Golf courses are much maligned for their impact on the environment. From intense watering needs to frequent mowing regimens to their use of pesticides and herbicides, they are also a significant drain on the finances of public park departments. Changing this requires a shift in thinking both about how we use these spaces, but also how we think of golf in general. In adjusting our paradigm to be more inclusive and sustainably focused, these public lands can be operated with fiscal efficacy while creating positive impacts on the local ecology.
Designers like Tim Liddy are showcasing alternative and sustainable models, often geared toward healthy outdoor exercise rather than artificial experiences of range finders and cart paths. In lieu of using upwards of a million gallons per day for watering, I’m all for it. With large swaths of native planting which increases local biodiversity, this type of design better supports the ecosystems previously disrupted by traditional golf courses.
Other options include complete nativization of these expansive areas, such as with the Parklands in Jasper, IN. Exploring many different usage possibilities after decommissioning the course, the municipality settled on a passive recreation option that utilized the undulating topography and water features (once called hazards). While this may not be the option for any of the South Bend public golf courses, it does reflect the growing need to consider we can either amplify the benefit of these public lands or reduce our liability. Hopefully, we can do both.