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Golf Courses: Going Brown to Go Green

By by Jillian MacMath, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
June 13, 2012, 3:24:08 AM EDT

Perhaps no leisure activity depends so much on water as golf. Keeping the greens, well, green can require thousands of gallons of water daily.

Because of this, many courses across the country have opted to make their grounds more eco-friendly, even if it means compromising the lush turfs golfers have come to expect.

According to the United State Golf Association (USGA), the golf industry has taken numerous steps to decrease their environmental footprint, such as: using more resilient grasses, building new technologies that improve the efficiency of course irrigation systems, employing alternative water sources and improving course designs.

In a green-trending society, golf courses have come under fire for their heavy consumption of resources.

"We started our own program years ago to do our own green initiative to reduce our carbon footprint," said Richard Pagett, Superintendent of Penn State Golf Courses. "And we've decided to let some areas of the golf course naturally grow up on their own without maintaining them so there's less product input to those areas."

The initiative results in less mowing, fuel usage, emissions and a more productive crew and staff, Pagett said.

"Golf courses are going the other direction saying, 'Yeah, we have to be conservative with our water. We can't be pumping water in gallons and gallons into here trying to keep everything green'," Joe Hughes, PGA Head Golf Professional said. "Firmer greens, a firmer rough, things like that that are definitely helping to place an impact in nature."

Many states are encouraging this conversion to eco-friendly techniques that will minimize water usage. Some have even launched self-certification programs which allow courses to make a commitment to sustainability.

Rhode Island is one such state. The Department of Environmental Management designed a program to reduce environmental impacts at golf courses from water usage, application of chemicals for fertilization and pest control, energy consumption, solid waste and air emissions.

They recently recognized five Rhode Island courses for their commitment to employing green environmental practices.

""Since the beginning of golf, the environment has always been important to those managing courses and that has not changed. Today's modern methods and related science have improved and ensured that sustainable practices are even more attainable today," said John LeClair, CGCS and past president of the RI Golf Course Superintendents Association, in a press release.

'We are happy to support and promote this joint undertaking with our state agencies. We hope that others will follow in working to enhance the environment through sustainable practices which leads to an improved business model for all facilities."

And there are more perks to these cutbacks than just the global impact -- It could improve your game.

"Having drier conditions helps you hit the ball further," Hughes said. "And who doesn't want that?"

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