It is no secret that there are multiple issues currently affecting the perception and viability of the game and profession superintendents love. Issues dealing with slow play, dwindling participation, and the increase in cost to maintain and operate facilities are some of the more pressing concerns. Another issue, or narrative, that has grown in momentum is the idea that golf courses, more specifically golf course superintendents, are offenders of the environment. Movements to chastise and dramatically curtail the tools superintendents have at their disposal are becoming more and more prevalent.
On the surface this is a very easy argument to make. By nature, maintaining turfgrass at unnatural heights and under intense pressure from play requires the use of inputs. Be it water, fertilizers, control products, etc…, a superintendent must supplement the needs of the plant. In this vein, I suppose we are adding something to the environment that might not otherwise be there. I can’t argue against that perception. Where this narrative jumps off the tracks is when it suggests that these inputs are applied in excess and with no regard to their effects on the environment. This opinion, which is more widespread than we want to believe, is born from a simple lack of knowledge. Can I sit here and say with certainty that every superintendent manages their inputs with 100% efficiency? Or that every superintendent’s top priority is to mitigate their properties impact on the environment? No, I cannot. What I can tell you with certainty is that all sound superintendents genuinely take their impact on the environment into account in everything they do. I assure you there are significantly more sound superintendents than there are unsound and the unsound, in this regard, are being weeded out faster than ever.
By nature, all sound superintendents value the environment as much or more than anyone. Our viability and successes hinge on healthy ecosystems and practices that ensure environmental sustainability. Do you believe an abundant source of clean water is not a valuable resource to a superintendent? How about a soil system that is healthy and teaming with the microorganisms necessary to promote plant health? An unhealthy, out of balance ecosystem is a death sentence for a superintendent.
Beyond this I have yet to visit a property that has the resources to apply inputs at excessive levels. All superintendents run a cost center and usually operate within a budget that allows for very little waste. This alone prevents the irresponsible use of inputs.
This topic is approaching the forefront of our industries challenges. Stats and data can be created and skewed to defend both sides of the argument. This is a complex issue that warrants open and thoughtful conversation and this article is not the forum for this debate. I simply wanted to plant the seed that starts to dispel a notion that superintendents are wanton offenders of the environment. I am extremely passionate about the environment and I strive to be an uncompromising steward of the land. I am confident that the majority of my colleagues share this sentiment. I am not asking that everyone go out and beat their drum in defense of what we do but when the opportunity to dispel this misconception arises take the time to speak up.