern when talking about water quality. There are no federal drinking water standards for K.




I'd love to hear more if you want to say more.
Severally on the occasion of everything that thou doest, pause and ask thyself, if death is a dreadful thing because it deprives thee of this. - Marcus Aurelius

John Emerson

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Re: Golf Fertilizer Pollution
« Reply #24 on: January 25, 2023, 09:16:32 AM »

These numbers would continue to trend down rapidly with industry adoption of improved fertilizer recommendations, which are readily available for implementation. Hurdle is that people refuse to except the data and rely on outdated and wasteful methods of nutrient management. So, while we are trending downward it may not be fast enough.


N and P are the two elements of concern when talking about water quality. There are no federal drinking water standards for K.




I'd love to hear more if you want to say more.


Charlie,
I could go on the longest of diatribes about this topic of sustainability and have somewhat here in the past. I think I’ve wore folks out with it and I’ll sit this one out. Bottom line is we need to do better if we are to guarantee the future survival of the sport in some kind of form in which we are accustomed to. Not just turf managers, but everyone under the golf umbrella from the public golfers, private members, architects and their clients, pros, GM’s, and anyone else you want to throw in there that’s either directly or tangentially involved with golf.
“There’s links golf, then everything else.”

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