Imagine it’s early morning.  The sun is just rising above the treetops as you plant your tee into the low cropped grass of the tee box and look forward to a pleasant round of golf.

As you look down the fairway, you can’t help but notice the lush grass and the impeccable green beyond.  This is what you expect of a golf course, only this one is different.  Unlike your typical course that uses chemicals extensively to maintain perfection, this course uses organic means to achieve the same results.

What!  Where are the dandelions, where is the clover and brown spots?  Many will wonder, ‘how can golf courses without chemicals look good?’

Unfortunately, the myth that lush fairways and swift beautiful greens don’t exist without the abundant use of fertilizers is alive and well.  It’s a long held belief in golfing circles that to keep courses up to the standards golfers expect you have to liberally use pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, along with enough water to drain a river.  But that isn’t so, as more and more course superintendents are slowly coming to realize.

golf course

Monitor the Health of the Course

Take for example, one course owner in British Columbia.  Recently he shared his secrets to taking his golf course green.  What are they?  First and foremost, he monitors the health of his course constantly.  This ensures that when a problem does arise, he’s on top of it.  In place of chemical fertilizers, he uses composted turkey manure on his fairways. For his greens, he combines an array of natural based products into a compost tea.  This tea includes bone meal, blood meal, humate and kelp.

To fight disease on his greens, he uses a solution of garlic extract.  For grub worms, he applies rock glacial dust.  According to him, it is abrasive to the worms and they choke on it.

The tradeoff to going green involves constantly monitoring weed control and water usage.  For example, weeds, which are a major concern on any course, are often handpicked.   Water usage must also be closely monitored to maintain a healthy balance in the soil.  One superintendent in Colorado hand waters his greens daily.  Although labor intensive, this ensures the green’s roots grow deep and prevents the compaction that would occur if the greens were over watered and then exposed to hundreds of rounds of golf each day.

Maintain Healthy pH Level

Ultimately, the secret to a beautiful golf course without the use of chemicals comes down to maintaining a healthy pH level in the soil.  Successful superintendents strive to monitor and keep healthy, well-balanced soil conditions.  They all agree, if the soil is balanced, the grass will thrive.

As I’ve mentioned, managing a golf course utilizing green techniques is more labor intensive than traditional methods.  Greens and fairways need intensive monitoring.  When problems arise, they must be dealt with swiftly, before the problem has a chance to get out of control.  Maintaining a course is taken to a whole new level.

But the big question is this.  Is going green feasible?  Will all the labor intensive monitoring drive the price of a round of golf out of the reach of most people?  In a word, no.   A number of courses that have gone green report their budgets are in line with other courses using traditional methods.

So what will it take to get golf courses off their chemical addiction?  Time and education, and a little help from the ‘grass root’ level, that is, the typical golfer.   Think back on the illustration I used to begin this article. Instead of being chemical free, imagine this course uses conventional means of fertilization and pest control. If that were you, how would you feel if just before your first tee shot, you watched a course employee ride by dressed in a full chemical suit, spraying some unknown substance along in front of you?  It should make you wonder if that pristine round of golf was worth it.