A Talk With USGA Agronomist Jim
USGA staff writer David Shefter talked to USGA agronomist Jim
Baird about the recent initiative involving the pledge eastern
Long Island golf courses have made to reduce fertilizer usage to
protect excess nitrogen from infiltrating local waterways and
Is there a target date when you will do another
We had a meeting last November about this and the golf courses
seemed very excited about this. I sat down and wrote up a plan on
what (the EPA) was asking us to do, and then all of a sudden, the
courses got cold feet, so we had to go back to the drawing
Basically, the USGA and (people from) Cornell were the ones
doing the evaluations and we are, for the most part, going to do
them separately. We just want to make sure we are all on the same
page. The things that I think are important with regard to
nitrogen use are the things that (fellow USGA agronomist) Dave
(Oatis) is talking about, too.
Does the USGA's involvement with this project
make it an easier sell to the golf courses?
That's definitely been the case. In fact, some of the courses
- and Dave (Oatis) and I visit the majority of the clubs that are
in this program (Turf Advisory Service visits) - have said that
they will do this if we are involved. We're hoping that
Cornell (University) will do the majority of them, but there are
some courses that specifically requested that we are actually
there and are part of the visit. And a lot more wouldn't have
even signed up for it if we weren't involved.
What are the long-term affects of this
It's a good program overall in regard to the game of golf and
people's concerns about what effect golf has on the
environment. This is going to be a long-term project. It's
not something that we are going to do once. We're going to do
one site visit to each course and then they have to follow up
with some documentation and every year update what is going on
with their program. So it's going to be a continuous process.
Obviously, there is a lot of legislation out there banning or
limiting the use of pesticides. The good thing about this program
is you have the heavy hitters involved. I think it's been an
eye-opening experience for people like the EPA (Environmental
Protection Agency). They really don't know what golf is
about. It's important from that standpoint. They are very
involved. They are very excited. And they are talking about doing
this program across the country. Since these golf courses are
volunteering to do this, there's talk about how we can help
them. There's talk about giving back to the golf courses for
their participation; things like wash paths, recycled water,
those types of things.
Isn't pesticide use a concern for all golf
courses, no matter where they are located?
It is. This Peconic program happens to be very well organized.
They are just not going after the golf industry. They are asking
to everybody to reduce nitrogen use. It just so happens that golf
has really stepped forward. They haven't had the
participation and cooperation from other industries as of yet.
They've done a little bit of work with the marine industry,
but from what I understand, the farmers have basically said,
"Go take a hike." They're very excited about
golf's participation and they are hoping it will precipitate
in getting these other groups involved as well. Certainly,
it's been getting a lot of press across the country.
From what I understand, there is a couple of course
that haven chosen not to participate?
Right now, there are three (that aren't involved). One of the
private clubs, it was a matter of miscommunication and they just
didn't send their paperwork in on time. That was Southampton
Golf Club. I just talked with them and they are involved, so they
are going to be in it. There are essentially three public courses
and I don't know what is going on with those. There's
private ownership and these are guys who have a background that
stems from the farming community. It's that whole mentality
with farmers in general: "Get away, we don't want
you." That sort of thing. I've been trying to work with
them and I've turned it from a no to a maybe. As of right
now, they are still not involved. Of course, what some of these
entities are doing that are part of this Peconic Estuary Program
is that they are threatening to force them to do this with
legislation. I don't know if that's ever going to
It's easier to go the volunteer rout than get
into bureaucratic involvement, right?
Exactly. They are allowing the USGA and Cornell to really police
this program. Yeah, we ran all this information across the EPA
and everything, but basically they are allowing us to take over.
We know the industry better than anyone else.
What kind of guidelines do you give each course to
We have documentation. It's basically the Nitrogen Management
Plan and it's a checklist of some things that we have come up
with in regard to nitrogen use. It's something to work from
for the golf course. So we will review that with them. And if
there's a reason why something can't be done then
that's fine. When you look at the program plan overall,
everybody is going to be able to reduce nitrogen. It just will be
a little different for each course.