Fifteen facts about golf courses that will make you think twice about picking up that putter.
Avid golfers look at a golf course and see lush, green fairways, rolling hills, and the summer sun reflecting off the dew. They feel the silence before an important shot and smell the crisp, verdant aroma of freshly shorn grass. But many environmentalists look at a golf course and see a giant ecological disaster. They see wasted water, pesticides, and displaced wildlife. They miss the natural landscape that was cleared in order to make room for the links, and they despair at a parking lot full of gas-wasting SUVs.
The golf industry has received harsh criticism for its lack of environmental stewardship, and the good news is that many golf course designers and superintendents are paying more attention to the environmental impacts of golf courses. More courses are now designed to feature native plants and grasses, especially those that are most pest-resistant and require the least amount of water. Increasingly, courses are irrigated with reclaimed water, taking the pressure off of municipal drinking water supplies. That’s all good news.
The bad news is that golf courses still wreak havoc on the environment, and as more people take up the sport and play golf regularly, the future’s full of even more courses vying for scarcer resources. The golf industry may be trying to change itself for the better, but as these facts show, it might not be changing fast enough.
- The United States is home to about 18,000 golf courses, about half the world total of 35,000.
- Golf generates about $49 billion per year for the American economy.
- It takes about 2.5 billion gallons of water to water the world’s golf courses each day.
- The UN estimates that 2.5 billion gallons of water per day would provide 4.7 billion people with clean drinking water.
- The average golf course is treated with 18 pounds of pesticide per acre per year.
- The average acre of agricultural land uses 2.7 pounds of pesticide.
- Only 29 percent of American golf courses participate in any formal environmental stewardship program.
- The average golf course in Thailand uses approximately 6,500 cubic meters of water per day, or about the same amount as is consumed daily by 60,000 villagers.
- According to the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, about 27 million people in the United States play golf regularly, which is less than 10 percent of the total population.
- There are approximately 2,244,512 square acres of golf courses in the United States, an area of land larger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined.
- The size of golf courses is growing. Thanks to modern equipment, golfers hit the ball farther than they used to, resulting in newer courses being longer and wider than older ones.
- The average American golf course uses about 312,000 gallons of water per day. A desert course (such as one in Palm Springs or Las Vegas) can consume up to one million gallons of water per day.
- The average American family of four uses about 400 gallons of water per day, or one million gallons every 6.8 years.
- Las Vegas is home to more than 60 golf courses. The Palm Springs region has more than 125.
- According to a survey conducted by Golf Digest in 2008, 41 percent of golfers do not believe in climate change.