I always remember that moment from the 1993 Michael Douglas movie Falling Down, where his troubled character on his rampaging journey across Los Angeles, climbs over a wall and finds himself on a private golf course.
Chastised by the golfers he encounters, he responds with a verbal tirade, saying, "It's not enough you have all these beautiful acres fenced in for your little game, but you gotta kill me with a golf ball? You should have children playing here, you should have families having picnics, you should have a goddamn petting zoo. But instead you've got these stupid electric carts for you old men with nothing better to do."
And I've always thought, that is potentially what quite a lot of the non-golf interested world thinks - though in hopefully a less extreme way than Michael Douglas!
So it's always good to hear about projects which the industry is undertaking which even those with no interest or connection to the game should find heartening. One such endeavour which was recently reported is taking place with one of Britain's top universities, Imperial College London, joining forces with BIGGA, the Club Managers Association of Europe (CMAE), England Golf and sustainability firm Environmental Solutions International to work together on a national project to survey the United Kingdom golf sector’s benefits to the environment.
It's hoped that the project could result in support from a range of bodies for schemes that specifically golf clubs undertake, if they benefit the environment.
It is estimated that:
- Golf courses in the UK could cover an area equivalent to the Lake District National Park.
- The non-managed areas of golf courses cover an area of just over 1,000 square kilometres, around the same size as the New Forest and Pembrokeshire Coastal Parks combined.
Golf Environment Organisation sustainability associate Tony Hanson, Managing Director of Environmental Solutions International is quoted in a report on the Asian Golf Industry website, saying, “Golf provides massive benefit to the natural environment and if we can confirm these estimates we will be able to give a more accurate value of the benefits provided to air quality, CO2 absorption, air cooling, flood relief, natural habitat/ecology and community amenity.
“To confirm the value of golf, BIGGA, CMAE and England Golf have been asking members to complete and return a questionnaire covering total site size, close mown area managed areas, broad habitat types, and clubhouse size and consumption for electricity, heating and water.”
The data will be used to:
- Provide an overview of golf’s environmental benefits and impacts
- Identify the value of golf to the natural environment and community
- Help to identify and share best management practices for the natural and built environment, to help reduce operational costs
Tony Hanson goes on to say that the research they are undertaking "..will provide invaluable information to allow us to make the case to the statutory bodies that the golf industry provides a valuable role in the custodianship of the natural environment providing huge benefits to the wider population."
He points out that through the highly skilled stewardship of golf courses, notable environmental benefits abound, such as improved air quality, carbon dioxide absorption, air temperature reduction, rainwater run-off attenuation and a host of other functions provided through the natural processes associated with looking after courses.
And getting this message across to the wider population seems to be a very significant step. It's natural that those deeply involved in the industry might find it hard to take a step back sometimes, and consider things from an outsiders' standpoint.
If the results of this project can help convince those who sometimes question golf's benefit to the community at large, that well looked after courses can offer very real benefits to an area's environmental health, that must be a positive step. One which could potentially see increased popular support for golf clubs accessing various resources and funding.