The United States Golf Association (USGA) today announced its official support of a new policy statement by the International Golf Federation (IGF) that identifies sustainability as a fundamental priority of the global golf community. The USGA also renewed its commitment to a number of substantive initiatives to promote a healthier relationship between the game and the environment.
As a designated signatory organization for the United States, the USGA worked closely with other American golf organizations to formally endorse the IGF Statement on Sustainability and the principles it supports. The full text of the statement issued by the IGF at its biennial meeting on Oct. 2, in Antalya, Turkey, and signed by governing bodies, golf associations and professional organizations representing more than 150 nations, can be viewed at www.igfgolf.org.
“Sustainable management practices are critically important to the future of the game and need to be encouraged throughout the world,” said USGA President Glen D. Nager. “Here in the United States, sustainability principles have been embraced by the golf community for some time, but we can still do even more, especially in promoting solutions-based planning and management strategies.
“Environmental and economic sustainability are central to the USGA’s mission and are primary components of our long-term commitment to the game,” Nager continued. “We have invested significant time and resources over many years to ensure that we are basing decisions and recommendations on sound scientific and economic principles that will foster the future health of the game.”
“The future ramifications of a more proactive approach to sustainability will be far-reaching,” said USGA Executive Director Mike Davis. “From the golf course operator who can more effectively allocate his maintenance budget, to the player who benefits from firm course conditions, every part of the game can benefit from this global industry-wide commitment.”
In demonstration of its continued commitment to sustaining the game, the USGA also announced its renewed support of a number of activities, including:
- Turfgrass Research Grants: In 2012 and 2013, the Association will fund $2 million in grants to universities across the country to support turfgrass research. Since the program was established in 1920, the USGA has distributed more than $40 million in research grants, representing the single largest effort of its type in the world. The research seeks to develop and improve grasses and playing surfaces that will require less water, as well as grasses that are more resistant to disease, drought and other environmental stresses. Studies also address the development of alternative (non-chemical) methods of pest control, and the influence of golf courses on people and wildlife. In all, 42 universities and institutions have received USGA research grants, which have led to the development of nearly 40 turfgrass cultivars.
- Turf Advisory Service Support for Golf Courses: The USGA has committed staff and resources to provide as many as 3,000 Turf Advisory Service (TAS) visits to golf courses nationwide in 2012 and 2013. The on-site services, which are delivered by 17 skilled USGA agronomists across eight regions, provide specific recommendations to help course officials and superintendents improve maintenance practices and manage costs more effectively. Since the program was instituted in the early 1950s, an estimated 80,000 TAS visits have been conducted at golf courses across the U.S.
- Water Summit: On Nov. 6–7, 2012, the USGA will convene a golf industry conference in Dallas, Texas, that specifically addresses the use of water by golf courses. Golf’s Use of Water: Solutions for a More Sustainable Game will bring together experts from science, government, business, academia and golf to identify and discuss the most challenging issues surrounding golf’s use of water, as well as promoting best management practices and policies that will advance the long-term sustainability of the game. A total of 19 presenters, including representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Southern Nevada Water Authority, the University of Arizona, the USGA, and the IBM and Toro corporations will speak at the two-day conference.
- Regional Assistance Award: The USGA has awarded $10,000 to The First Green Foundation of Bellevue, Wash., an innovative environmental education program that uses golf courses as living laboratories for young people. Golf course superintendents and local environmental organizations partner with schools to host students of all ages on golf course field trips, where they learn about the ecological aspects of golf courses and course maintenance.
“USGA-funded research, together with core programs and activities such as our turf advisory service and educational outreach, create an important foundation for our industry,” said Dr. Kimberly Erusha, managing director of the USGA’s Green Section. “The information is widely shared with influencers inside and outside of the golf community, who rely upon it to promote a healthier relationship between the game and the environment.”
Today’s announcement builds on the USGA’s legacy of leadership in the environmental arena. Through its Green Section department, the USGA has emerged as one of the world’s foremost authorities on research, development and promotion of environmentally friendly practices and a more sustainable game. With 23 professional staff dedicated to the effort, the USGA is among the leading agencies in the U.S. devoted solely to golf course turf, its playing conditions and its management.
Examples of USGA activities that have helped foster the sustainability of the game include:
- In 1991, the USGA joined with Audubon International to develop the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses. The program encourages golf course superintendents to promote ecologically sound land management and conservation of natural resources. To date, more than 850 golf courses have been certified under the program, with an additional 636 courses certified in one or more of five certification categories as they work toward full certification. The program has encouraged courses to become actively involved in developing an environmental plan for the course; focusing efforts on wildlife and habitat management, water conservation, and chemical use reduction; and participating in public education about environmental issues.
- The USGA Green Section Education Program develops timely, science-based educational materials to help golf courses be economically and environmentally sustainable. Examples include managing courses with reduced resources while maintaining acceptable playing quality; promoting maintenance practices that benefit the environment; and sharing construction practices that are agronomically sound and cost-effective. The expertise of USGA agronomists and the knowledge gained through USGA-supported research is distributed worldwide through the USGA’s Green Section Record, webcasts, web-based outreach materials and a variety of regional meetings.
- In 1998, the USGA provided the majority of funds to underwrite the development of the Turfgrass Information File located in the Turfgrass Information Center at the Michigan State University Library. Today, the Turfgrass Information Center hosts the largest database of turfgrass literature in the world, including 1.3 million search results, more than 162,000 turfgrass records, and 20 websites. More than 60 universities worldwide subscribe to the Turfgrass Information Center’s database.