For those who golf, going out to play a round of golf with a group of friends can be a fun and relaxing way to spend an afternoon, especially if the course conditions are pristine. What many might not know is that they are making themselves more vulnerable to certain cancers and other negative side affects.
Today in America there are now 18,000 golf courses covering 1.7 million acres, more than half of the entire world’s 35,000 courses (Organic Consumers). Golf even contributes more than $49 billion to the U.S. economy every year. According to Neil Lewis, executive director of the Long Island Neighborhood Network in New York, “Many environmentalists feel that Tiger Woods was one of the worst things to happen to the environment because of the enthusiasm he created for the game of golf and the growth that has ensued,” (Organic Consumers).
Due to the extremely large jump in the popularity of golf, the opportunity to make a lot of money off new courses widened the eyes of people previously involved with the sport. With so many new courses to choose from, courses now had to make sure their conditions were perfectly pristine so people wanted to play on their grounds instead of their competitors. This added unwanted pressure to grounds crews across the nation.
Creating and maintaining a new course has an immense amount of negative environmental impacts.The pesticides put into the turf on the course are probably the most damaging factors to the environment. A statement regarding toxins and 52 Long Island golf courses was published by the New York State Attorney General’s office and claimed that those 52 golf courses used and applied 50,000 pounds of pesticides in one year (Beyond Pesticides). That is 25 tons of deadly chemicals poured into the environment every year, for only 52 of the 18,000 golf courses in America. That means around 450,000 tons of pesticides and chemicals go into our environment just because of golf courses.
These pesticides applied to the courses have negative affects on the ecology around the course but can also be a cause of cancer to people associated with the game of golf. In the 1990s, a Medical school professor at theUniversity of Iowa did a study pertaining to pesticides and mortality rates of superintendents in the Golf Course Superintendents Association. The study was done on 618 death certificates of Superintendents between 1970 and 1992(Beyond Pesticides). The professor studied the death rates from these cancers in superintendents and compared them to the general population. The results discovered were that golf course superintendents are more likely to die from different cancers including lung, brain, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, large intestine and prostate.
A study to see if golfers are also more likely to be diagnosed with those certain types of cancers has not been conducted. But there has been studies on farmers, pesticide applicators, and agricultural workers in general. The study showed that people exposed to pesticides and other chemicals used are at an increased risk to be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia (Beyond Pesticides). Pesticides are very diverse and can lead to different side affects. Of the 30 most commonly used turf pesticides, 19 can cause cancer, 13 are linked to birth defects, 21 can affect reproduction and 15 are nervous system toxicants (Beyond Pesticides).
The public has become more aware of the possible impacts of being around pesticides and in affect golf courses everywhere have started informing users and the public about pesticides dangers and the times of application (Beyond Pesticides). With the public starting to discover how bad the pesticides can be for their health, golf courses everywhere are thinking of and trying new possible techniques to fix the problem.
Some golf courses are trying organic practices that focus on building up soil health as a way of maintaining healthy turf. If the soil and turf is healthy, then there is no need for the pesticides to kill weeds. One method to build the health of your turf and soil is aerating compacted soil so water and fertilizers can enter the turf more easily to grow the roots deeper. Second, the height that you cut the grass matters a lot. Turf that is cut “lower than1 ½ to 1 ¾ inches can kill the root system by preventing photosynthesis” (Beyond Pesticides). Cutting at a higher height helps the roots grow deeper and prepares turf for drought like conditions which helps the grounds. These steps along with some other more technical techniques can help limit the amount of pesticides used in the long run.
If courses everywhere can collaborate together and all practice cleaner ways to grow and protect the turf, the side affects of dangerous pesticides will be reduced and the environment will be cleaner.