SustainAbility Newsletter

Sustainable Golf

by John Sanford , ASGCA - Sanford Golf Design

It’s no secret…the golf industry is suffering along with most mainstream businesses in the U.S. today. Daily fee courses need players, private clubs need members and the NGF reports more courses have closed than opened over the last two years. How is the game we love ever going to be healthy again? Most agree we will never see growth of the game like we did in the late 90’s / early 2000’s but there are steps to be taken industry-wide to insure golf’s health and prosperity. Golf courses must be designed, maintained and operated to be “sustainable” in our communities and this must happen on three different fronts. Golf courses must be Ecologically sensitive, Economically stable and Enjoyable. For the most part architects have done a good job building ecologically sensitive courses over the last 15 years but there is always room for improvement. Most new course designs are regulated to reduce water consumption and respect natural ecosystems and we are happy to oblige. As new course construction comes to a screeching halt we must focus on renovating existing courses with these same principles and be “easy on the land”. In addition to ecological sensitivity golf courses must continue to be beneficial in the community by accepting surrounding storm water, recycling effluent, filtering nutrients and rehabilitating degraded sites.

Too many courses were built during the real estate boom and with no real “stand alone” business plan. Costs to maintain and operate the courses were not considered and therefore many are “upsidedown”. Financially these courses must be reevaluated to determine the target player, market fees and operating/maintenance costs must be creatively reduced to allow the course to “stand alone” economically. One huge factor in this formula is maintenance costs. Americans have come to expect perfect conditions better known as the “Augusta Syndrome”. You know, greens stimping at 12, immaculate bunkers, fairways - green and lush. In most cases this is not realistic. Remember when the game was just as fun when greens rolled 8, bunkers were real hazards and fairways were firm and fast? In fact, some would agree the game was more enjoyable under those conditions.

Just as important to the sustainability of the game….golf must be ENJOYABLE!! As architects we must remember the average golfer shoots around 100 and only 2% of the golfers play the Championship tees. It’s time to stop building courses with hopes of attracting the next new tour event and start producing courses that all players can enjoy. Speaking of “enjoyable”, golf courses can be enjoyed by those outside the game itself. Another American mindset is that golf courses are exclusive to golfers. Is this good for the community? Doesn’t the most well-known course on the planet open it’s boundaries to picnickers, joggers, dog walkers, and horseback riders on Sundays? What is wrong with this concept? Let’s not restrict our beautiful park-like settings to one lone activity. Let’s be better neighbors and invite the community to share our sacred grounds every once in a while. It might go a long way to improve the perception of our presumed “elitist” sport and bring some players back into this great game.


References and Sources used in this issue of SustainAbility Newsletter Include:
Audubon Lifestyles 
The International Sustainability Council 

The Cornell Lab

Small Business Trends              

Sanford Golf Design

Scotland Yards Golf Club


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Love and Dodson              

The Dodson Group      

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SustainAbility Newsletter Archive Article (random)

Waste Prevention

Reduce, Reuse, RecycleThe critical first step of waste prevention has been overshadowed by a focus on recycling. Please help to promote a greater awareness of the importance of the "Reduce" part of the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle mantra. For a great overview of how raw materials and products move around the world, see the video The Story of Stuff.

Simplify: Simplify your life as much as possible. Only keep belongings that you use/enjoy on a regular basis. By making the effort to reduce what you own, you will naturally purchase less/create less waste in the future. For information on voluntary simplicity, check out Voluntary Simplicity Websites. Learn more through books on voluntary simplicity.

Reduce Purchases: In general, think before you buy any product - do you really need it? How did the production of this product impact the environment and what further impacts will there be with the disposal of the product (and associated packaging materials)? When you are thinking about buying something, try the 30-Day Rule -- wait 30 days after the first time you decide you want a product to really make your decision. This will eliminate impulse buying.

The Compact: Join or form a Compact in your area - groups all across the globe committing for 12 months to not buy any new products (see lower right sidebar for groups).

Replace Disposables: Wherever possible, replace disposable products with reusable ones (i.e., razor, food storage, batteries, ink cartridges (buy refill ink), coffee filters, furnace or air conditioner filters, etc.).

Buy Used: Buy used products whenever possible.

For more useful tips like this visit Global Stewards website at:



References and Sources used in this issue of SustainAbility Newsletter Include:

Audubon Lifestyles

The International Sustainability Council 

The Reserve at Lake Keowee

Sustainability Campaign


The Royal Society of Biological Sciences

National Geographic

Double Oaks

Global Stewards

United States Department of Energy

American Society of Golf Course Architects

The United States Golf Association (USGA)


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A Coalition for Good - Spreading the Seeds of Sustainability

ISC-Audubon is a coalition of non-profit organizations and initiatives that include The International Sustainability Council (ISC), Audubon Lifestyles, Audubon Outdoors, Planit Green, Broadcast Audubon, and the Audubon Network for Sustainability. 

Funds generated through memberships and donations are used to provide fruit & vegetable seeds, wildflower seed mix, and wildlife feed & birdseed to urban and suburban communities around the world. These seeds are used by communities to establish fruit and vegetable gardens, bird and wildlife sanctuaries, and for the beautification of urban and suburban landscapes by creating flower and native plant gardens.

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