Tourism Review Online Magazine - Golf Tourism: Getting on the Green by milada


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Golf Tourism: GeTTinG on The Green

                      Every year new golf courses
                      and golf clubs are opened to
                      the public offering shiny greens
                      and peaceful ambience. How-
                      ever, what is the impact of golf
                      courses on the environment,
                      water sources and local com-
                                                            PROFESSIONAL   G o l f To u r i s m : G e t t i n g o n t h e G r e e n

          Golf Tourism: eConomiC BenefiTs
            vs. environmenTAl impACTs
“In this age of increasing environmental
awareness, there is no more room on Earth to
destroy nature for the sake of a mere game.”
The Global Anti-Golf Movement (GAM)
  Tourism Concern first took issues with golf
nearly twenty years ago – an unwinnable cam-
paign–one we could not ignore. The phenom-
enal growth of golf tourism had even the driest
countries competing for tourists by prioritising
golf course development.
  The situation still shocks: Cyprus, seriously
short of water, is developing 14 new courses to
save its troubled tourism industry. Any move-
ment towards more environmentally-friendly
course management is undermined by more
traditional thinking.
  There are now 32,000 courses around the
world: up from 25,000 in the mid-1990s –
which at that time would have covered an area
of the size of Belgium. The uk has the highest
density in the world: about 0.6% of the land
is covered by 2,600 courses, a 40% increase in
the past thirty years. In Japan there are over
20 million players. And they pay a high price to
travel the world for their golfing holidays.
  The analysis of golf tourism requires an exam-
ination of its environmental, social, economic
aspects plus human rights issues – particularly
those of land ownership.

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                                                                                   PROFESSIONAL          G o l f To u r i s m : G e t t i n g o n t h e G r e e n
                                                    Golf courses are no longer developed as
                                                  adjuncts to luxury hotels, but rather as a necessity
                                                  – as they are for villa developments. In Spain the
                                                  coastline from Murcia to Almeria is nicknamed
                                                  the `Costa del Golf’. Estimates vary but in 2005 El
                                                  Pais reported that 130 golf courses were in devel-
                                                  opment within the Valencia and Murcia regions
                                                  alone, adding to the dozens there already.
                                                    uNESCo estimates that tourists visiting Granada
                                                  in Spain use seven times more water than local
                                                  people, with daily usage as high as 440 litres. Golf
                                                  courses in the area need between 10,000 and
                                                  15,000 cubic metres of water per hectare a year,
                                                  which is the same as a rice paddy. Thus the annual
                ChemiCAls                         water consumption of a course could reach one          La’oc in the Philippines, the year 2000 saw two
                                                  million cubic metres – the same as a town with a       farmers resist a course planned for their lands,
  Water and chemicals are prerequisites for       population of 12,000 inhabitants. It is even more      mutilated and shot dead.
any golf course. The chemical run-off from a      worrying in Thailand where a course typically uses
golf course in Japan destroyed crops and cre-     as much water as 60,000 rural villagers (uNESCo                   poverTy vs. weAlTh
ated not only deformed fish but also GAM and      Water Portal Weekly, 2006).
its World No Golf Day. It is unlikely that this                                                            Resorts, hotels and golf courses often divert
stopped anyone playing golf, but it was con-                       lAnd ABuse                            land, water, energy and access to biodiversity
sciousness raising and leading uk media in the                                                           away from poor communities, and so make it
uk devoted considerable attention.                  Local and foreign business people, politi-           harder for rural women and young girls to obtain
  The pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and      cians and military leaders tend to form power-         water and fuel for household use. Fulfilling such
artificial colouring agents poison not only the   ful alliances to support lucrative development         basic needs competes with schooling in many
soil and fauna but also human health. George      projects. The worldwide construction of golf           poor communities. In theory, the construction
Monbiot, an environmental activist, reveals:      courses is married to dispossession and envi-          of tourism infrastructure should benefit local
‘An 18-hole course requires, on average, 22       ronmental destruction.                                 residents by way of new and expanded services.
tonnes of chemical treatments, mostly pes-          The problem is particularly acute in south-          Such benefits are often beyond the reach of the
ticides, every year: seven times the rate per     east and east Asia, where golf is big busi-            very poor, who may actually be worse off if tour-
hectare for industrial farming. A study shows     ness, and land rights and the environment are          ism and its train of golf courses deny them access
higher rates of some cancers, such as non-        often ignored by governments. Tourism Con-             to productive land, water, biodiversity and other
Hodgkin's lymphoma (which has been asso-          cern knows of very many accounts of battles            resources upon which their livelihoods depend.
ciated with certain pesticides), among golf       between peasant farmers or indigenous people           By Tricia Barnett (Tourism Concern)
course superintendents’.                          and golf course developers, e.g. in Hacienda 

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                                                            PROFESSIONAL   G o l f To u r i s m : G e t t i n g o n t h e G r e e n

 JApAn: polluTed By Golf                                                     Even though 67 percent of Japan’s total land
                                                                           area is covered by forest, its forest products
                                                                           self-sufficiency rate has fallen 30 percent.

