Feature: Golf Under Threat
Golf courses in urban areas are under increased pressure to demonstrate their environmental and community value.
With the planet’s urban population set to double to 8.5 billion by 2050, demand for land is on the rise, with golf courses already in the crosshairs of some lawmakers.
In a wide-ranging multimedia feature, Golf Under Threat, we explore the conflicting demands for more housing and green spaces, and highlight how golf businesses have an opportunity to play a leading role in sustainability for people and the planet.
Bethpage State Park Director of Agronomy Andrew Wilson, whose world-famous Bethpage Black Course is set to host the 2024 Ryder Cup, explains how the park has become a haven for wildlife over the past two decades.
“I think it’s important to gather as many allies as we can and really put golf in a positive light,” Wilson told Syngenta.
“We’re a municipal facility so we’re owned by the public – we want to make sure they know we’re responsible neighbours.”
John Ashworth, who helped save Californian community facility Goat Hill Park from development having already seen his boyhood golf course “ploughed under”, outlines why he opposes a new bill which threatens the future of municipal courses across California.
“I’m all for affordable housing and I’d love to come up with solutions for it. But to take away golf and a green space from a community, you’ll never get it back. It’s gone for good.”
And sustainability expert, Gina Rizzi, describes how golf courses can enhance their environmental and community value, and communicate what they are doing to the wider world.
“A lot of General Managers didn’t know to what extent superintendents were doing work around environmental stewardship,” said Rizzi, who has worked with the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) to ensure all 50 US states now have state-wide Best Management Practice guides (BMPs).
“Now there are a set of guidelines that every course can reference, and the guides really help communicate what our courses are doing right, so they help establish better communication with stakeholders.”
Syngenta previously researched ‘The new value of golf’s green spaces’ in 2020 and, in the words of Landseer Communications and Consulting founder and president Delphine Tseng, “Golf is really the last green oasis in many urban areas.”
Case studies from Sydney to South Africa and the home of golf Scotland put the scale of threats into context, as the global debate polarizes opinion and brings golf’s reputation into question.
“Golf courses are often an easy target, but in reality they play a critical role in providing a green space for golfers and non-golfers, preserving wildlife habitats, and they are already implementing sustainable best practice,” said Mark Birchmore, Syngenta Global Head of Marketing, Turf and Landscape.
“As the debate around urban land use intensifies, golf businesses should take the opportunity to communicate their contribution to society and their long-term environmental value.
“Enhancing connections with local communities and stakeholders can help show that golf, collectively, has a key role to play in balancing long-term demands of people, profit and the planet.”