Long Island Golf Courses Taking Steps
To Protect Environment
By David Shefter, USGA
The eastern end of Long Island boasts some of the finest golf
courses in the country, including four-time U.S. Open site
Shinnecock Hills. Of course, without good maintenance these
expansive pieces of real estate wouldn't be so enjoyable to
play. This requires golf course superintendents to utilize a
variety of resources, including nitrogen-based fertilizers that
can enter rivers, lakes, streams and eventually the Atlantic
Nitrogen in the water can cause too much algae to grow, which
in turn uses up necessary oxygen needed by fish and other species
to survive in their natural habitat.
|Four-time U.S. Open venue Shinnecock
Hills has joined 30 other eastern Long Island golf courses in
an effort to reduce fertilizer use to protect the amount of
nitrogen that's emitted into local estuaries and
waterways. (USGA Photo Archives)|
For the past year, agronomists with the USGA Green Section
have worked with other national, state and local environmental
agencies to develop a plan to reduce amount of fertilizer
that's used on these courses to protect the health of the
Peconic Estuary and other local waters.
This diligence paid off as 31 of the 34 courses in this region
of Long Island (91 percent) have voluntarily accepted the
challenge. The first site visit from the USGA Green Section,
Cornell University, members of the Environmental Protection
Agency and other environmental constituencies came Oct. 27 at
North Fork Country Club in Cutchogue, N.Y.
Such cooperation helps avoid potential legislation that had
been threatened by local environment groups.
But getting a vast number of courses to volunteer for such a
challenge did not happen overnight. The process evolved from
visits made last November by Dr. James Baird, a USGA agronomist
in the northeast region.
"Everybody seemed pretty excited about this at
first," said Baird, who has worked on this project along
with fellow USGA agronomist, Dave Oatis, the Green Section's
director of the northeast region. "We sat down and wrote
down a plan. All of a sudden they (courses) got cold feet and
then we had to go back to the drawing board."
Added Jane Kenny, an EPA regional administrator: "The
protection and restoration of coastal waters requires everyone to
do his or her part, and the golf courses of eastern Long Island
are certainly setting a laudable example."
Some courses told Baird and Oatis that without the USGA Green
Section's stamp of approval, they might not have accepted
It is the first time that a group of golf courses in one
geographic area of the country have voluntarily agreed to better
manage their fertilizer use. The goal: Cut nitrogen emission to
less than half of the current volume..
"The good thing about this program is you have the heavy
hitters involved and it's been an eye-opening experience for
people like the EPA," said Baird. "It's a good
program overall to the game and to people's concerns about
what effect golf has on the environment. This is going to be a
"They are now talking about doing this program in other
parts of the country and that's good."
The technical assistance in terms of site visits - each
participating course gets one over the next year - will come from
the USGA and Cornell University, headed by Marty Petrovic, a
professor in the school's horticulture department. Basically,
the environmental agencies are allowing the USGA and Cornell to
police the program. Each course receives a Nitrogen Management
Plan, which varies from site to site depending on specific
"The Peconic program is very well organized," said
Baird. "And they are not just going after the golf
(industry). They are asking everybody to reduce nitrogen use.
Golf has really stepped forward. They haven't had the
cooperation from other industries yet . but I'm very excited
about golf participating and hope that will get other groups