                                                                           Japan now must import much of the timber
                                                                           used in construction and the wood chips used
                                                                           for making pulp.
Japan’s economic success is causing many seri-                               Forests serve as a kind of natural dam, stor-
ous environmental problems, but one stems                                  ing rainwater in the leaves and soil. Natural
not from its factories but from too many golf-                             water circulating from forests feeds rivers and
ers. In the late 1980s, several groups actively                            streams. In contrast, golf courses have only
opposing golf course throughout Japan met in                               one-fourth the water retention capacity of an
kobe for their third annual national conven-                               equivalent forest area. Most rainwater simply
tion.                                                                      runs off the greens and fairways. This produces
   Here is powerful testimony to the serious-                              flooding downstream.
ness with which communities consider the                                     on the contrary, the water flow to rivers and
adverse effects of golf courses. According to                              creeks downstream from golf courses drops
a report by the oECD, Japan’s early success in                             to a dribble during periods of drought. During
combating pollution is threatened by increas-                              golf course construction, rainfall sends mud
ingly wasteful patterns of consumption.                                    pouring from the barren ground into streams.
   Japan’s total land area is about the same as                            This often makes the water inappropriate for
the state of California. over 100 million people                           agricultural or residential use.
live in this land space.                                                     An 18-hole golf course requires three to four
   Before World War II, there were only 23 golf                            tons of various germicides, herbicides, and
courses in all of Japan and only 72 in 1956.                               pesticides every year to keep the green and
Now, there are a total of 1,700 golf courses in                            fairways healthy, to combat weeds, and kill
operation, with another 330 under construc-                                insects.
tion and roughly 1,000 in various stage of plan-
                                                                                      Top five Golf Countries
   Japan consists of islands covered by many
                                                                               Currently it is estimated that there are around
mountains, and it is fairly easy to develop                                    35,000 golf courses in the world, of which the
golf courses rather than developing agricul-                                   top five countries (USA, UK, Japan, Canada
ture and housing. Developers clear-cut the                                     and Australia) account for 76%. These golf
forests and use bulldozers to level hilltops                                   courses cover an area of approximately 17,238
and fill in valleys. As a result, golf course                                  km2, an area equivalent to the size of Kuwait.
construction is identical to the destruction                         
of environment.

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                                                                                   PROFESSIONAL          G o l f To u r i s m : G e t t i n g o n t h e G r e e n

  Some of these chemicals are carcinogenic,           A research group in Canada also identified
while others are known to cause deformities         the problematical factors of golf courses. Soil
and nerve damage. There have been reports           samples were taken from greens and fairways,
of massive fish kills in fish hatcheries polluted   and sediment samples were taken from water-
by toxins in the water from golf courses. The       ways and analyzed for the presence of mercury.
nitrogen and phosphorus in the fertiliz-                    Greens had the highest mean mercury
ers will mix with rainwater and                                     concentration, and the majority
eventually flow into a res-                                             of greens exceeded Cana-
ervoir. The high nutrient                                                  dian environmental lev-
content of water will                                                        els set for mercury in
stimulate the growth                                                           soil.
of algae. Conse-                                                                  Sediment      from
quently, this requires                                                          a golf course lake
the water treatment                                                             had higher mercury
plant to use higher                                                            levels than a lake
volumes of chlorine to                                                       located 5 km from the
cleanse the water.                                                         course. Mussels from
  Golf courses use pesticides                                          both lakes were analyzed,
containing organic phosphorus.                                     and those from the golf course
After application, the pesticides evaporate              lake near the greens had methylmercury
in the air and are absorbed by the human body       and total mercury levels an order of magni-
via the skin and lungs. Caddies and greenkeep-      tude greater than those from the reference
ers often experience health problems because        lake.
of the air pollution. Golfers themselves breathe      Fish in both lakes contained methylmercury,
in the toxins as they walk the course before the    but the level was higher in fish collected near
newly sprayed pesticides have settled down.         the golf course greens. The construction of
  Winds sometimes carry the chemical agents         golf courses in scenic natural sites, such as for-
to surrounding neighborhoods, and people liv-       est areas and coral islands, also results in the
ing near golf courses worry that their health       destruction of biodiversity.
may also be affected. Golf has an image as a
healthy sport, but it may be quite different in

