The Campaign for Khaki
by Robert McNeil, ASGCA Associate
The Green Movement is clearly upon us. The world’s population has taken a responsible turn and is trying to give the planet a break and move toward long-term sustainability. Golf course design and management has been a leader in this movement, but the message seems to be falling on deaf ears. So let’s change the message.
One shade of green I would like to make a case for is khaki….yes, khaki, one of only four colors of men’s pants sold worldwide. As I write this I just happened to be wearing a pair of khakis! And, I humbly propose that golf courses nationwide implement the “Campaign for Khaki.”
The “Campaign for Khaki” can help clubs educate members on the budgetary and environmental effects of striving for unrealistic maintenance conditions. It usually begins in April at a “tradition unlike any other” and is compounded every weekend. Players at the high-end clubs to the mom and pop muni have come to expect course conditions that somehow approach that of Augusta or the many wonderful Tour stops we see every week. What viewers perceive as standard is in most cases not the average club’s reality. The budgets and maintenance inputs—fertilization, water, mowing, labor, equipment and, in some extreme cases, if all that doesn’t work…green paint—that goes into a televised golf presentation far outweigh that of the average club. The conditioning we witness is a made-for-TV movie. The lens of the camera sometimes even tints the picture we see to heighten the hues of green.
Players have become so accustomed to the golf movie they watch every week that they have demanded the same conditions at their own club…which likely operates on a third of the budget or less. Is this a sensible expectation for your club? Consider the following suggestions to help your club respond to the environmental challenges that continue to define, and in many ways plague, the perception of golf:
- Establish a Sustainability Committee which includes the Golf Course Superintendent to define how your property can be improved through managed sustainability.
- Conduct a complete environmental analysis of your property categorizing areas of maintenance by inputs (water requirements, chemical applications, fertilization, labor, and mowing)
- Establish a Sustainability Program which softens the hand (and cost) of maintenance on the property. The program standards should include (height of cut, color charts, green speeds, habitat development, low maintenance zones)
- Communicate your Clubs commitment to the Campaign for Khaki to the membership, community and environmental regulators in your area.
The professionals practicing golf course architecture, environmental planning and golf course maintenance (particularly your golf course superintendent) have been the leaders in developing and executing ecological principles that make sense. Assistance with the development of your program should start with these professionals.
And now the USGA has taken a stance. At February’s annual meeting, new USGA President Jim Hyler outlined a framework for khaki to become the new green stating “Many of the standards by which we construct and maintain our courses have become, quite simply, unsustainable.” Read more: http://www.golfdigest.com/golf-tours-news/2010-02/golf-usga-hyler-sirak#ixzz0iFg4jZjk
Over the last 20 years and even more so in the last 10 we have seen a concerted effort to move toward a sound stewardship plan on new and existing golf courses. Through habitat creation, the development of conservation areas, plant and species diversity plans and buffering and infiltration practices, golf courses are beginning to look different. The leading issues that have driven all of these positive steps are responsible use of our water resources and protection of existing watersheds. A recent article by Forrest Richardson, ASGCA in “BoardRoom” includes a reference to “Golf & Water” pdf file, available from ASGCA website at www.asgca.org. in the “Publication” section. This is a great resource to begin the communication process at your club and with the public at large.
Gardiner’s Bay- Shelter Island, NY
(water at tees and greens only- picture taken in September)
Sustainable Golf Courses; A Guide to Environmental Stewardship; Ron Dodson, Audubon International, 2005
An Environmental Approach to Golf Development; Bill Love, ASGCA, Environmental Committee, ASGCA