Golf Environmentalists


I got a note the other day from Brendon Thomas, publisher of The Golfer’s Journal and Surfer’s Journal that I wanted to pass along. Sounds like he’s trying to get something started from a golf + environmentalism perspective and I figured starting with the hive mind of diverse professionalism that is The Refuge would be a good start.

BT’s note:


I’m trying to connect with any individuals or organizations that endeavor to make golf (a general term, I realize) more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

For all golf’s charitable giving, I’m shocked at how little discussion, fundraising, $$, and effort is put towards sustainability, water conservation, and elimination of single-use plastics. There doesn’t seem to be any organizations dedicated to this cause?

I have a couple ideas on how to affect some meaningful change but I need to begin connecting with experts in agronomy, golf course management, design, etc. I’m hoping to do a feasibility study next year and if it goes well, build an organization devoted to lessening our impact and with the goal of transforming every golf courses to what I feel they ought to be: sanctuaries for communities and wildlife.

Do you know of anyone I should talk to?



The USGA and GCSAA both harp on these points as pillars of their respective organizations (customer facing PR, at least).

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I can’t speak directly to this more than to say it is clear that conservation and sustainability are included considerations in the efforts of @MatthewM and the gang (including @Tron) in introducing the Rollback Alliance. I would conjecture that as they consider more and more effective ways to work towards their goal of a rollback, the environmental considerations will only become more important and pertinent. it is a huge reason why we need to look seriously at the ever-increasing scale of the game.

There is a good (and long) discussion of this going on over at GCA:

Beyond that I don’t know anything, but Ian Andrew seems like a great person to talk with. I feel like he is regularly discussing conservation in golf. Look forward to following along with this.


Ran into this company during a scramble once. Eco-friendly golf balls.

Well, there’s a venn diagram with golf and politics that explains a lot of why there isn’t much focus on it. The only thing I’m aware of in terms of organizations focused on this is Audobon. Prairie Dunes has received an “Audobahn International Certificate for Sustainability,” along with ~100 other courses you can find on the website.


As a golfer and an enviro, I can point out whole bunches of intersections between those two passions:

Hydration: Seagrass Paspalum is great because it irrigates and grows in fresh, brack and seawater. It’s saving coastal courses around here a massive irrigation bill and a big decrease in watershed impact. Problem is you can’t drive on it without your cart shimmying, and all grain is straight, meaning most green complexes have to look like skateparks to introduce any break.

Electric Carts/Solar Chargers/Encourage Walking: Courses that install sufficient solar can basically run their carts for free, even more so if the carts themselves are equipped. Walking promotes fitness, which has a positive impact on the environment because fitter people can get by on less resources, e.g. food and medicine.

Hazards: This one’s actually counter-intuitive. Presuming golfers as a whole will have a greater impact on the habitat tromping through it and sometimes finding and removing their ball, versus don’t ever go in there you cannot retrieve your ball so it sits there, in various stages of decomposition but never fully gone, until human life has long past gone for good. That seems like six of one, half a dozen of the other to me. And I’m not sure walking through habitat isn’t a natural thing we shouldn’t do, anyway.

What happens to the world, affects golf. No civilization, no golf. No food, no golfers. No (coastal) land, no coastal golf. Most of us in the world live a short distance from the coast.

Following with interest.


Don’t a lot of California golf courses put water conservation as a top priority? May be something to look into. I remember speaking with Pacific Grove about the reclaimed water project they were installing on holes 5 and 6

i dont play many grainy greens. the grass type keeps the ball from breaking?

I’m not sure if Southern Hills put in any sort of desalinization system along with their hydronics and $20M of other infrastructure changes, but the salt in their city water is what was blamed for basically losing their greens the last few years.

Interestingly, OKCGCC (Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club), another MacKenzie Maxwell collaboration is currently under the knife (I forget who) and I just heard is putting in paspalum.

I dont think walking through these “environmental areas” that we see all the time is the issue. I think drunk assholes leaving beer cans and messing around in general is the issue.

Interesting topic and good points. Agree with @jwfickett that GCSAA is really trying to move in this direction. At the end of the day, the golfers interacting with the playing surfaces are the ones that are making it hard to move to the next level in environmental friendly-ness.

At BCN, we are taking an environmentally friendly approach. Only organic materials used for fertilizers (outside of weed control - still working on this). Our greens and tee boxes require no water outside of what the world can produce - at the cost of pure, fast greens. Our mower is motor-less. We are only using materials that are local to the area.

It’s a tough discussion because everything comes at a cost. Environmentally friendly generally doesn’t equal premier conditioning. Some can do it - but just like anything in this world, there is a cost associated with that.

What does that tell us? Well, our expectations of playing surfaces are beyond natures abilities in many areas in the US. We need to start with the golfer first.


Tom Doak would say the same thing. “Pretty” is more important than “playable” to a lot of American golfers.


yeah, but if the grass isnt bright green, it will probably die within minutes.

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Not to be a downer but I honestly have no idea how golf can be environmentally okay. Living in an area where land is a premium, housing costs are inflated, homelessness rates are unacceptable, I have no idea how golf courses are viable or tolerated…As more and more of the world becomes uninhabitable and crowded I can’t see how golf courses will be justified. So I guess maybe smaller, baked out courses that are surrounded by dense housing and multi-use for parks etc, golf simulators.

I know that’s a really “the sky is falling” response but I’m really not sure if golf will be available or assessable for people like me in 5-10 years. Already local golf courses where I live are subject to land claims, being promised as parks, more expensive than what you get…

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Try to remember who plays golf.

I dont see Rolex commercials during football games.

Now this part could be concerning

you mean like, a lot of golf in the UK? personally i have no objection to this model.

and they can even be shared as parks… like st andrews… hmmmm


By smaller I was envisioning 50-125 yard holes, 5-9 hole, so not exactly like the UK model.

so like pitch and putt? baked out pitch and putt sounds pretty undesirable to me.

but a lot of brown, firm and fast 9 holers, i’d sign off on that immediately

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shots fucking fired at BCN

kick him off the tour doug!!


sorry, i’ll finish that sentence for the nebraskan peanut gallery:

“baked out pitch and putt as the only form of golf available sounds undesirable to me as a lifestyle”

obviously i want full golf if possible. but ben (@sundaybag) knows i’m fully behind it