Monday, January 28, 2013

Are Greens Green?

Using an average of about 150 acres per course, my calculations estimate that nearly two percent of the land area of the Phoenix metro region, or about 40 square miles, is devoted to golf. With 169 golf courses sprinkled around the Valley of the Sun, that's a lot of green space. But how "green" are greens?  Despite the volume of water necessary to maintain them, especially in the desert, the ecological value of golf courses is significant within the context of the urban area. Researchers J. Colding and C. Folke of the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden compared the biodiversity and species richness of 200 golf courses around the world with that of adjacent land uses. Not surprisingly, golf courses supported more diverse flora and fauna than surrounding landscapes in urban and suburban areas. About 60% of courses are "roughs," which includes ponds, forests, sand pits and meadows, which greatly increases habitat diversity for wildlife when added to the fairways and greens. Better than an equally vast parking lot anyway!

Added to these benefits, tournaments like the Phoenix Open taking place in Scottsdale this week have found ways to incorporate environmental awareness into the game. Saturday is promoted as a "Green Out" to raise donations for environmental organizations. Tournament managers also boast that they were able to divert 97% of the waste generated during the week long event from going to landfills in 2012. This year they are aiming for zero waste. I'll be cheering them on!

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