As the drought bites, golf clubs told: let the greens go brown

Global warming prompts one of sport's most traditional-minded ruling bodies to go eco-friendly


Greens are to become browner in a drive to make golf kinder to the environment. In a revolutionary move, the rulers of golf are telling courses around the world to become more environmentally friendly, in order to head off criticism and cope with global warming.

The 250-year-old Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, which governs golf outside the US and Mexico, wants courses to use much less water and drought-tolerant grasses as the climate changes. It is also urging them to cut out pesticides and to put recycled glass instead of sand in their bunkers.

The campaign - to which some 2,000 courses in 100 countries have already signed up - aims to "improve golf's image as a polluter and abuser of vast tracts of countryside" in response to charges by environmentalists that it wastes resources, poisons land and water, and destroys priceless wildlife habitats.

Golf has much the greatest impact on the land of any sport. The world's 25,000 golf courses - a tenth of them in Britain - cover an area the size of Belgium. Their critics say that they use up to seven times as much pesticide per acre as farmland, and that they can soak up enough water to supply a small town. And they add that the rapid expansion of golf, particularly in the Third World, has ruined ecosystems and thrown people off their land.

"Golf has acquired the status of a four-letter word because of the havoc it has wrought across the globe", said one Indian critic, Mario Rodrigues.

The Global Anti-Golf Movement has been pushing for 13 years to stop any more courses being built and to have existing ones "converted to public parks". And the underground Anarchist Golfing Association destroyed GM grass worth $300,000 being developed for greens.

Britain's leading golfer, Colin Montgomerie, is taking on board the St Andrews recommendations for a course he is designing at Rowallan Castle, Ayrshire, Scotland.

"It is important that a strong environmental ethos is a cornerstone of new golf projects," he says. "Our sport takes us to places of breathtaking natural beauty and we have to do all we can to preserve them."

St Andrews is promoting "sustainable golf" and telling golfers that environmentally-friendly courses make for a better game.

Its campaign is fronted by Michael Barrett, a presenter of the former BBC news magazine programme Nationwide, who himself once opposed golf. He recalls how he and fellow broadcaster Michael Parkinson were joint heads of "The Anti-Golf Society", always going on about "boring golfers and their silly little white balls".

Then one day, while walking round a course with his local publican, he was persuaded to hit the ball. "I took a swipe and the ball did what it has never done since and landed right next to the flag."

Hooked, he converted Parkinson, who also became a keen golfer.

Mr Barrett blames television for much of the overuse of water and pesticides on courses, saying that club members see lush greens in tourna- ments, and demand the same.

But watering and fertilising the six courses at St Andrews is "minimal", says Gordon Moir, the links superintendent. No pesticides have been used for years, the greens are weeded by hand, and wildlife flourishes, he says: rare brown hares abound, and sand martins have nested in spare bunker sand, deliberately left in a pile to encourage them.

The club has even put "sand" made of recycled glass in practice bunkers. Many prefer it: the ball does not dig in so deeply.

Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice