Turf & Rec

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OGSA president says golfers should take environmentalism with them to the golf course


June 14, 2013
By Mike Jiggens


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Just as people can make positive choices in regard to preserving and protecting the environment and Mother Earth in their everyday decisions, they can do the same when it comes to golf courses.

“Many golfers believe environmental stewardship on the golf course is not a function of their influence or actions, but in reality golfers can have considerable influence on the environment of a golf course,” says Rob Gatto, president of the Ontario Golf Superintendents’ Association.

Gatto, who manages three golf courses for the City of Hamilton, at King’s Forest GC and Chedoke Civic GC, said many actions people take in other aspects of their daily activities can be extended to the golf course, including:

• Recycling paper, bottle and cans

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• Carrying reusable water/beverage containers

• Walking the course when possible

• Hugging the course—fixing ball marks, raking bunkers, replacing divots all have a direct connection to input requirements

• Carpooling to the golf course with playing partners

Gatto recognizes whether people play at a professional tour course or a small rural community nine-hole facility, they have an interest in the condition of their course.

Over the past decade he’s noticed a significant improvement in the way most members and guests respect and care for the courses.

“Superintendents are innovators,” Gatto said. “We’re constantly looking for new and better ways to achieve the goal of a well-managed course that is enjoyable to play, as well as being increasingly environmentally friendly.”
In addition, Gatto believes golfers can influence golf club ownership and management by supporting practices and conditions that enhance stewardship and in the end oftentimes reduce the cost of operations.

The golfer-management dynamic is crucial in making sound environmental decisions, Gatto said.

“Like any business, golf courses must be attuned to the desires of their customers. Sometimes those desires come at a price, however. Therefore it is incumbent on both to engage in dialogue that will result in a positive, enjoyable experience, enhance the environment, and reduce the cost of maintenance.”

Aspects where golfers can contribute:

• Respect and promote environmentally-sensitive areas on the property such as wetlands, water buffers, wildlife habitat corridors and kitchen gardens.

• Engage in dialogue with golf course superintendents about the desired playing conditions for putting greens. Establishing practical and enjoyable standards will avoid excessive conditioning and input requirements.

• Support low maintenance in the out-of-play areas.

• Embrace the “firm and fast” style for fairways. This style of conditioning enhances the game and can result in fewer inputs.

• Support facility investments in the tools and technology to enhance the efficiency of the golf course, such as water sensors, targeted irrigation systems, efficient pumping systems, electric carts, drainage, renewable energy sources and integrated pest management practices.

“Communities enjoy many benefits from having a golf course in their back yard, especially in an urban environment,” Gatto said.

These professionally-managed green spaces allow for reduction of air pollution, carbon sequestration, water runoff/quality, noise reduction and wildlife habitat.