How Golf Courses are Going Green

Posted in News -

According to the National Golf Foundation, there are now over 16,000 golf courses in the United States, which makes up nearly half of the world’s courses. If you lay all of these golf courses together, they would be nearly the size of Costa Rica. The problem is that a course the size of Costa Rica needs a lot of water to keep itself green, hence the term “greens.”

Audubon International, an organization that provides education and assistance to practice responsible management of land, water and wildlife, estimates that the average American golf course uses over 300,000 gallons of water a day. A Golf course in the desert uses up to one million gallons of water a day to keep its fairways green. To put this in perspective, the amount of water one golf course in the desert uses in one day is equal to what a family of four will use in four years.

In 1995, 81 people got together in a conference room at a resort in Pebble Beach for a three-day conference to discuss what could be done to make golf more eco-friendly. Attendees included representatives from the golfing community and leading national and local environmental groups. At the time, no one had any idea if the conference would get anywhere or if these guys would even talk, but 16 years later, after five national conferences and a handful of smaller meetings, they are still talking. As a result, improvements have been made, guidebooks, reports and educational videos have been published and the effort, which has become known as the Golf & the Environment Initiative, has opened the door for positive changes in the game.

Golf course designers like Arnold Palmer have long held an environmentally-friendly position throughout the design and construction of golf courses. Palmer has worked closely with golf course construction companies, such as Outside the Lines, that adhere to a least-disturbance approach that focuses on every opportunity to incorporate unique existing site features into the layout of the golf course.

golf course construction

Golf course superintendents and grounds keepers around the world have found practical ways to approach water conversation in an attempt to make golf more eco-friendly. Over the years, a number of golf courses have gone “green” by being less green, as they are being returned to their natural state.

Recently, innovative golf course managers have been converting highly maintained out-of-play areas to native species. Native species are more drought tolerant and require little to no watering efforts, reduce the use of staff time and reduce costs related to seeding and turf management supplies.

Other conservation efforts include computer-controlled irrigation systems that conserve water by accurately following the current weather conditions. Systems like these can help determine hour by hour how much water the course needs. Some courses have even added water features such as lakes, rivers, waterfalls and ponds that help collect water and reduce the amount of turf coverage drastically. Realistic lakes and streams also help create challenging hazards for the golfers and enhance the natural beauty and land use of any course because they attract colorful birds and other wildlife.

For more information about golf course construction projects and companies that understand the technical and aesthetic importance of building an ecological golf course, please contact Hugh F. Hughes at Outside the Lines at (714) 637-4747, extension 151, or email OTL at