There is a concerted drive by Golf’s Governing Bodies and Golfing Associations toward pro-sustainable management and maintenance of golf courses. The ultimate aim was for each course to achieve an ISO 14001 compliant Environmental Management System (EMS).
More recently golf specific organisations such as The Golf Environment Organisation (www.golfenvironment.org) and Audubon International (www.golfandenvironment.com) and others have illustrated tremendous leadership by refining sustainability fundamentals to be more applicable for our sport. Now, through these organisations, golf clubs worldwide can obtain more compatible advice, aim for more meaningful targets and achieve more relevant certification.
Indeed, some of the games most prominent names support our sports drive toward sustainable co-existence with our environment.

The environmental cost of divots has flown beneath the radar but research has revealed that our divots equate not to molehills but to mountains.

I only take a few dozen divots a month so how can that be an environmental concern?

“An average golfer will take 30 divots a round. If you multiply that by 200 rounds a day on a busy course, that adds up to a frightening amount of divots which are hard to keep on top of.”

Course Director Turnberry Golf Club, Host of the Open Championship 1977, 1986, 1994 & 2009.

To put this into greater perspective we might illustrate the data at a country level. Scotland boasts 550 golf courses with an average daily round count of 93. In 2007 KPMG Golf Sector reports there were 357 playable days in Scotland that year. With an average player taking 30 divots per round the annual count equates to a staggering 550 million divots in Scottish turf each and every year. Fortunately many courses mandate ‘preferred lie’ or ‘winter rules’ to stop irreparable damage after wet weather, during droughts or over the winter. Our aim is to halve the damage and affect ouir wonderful game as little as contempary engineering permits.

What are the costs of our divots?

What does it take to repair a divot? A short answer to this question might be simply be sand and a little tender love and care (TLC). A longer answer would be ‘sand infused with chemical fertiliser, seeds, topsoil (sometimes green dye), water and TLC’. The actual ‘carbon footprint’ reality of the matter is that we should also include the labour, energy and equipment resources it has taken to source all the ingredients of the divot fill as well as the possible harm to underlying water tables and surrounding environs these chemicals sometimes cause. Together these factors combine to measure the real cost to sustainability of our divots.

What is the local environmental cost?

Each divot would require at least 100 grams of blended fill, and over its entire regrowth cycle, around 250ml of additional water. Still using Scotland as our example we see how these numbers turn from molehills to mountains: an annual requirement of 36 tonnes of blended fill and 90 megalitres of water.  Whilst Scotland doesn’t need the water it serves to illustrate what water the 450 courses in Texas might use. Aside from the resource and labour costs think of the carbon footprint getting the fill ingredients to the site of each and every region, county, club and course.

And the world environment?

Scotland represents 1.35% of our sport’s global reality. Multiply the above results by 74 and you’ll get a good idea what divots are doing annually to our sport’s carbon footprint, our world’s water resources, underlying water tables, natural habitats and ecosystems . It is our company’s objective to provide solutions that support golf’s drive to reduce this impact on sustainability and viability while enriching the game for players. After all, we’re golfers too!

What can I do?

As individual golfers we can repair your divots with real TLC. After taking a divot, before you reach for the fill bucket, try to find the piece/s of turf and fit them back into the hole as best you can. This way you will need less fill. Repair the divots of other golfers if and when you pass by them. This way there will be more chance of the turf recovering naturally and requiring less water and fill. However, in Scotland, where the canny crows flip replaced divots, our best option to promote regrowth is to use fill only.
In Winter grass roots can not recover from damage. That is why more and more forward thinking clubs institute a local rule mandating the use of portable golf mats in the colder months. Why not encourage your club to consider a turf protector – if you select the Smart Mat the players and greenkeeper may even thank you for it.

Toward sustainable golf

As we have seen from the figures above, every little bit counts in the big picture. If we all move toward sustainable golf we can become more sure that our children will also benefit from the joy of golf as we do.

Why not visit the following links to learn more about how our industry is moving in the right direction and constantly striving to achieve ever greater levels of sustainability in golf:

www.sgeg.org.uk
www.eifg.org
www.environment.agcsa.com.au
www.golfenvironment.org
www.bestcourseforgolf.org
www.golfandenvironment.com
www.acspgolf.auduboninternational.org