How green should a course be in times of drought?

Thu Sep 3, 2015 6:37pm EDT
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - For the non-golfer, the image is an unsettling one -- lush golf courses sprawling across the desert areas around Palm Springs in arid California while the state is suffering a drought for a fourth consecutive year.

Similar scenes can be found in states such as Nevada, Texas and Arizona where golf courses appear to be getting more than their fair share of water in an era of climate change when usage is increasingly restricted in the private and public sectors.

For the United States Golf Association (USGA), however, a much bigger picture must be viewed when it comes to assessing the management of resources on golf courses, which can play a significant environmental role in urban areas.

"Golf adds such a benefit to communities," Kimberly Erusha, managing director of the greens section for the USGA, told Reuters. "You think about the green space golf courses offer, the benefits of the habitat they offer.

"Golf courses provide oxygen, they are a great cooling sink for the community and it's a great recreation that you can play from young to old.

"We also have to look at what's going on behind the scenes, at very efficient irrigation systems and at golf course superintendents who are trained to be able to apply water as efficiently as possible."

USGA green section agronomists have made more than 80,000 consulting visits to golf courses in the United States since the 1950s and the governing body has given more than $40 million to fund research into turf care and development.

Erusha says she has been especially excited by the USGA's development of an electronic resource management tool which will aid golf course superintendents in identifying areas where irrigation, mowing and fertilizer can be greatly reduced.   Continued...

Golf patrons wander the foggy grounds during player practice rounds ahead of the 2015 Masters at Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia April 8, 2015.   REUTERS/Mark Blinch