"A good walk ruined" is how Mark Twain described a round of golf, but something about the game nevertheless inspires deep devotion. Fans have been shanking drives since at least the mid-fifteenth century and probably far longer. Today some 60 million golfers hack away on 25,000 courses worldwide. They pay annual club membership fees ranging from several hundred dollars up to US$650,000, which is what the Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, New York, demanded when it opened in 2006 (plus $12,000 in annual dues). A recent poll asked 11,000 golfers if they would rather be a) very intelligent and a bad golfer or b) not very intelligent and a great golfer; worldwide, 29 percent preferred the latter. Among Thai golfers it was 52 percent and among Japanese golfers 77 percent.

Doing It Better

Sensitivity to these issues has prompted golfing organizations such as the U.S. Golfing Association to develop environmental principles for golf course construction and management. Audubon International launched a green certification program for courses in 1991; 2,150 courses are registered with the program, though only 520 have sought certification. Courses can be built and operated so as to minimize fertilizer and pesticide loads. In the United States, there are at least 10 organically managed golf courses that use burning or hand-pulling to control weeds and bacterial insecticides to keep bugs down. Labor costs are higher, but are balanced by savings on expensive pesticides.


It's an uphill struggle. The industry is deep in the rough and it won't be easy to get out. "The sport is traditional," says one course marketing director. "It's about trees, grass, and flowers.... The magazines don't show pictures of courses with brown spots. Golf's about being lush.... It takes a lot of water to keep that up."



Environmental Impact

The tools of golf have probably never imposed much of a...

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