Golfing for sport seems to be on the decline within younger generations and for good reason. Many people view golf as a boring or elitist sport, but golf also creates huge detrimental environmental impacts, as far as sports go. Often located on deforested land, behind the gates of a formal country club, golf courses require a lot of maintenance to uphold the country club standards. In lieu of the recent approval by the New York State Pine Barrens Commission for Discovery Land building company to move forward with their Lewis Road project to create a luxury resort in East Quogue, it seemed fitting to break down all the environmental risks to come.
In the US, golf courses occupy about 1,504,210 acres of land, so we have ample evidence of their negative impacts. Creating golf courses often involves destroying wild habitats and clearing out native species in an area. This can hurt ecosystem functions, and even cause the endangerment of possible at-risk species. With a clear terrain, sediment run-off into waterways becomes an issue. On top of this, golf courses require constant upkeep to maintain the aesthetic. Companies will use herbicides, fertilizers, pesticides and large amounts of water to care for the grass. This causes large amounts of water waste and pollution in our groundwater. On average, the golf courses in the US use an estimated 1.859 million acre-feet of water a year in maintenance.(GCSAA, 2014) Additionally, the daily mowing of the lawn constantly burns harmful fuels releasing their emissions into our atmosphere.
With all that said, Long Islanders should realize the grave danger to Long Island’s environment should the Lewis Road Project in East Quogue begin. Over the past several years, countless environmentalists, scientists, civic leaders and even the founders of the Pine Barrens Act, provided expert testimony, pointing out the many ways this project fails to comply with the Pine Barrens Act and Land Use Plan. Hundreds of community members spoke out against the project. Still, in a catastrophic disappointment, Pine Barrens Commissioners voted (3-1) to move forward with the project. However, this project is still the subject of pending litigation brought by Group for the East End and joined by our Pine Barrens Society. There are serious violations to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) that need to be adjudicated before this project can move forward. We are looking into other legal avenues as well.
Now with all the golf hating out of the way, golf is still a beloved sport by many, so it’s worth mentioning the ways to make it more sustainable. Some golf courses have already made the switch to supplying their turf with native vegetation that may require less water. Other ways to reduce water waste, is to use recycled water or greywater when watering the lawn. To avoid the use of pesticides, companies can take a biological control approach. Most importantly, establishing companies should reach out to environmental groups in their area or research into the environmental regulations to ensure their course creates the least environmental damage to their area. Golf courses should never be built in sensitive environmental areas, such as the Pine Barrens.
By Miranda Gonzales, Long Island Pine Barrens Society