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                                                                                 PROFESSIONAL         G o l f To u r i s m : G e t t i n g o n t h e G r e e n

                        QueBeC: environmenTAlly
                         friendly Golf Courses?
                                                                                                      improved spill containment for pesticide mix-
                                                                                                      ing and loading areas, decreased managed turf
                                                                                                      grass area to increase wildlife habitat, land-
                                                                                                      scaping with native plants to increase wild-
                                                                                                      life habitats, removed exotic invasive plants,
                                                                                                      vegetation planted in and around waterways,
                                                                                                      installed of contained equipment in wash-off
                                                                                                         Where such environmental actions have
                                                                                                      been implemented, golf course managers have
                                                                                                      generally also reported a positive business
                                                                                                      value or cost savings, according to Audubon
                                                                                                      International assessments.

                                                                                                          eCo–friendly Golf Courses
                                                                                                        Currently, there is no information that
                                                                                                      systematically documents environmental
As far as environmental responsibility is con-      to reduce golf’s environmental impact, but        improvements implemented by Québec golf
cerned, golf is neither ahead, nor behind other     one of the most popular remains the Audu-         courses. However, numerous golf courses are
sectors, and it may take some time before it        bon Cooperative Sanctuary Program. In 2009,       actively working towards reducing their nega-
is considered as ‘responsible recreation’. Golf     783 golf courses were certified by this program   tive environmental impact, while several are
courses have a long history of being environ-       worldwide, including 82 in Canada and 11 in       also in process of certification by Audubon
mentally unfriendly, due to their high water        Québec.                                           International.
and chemical use, impact on local topography,         Golf courses that have implemented initia-        The most prevalent positive environmen-
hydrology and wildlife.                             tives to reduce their environmental impact can    tal action presently in Québec remains the
  Nonetheless, golf remains an important            be recognized by a variety of actions, includ-    reduction of pesticide use, owing to legislation
activity across Québec’s 362 golf clubs, while      ing: decreased water use, improved irrigation     implemented back in 2003 by the Provincial
worldwide an estimated 25,000 golf courses          systems and water application, water quality      Government. According to baseline assess-
cater to some 50 million players. Internation-      monitoring, reduced or eliminated pesticide       ments for the period 2003-2005, Québec’s golf
ally, various organizations and initiatives exist   use, increased natural organic fertilizer use,    sector used 39,382 kg of active ingredients per

march, 2011                                                           — 21 —
                                                                                 PROFESSIONAL         G o l f To u r i s m : G e t t i n g o n t h e G r e e n

year (according to sales figures) and 75.9%, or    degradable balls and tees. Increasingly, some      hensive environmental management require-
29,885 kg, in the form of fungicides. In com-      golf courses supply their restaurants with local   ments covering a range of issues, including
parison with total pesticide use in the Prov-      and regional foods, as in the case of the Raw-     waste and water management (composting,
ince, pesticide use by golf represented about      don Golf Club, which also received Le Phénix       recycling), hazardous substance use, vegeta-
1.1% of the total. The continuous reductions       de l’Environnement Award in 2009 for having        tion around waterways and others. A number
in pesticide use remains important to maintain     implemented a variety of initiatives to improve    of other organizations, such as the Coalition
watershed ecosystem health, but especially         its environmental management.                      for Responsible Golf, are also working to help
since their application by golf courses in Qué-      While there aren’t clearly any 100% eco-         golf courses improve their environmental man-
bec occurs almost entirely on permeable soils.     friendly golf courses, work is under way to        agement practices in Québec.
  Since 2003, the Québec Pesticides Man-           improve management at some places. There
agement Code and its associated regulations        is currently a move in Québec to implement             whAT ABouT Green Golfers?
require all Québec golf courses to submit a        a variety of voluntary initiatives. For example,
                                                   the Association des Terrains de Golf du Qué-         Few studies have assessed golfers’ attitudes
pesticide reduction plan prepared by a certi-                                                         towards the environment, and none have been
fied agronomist to the Ministère du Dével-         bec is drafting a sustainable development
                                                                               policy and green       reported from Québec. However, in 2008, Golf
oppement Durable, de l’Environnement et des                                                           Digest published a survey that illustrated how
Parcs every three years.                                                        program, which will
                                                                                 address compre-      perceptions of 650 avid golfers compared with
  For the period 2006-2009, the objective was                                                         the general American population regarding
to achieve average reductions of 12.9% in the                                                         golf and its relationship with the environment.
use of fungicides, 9.4% in herbicides, 8.2% in                                                          According to this study, golfers were typi-
insecticides, 7.4% in rodenticides and 2.8% in                                                        cally male, affluent and older than the general
growth regulators. The results are currently                                                          population surveyed and some similarities
being analyzed and the objectives for the next                                                        and differences were noted amongst the two
three years will be revised.                                                                          groups concerning environmental attitudes.
  Though golf courses in Québec have taken                                                            For example, both groups appeared environ-
numerous other actions to improve their envi-                                                         mentally conscious and participated in activi-
ronmental management, the overall impact of                                                           ties like recycling and agreed that government
these is not documented, with the exception                                                           regulation is a necessary approach for address-
of the Laurentides, where water use is moni-                                                          ing environmental issues.
tored by public sector organizations. A few golf                                                        However, while golfers also appeared to sup-
courses have also installed industrial equip-                                                         port the idea that golf is an environmentally
ment to filter, treat and reuse wastewater.                                                           friendly/compatible sport, they were less likely
However, such initiatives are limited to only a                                                       than the general population to participate in
few places, since they cost up to CAD 200,000.                                                        initiatives such as carpooling.
  Elsewhere, golf courses have exchanged                                                                The findings suggest that fewer golfers
their carts for electric versions, implemented                                                        believe the game’s water and pesticide use has
recycling programs, and use recyclable or bio-                                                        a negative impact on the environment than

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                                              PROFESSIONAL      G o l f To u r i s m : G e t t i n g o n t h e G r e e n

              the general population. The Golf Digest
              study also suggests that, while golfers
              agree with the need to improve the envi-
              ronmental management of golf courses,
              such improvement does not necessarily
              represent a big plus for increased partici-
              pation in the game.
                Some golf courses are also focusing on player
              education to raise environmental awareness
              and several try to get players involved by hav-
              ing them volunteer to carry out restoration and
              environmental works, while others encour-
              age the provision of financial support towards
              environment initiatives.
                Golf clearly has the potential to be more
              environmentally responsible and the numer-
              ous initiatives in place by some golf courses
              currently leave no room for inaction by the
              great majority.


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                                                                                 PROFESSIONAL              G o l f To u r i s m : G e t t i n g o n t h e G r e e n

                     The impACT of Golf esTATes
                           in souTh AfriCA
                                                  however has other negative environmental                 discourages indigenous vegetation, which in
                                                  impacts.                                                 the Western Cape is adapted to nutrient poor
                                                                                                           soil. Eutrophication of water bodies may also
                                                       pesTiCides And ferTilizers                          occur. This is associated with a proliferation of
                                                                                                           plant life, especially algae, which reduces the
                                                    The addition of any nutrients to the system,           dissolved oxygen content and often causes the
                                                  for example through using fertilizers, impacts           local extinction of other organisms. While the
                                                  upon surrounding ecosystems. Increased nutri-            use of sewage water for irrigation may solve
                                                  ents may encourage alien species to invade and           the water problem, it adds even more nutri-

                                                                                     pros and Cons of Golf Courses
                                                                           Advantages                                     Disadvantages
                                                            Employment and income benefits, both
                                                                                                           Loss of biodiversity
                                                            direct and indirect
The amount of water golf courses use varies                                                            Eutrophication or river or seawater through
                                                            Tax benefits to local, regional and national
greatly depending on the region, but on aver-               governments                                use of fertilizers
age they use about 10 800 000 liters of water               Attracts new firms to the region           Heavy user of water for irrigation
per year (according to the Golf Course Super-                                                          Biocides use to maintain the greenness of
                                                            Health and social benefits. Careers can
intendents Association, uS golf courses use, on             benefit through 'networking'.
                                                                                                       the 'greens', control insects, fungicides and
average, 414 500 000 liters a year). In essence                                                        weeds, contaminate both the air and water
each golf course uses enough water to provide                                                          Golf clubs often portray an elitist and exclu-
                                                            Attracts the higher-spending social groups
at least 1200 people with their basic water                                                            sive lifestyle
needs for a year. South Africa is a dry country             Helps conserve valuable fragments of
and many people still do not have access to                 coastal habitat from encroaching urban- Leads to an increase in road traffic
running water.                                              ization and agriculture
  However, using water-saving measures can                  Increases local property values
                                                                                                       Raises property prices beyond the reach of
cut the water use by a third, and some golf                                                            local young people
course estates are using recycled sewage efflu-     
ent to water their greens and fairways. This

