Golf is in­her­ently bad for the en­vi­ron­ment.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK - Out­look@wash­post.com

The 2015 doc­u­men­tary “A Danger­ous Game” cat­a­logues the of­fenses. “Golf cour­ses just pound wa­ter on them, and that drives the chem­i­cals into the root zone,” ac­tor Alec Bald­win says in the film.

There’s no doubt that build­ing and main­tain­ing golf cour­ses have in­volved prac­tices — in­clud­ing heavy wa­ter use, pes­ti­cides, tree-clear­ing and habi­tat frag­men­ta­tion — that are harm­ful to the en­vi­ron­ment. The golf in­dus­try, how­ever, is be­com­ing more en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble, and it has the po­ten­tial to play a pos­i­tive role.

The ma­jor golf­ing bod­ies have es­tab­lished part­ner­ships with lead­ing na­tional and lo­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal groups. They have worked to cul­ti­vate dis­ease and pest-re­sis­tant turf grasses, es­tab­lish or­ganic-turf cour­ses, de­velop wa­ter con­ser­va­tion strate­gies, and pro­tect habi­tat for na­tive plant and wildlife species.

It still may not be a great idea to site a golf course in a drought-prone area. But golf and the en­vi­ron­ment don’t have to be in con­flict. As bi­ol­o­gist John MacKin­non has writ­ten, “Golf cour­ses can serve as minia­ture na­ture re­serves, har­bour­ing lo­cal res­i­dent pop­u­la­tions of oth­er­wise en­dan­gered species, step­ping stones for species dis­per­sal and mi­gra­tion. Golf cour­ses pro­vide green breath­ing spa­ces in a con­crete land­scape.”

Leonard Shapiro re­tired from The Wash­ing­ton Post in 2011 af­ter 41 years as a sports re­porter, ed­i­tor and colum­nist. He cov­ered pro­fes­sional golf for 20 years and is a past pres­i­dent of the Golf Writ­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica.

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