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Greening the Greens: Environmentally Friendly Golf Course Care

golfer puttingI’ve long had a theory that many people enjoy golf because of the picturesque surroundings of the typical golf course. Wooded areas, rolling hills, green grass, lakes and ponds, rivers and creeks, sand…sadly, it is the closest that many people will get to “nature”, and the longest chunk of time many are willing to spend outdoors. And although it is beautiful to behold–the average golf course maintains it’s beauty with a high dose of toxic chemicals–not to mention the enormous consumption of water (approx 18 million gallons per course per year), the clearcutting of woodlands and fields, and the loss of animal sanctuaries.

More and more golfers, hackers, and non-golfers are becoming aware of the environmental damage one golf course can have on its surroundings. In the case of George Prior and his family the article “Poisoned Fairways” points out how they learned the hardest way:

In August 1982, after a few rounds of golf at the Army Navy Country Club outside Washington, D.C., Navy Lt. George Prior, an athletic, healthy, 30-year-old Navy flight officer, developed an odd rash on his back and began suffering flu-like symptoms. He checked himself into Bethesda Naval Hospital, where his body soon began to burn from the inside out. His internal organs started failing, blisters bubbled on his skin. After slipping into a coma, he died within days. A Navy forensic pathologist concluded that Prior had died as a result of a severe allergic reaction to Daconil 2787, a fungicide that had been sprayed on the course.

Of course, this is an extreme case, but one that can be tracked to its source (mainly because Mr. Prior was in the armed forces and received a detailed autopsy) unlike many other similar, though less violent, cases. However, most chemicals don’t have such an immediate effect on the golfer or the environment, but the end result of prolonged exposure may be the same. Golf course pesticides and herbicides have been linked to repiratory problems, serious skin irritations, nausea, and cancer.

Change is on the horizon.

Neighborhood associations have applied pressure to keep golf courses (and the surrounding neighborhoods) chemical free. Models have joined to help keep pesticides off the shelves. And, organic golf courses are beginning to pop up.

In my home town of St. Louis, Missouri one company–Keeper of the Green–is helping golf courses create the same beauty and durability while using environmentally friendly products.

Keeper of the Green currently has two products (MicroPel and KOTG Compost Tea) and offers agronomic planning services to home owners and turfcare related businesses. The Keeper of the Green website explains MicroPel as:

a granulated micronutrient product which feeds and stimulates growth in turf grass root systems. Designed to meet the needs of professional turf managers, MicroPel will allow you to obtain superior color, improved density and quicker recovery from environmental stresses. It also aids in the establishment of all grasses.

KOTG Compost Tea is a custom brewed organic tea (a biproduct of vermicomposting) full of biological and microbial activity.

Brian L. Nikkel, owner of Keeper of the Green, points out:

In agronomics it’s crazy how not green the industry has been–driven by money and corporate marketing/smooze funds. But, our generation knows better and wants to make changes. Many individuals and businesses will jump on the train claiming to be green. Most of them will be let off at the next stop.

Good points Brian. And keep up the important work!


…minus the posers, of course.

Photo Credit: Long Island Neighborhood Network

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Written By

is an Environmental/Political cartoonist for Planetsave, Elephant Journal, Wend Magazine, Twilight Earth, Ecopolitology, EcoSnobberySucks, and more... Joe also does a kids enviro-toon called Hank D and the Bee on EcoChildsPlay and NaturalPapa. Joe lives in University City, Missouri and spends his free time with his beautiful wife, enthusiastic daughter, and curious toddler of the same name. He also enjoys writing, drawing, painting, walking, biking, skateboarding, gardening, reading, listening to music, playing sports, and watching plays (especially the plays his wife's site-specific theatre company, Onsite Theatre puts on).   Visit Joe's online cartoon gallery at


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