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                                                                                    PROFESSIONAL         G o l f To u r i s m : G e t t i n g o n t h e G r e e n

                                                                                                           Golf course estates are essentially upmar-
                                                                                                         ket, residential areas located within their own
                                                                                                         private park. They are generally not located
                                                                                                         within urban areas. They usually cover large
                                                                                                         tracts of land and are frequently proposed
                                                                                                         within pristine areas, where they reduce biodi-
                                                                                                         versity and destroy conservation-worthy habi-
                                                                                                         tats. A worrying trend in the Western Cape is
                                                                                                         that golf course estates sometimes occur on
                                                                                                         prime agricultural land. In the short-term the
                                                                                                         overall monetary value of golf course estates
                                                                                                         may be greater than that of farming. However,
                                                                                                         in the long term, these short-term monetary
                                                                                                         gains, which benefit only a few individuals,
                                                                                                         may be eclipsed by a shortage of food-produc-
                                                                                                         ing areas, affecting all South Africans.

                                                                                                                        urBAn sprAwl
                                                                                                           Many golf estate developments are on the
                                                                                                         urban edge or in semi-rural areas. This results
                                                                                                         in urban sprawl and can create unplanned-for
                                                                                                         development nodes where infrastructure does
                                                                                                         not exist. This places an added burden on local
                                                                                                         municipalities and the community at large, for
ents to the system, compounding the negative         may have serious long-term implications for         example, through increased traffic congestion
environmental impacts of using fertilizers.          habitat viability.                                  and demand for services.
  Pesticides and herbicides kill off insects and                                                           In general these developments consist of
weeds within the confines of the golf course                     Alien veGeTATion                        clusters of 500 housing units, or more. In effect
estate. However these can spread into nearby                                                             they are creating small towns. This has enor-
ground water or river systems. The use of pes-         Golf courses may facilitate the spread of inva-   mous impacts on water demand and sewage
ticides may affect species higher up the food        sive alien plants through increased disturbance     services, especially where such large-scale
chain by either reducing the amount of food          and nutrient levels. Furthermore, gardens are       growth has not been planned for. As these
available, or through the accumulation of per-       recognized as an important source of invasive       are housing developments for the upper end
sistent poisons in their bodies. Insects also pro-   species. The introduction of kikuyu grass, for      of the market, where are the resources to be
vide important ecosystem functions such as           example, may have devastating effects on sur-       found for the lower end, disadvantaged com-
pollination and seed dispersal. Their removal        rounding natural habitats.                          munities development?

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                                                                                   PROFESSIONAL        G o l f To u r i s m : G e t t i n g o n t h e G r e e n

                                                      At its most benign, this takes the form of
                                                    fencing and closing off residential areas to the
                                                    public, limiting access to public open space. At
                                                    its most extreme, it means guards, razor wire
                                                    and electric fences. For society, this cannot be
                                                    healthy, creating divides between the elite and
                                                    the surrounding communities, and fostering
                                                    resentment and tension between the haves
                                                    and the have nots. By limiting access to natu-
                                                    ral resources such as arable land, fuel, water,
                                                    food and medicinal plants, golf estates further
                                                    impoverish poor communities, both economi-
                                                    cally and psychologically.
                                                      Increasingly, attempts are being made to
                                                    compensate communities for these losses by
   soCio–poliTiCAl issues, eQuiTy                   making substantial financial contributions, or
           And ACCess                               by offering to build facilities for the affected
  This is probably the most serious weakness of       In summary, it would appear that golfing
golf courses. Golf course estates are frequently    estates are less about golf and more about          
elitist enclaves, isolated from surrounding         the widening and increasingly prevalent gap
communities. They have thrived on people's          between the rich and the poor. Golfing estates
fear and insecurities in the face of increasing     are an aggressive, and environmentally and
levels of crime and violence. They are popu-        socially destructive method used by the rich to
lated by people who have accumulated suf-           insulate themselves from what they regard as
ficient wealth to do something about this, but      uncomfortable realities.
rather than use their considerable resources to
assist in addressing the problem, they attempt
to block themselves off from the rest of society.

march, 2011                                                           — 26 —

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