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.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower