I was shocked, hurt and appalled when I read Murph's anti-golf tirade.
No, actually I was grateful & delighted as it gave me an excuse to open up discussion on one of my favorite topics: environmentally-sound golf. No, that is not an oxymoron. It is a distinct and real possibility, though I make no claims to the current state-of-the-art.
Two factoids to consider:
1. The tradition of golf in Scotland (at least in ye olde dayes) allowed the entire family to join in and walk the course with the player. The course was not a sanctified Holy Ground on which only the properly-shirted (must have a collar) could play in splendid isolation.
2. The tradition of golf does not require sopping-wet turf from tee-to-green. In fact, so I understand, the tradition in the British isles is to allow the fairways to brown-up in the summer i.e. they are not irrigated and so no rain, no green. This creates a different game. The fairways may become dry and hard. The ball rolls, rather than plops in place close to where it lands. The fairways are more difficult to play, when compared to 'wet'. It's a more difficult game because the bounce of the ball is less predictable.
To my understanding, the central, continuing problem of North American golf courses is run-off of pesticides and various chemicals used in turf management. At base, this problem is "cultural." If golfers did not expect the fairway to be a luscious greensward at all times of years, golf course managers could decrease the amount of irrigation and use of chemicals.
As to greens, they are manicured and cultivated very intensely. The grass is so incredibly thin and so incredibly heavily trod that it requires intense management including a great deal of chemistry. (Whether there is a work-around there, I don't know.) As a golfer, I concede that greens must be, well, green. And that means water and chemicals.
But greens are also very small. In fact they are a wholly created environment and it is not at all inconceivable -- in fact maybe it's even the current "best-practice" -- that a green would have its own run-off collection-and-treatment system so that it had zero impact on the surrounding water-courses.
Golf course design is a luscious subject, at least for those of us who pretend to play golf. Visit golf course architect Tom Doak's site and in particular read his charming book The Anatomy of a Golf Course which contains the following words relevant to the issue of "cultural expectations" and thus the environmental impact of golf:
"The golf industry's defense against public concern has been to assert that no changes are necessary, because of the unspoken assumption that the game will suffer if course-maintenance standards are scaled back. Yet, if golfers accepted somewhat lower standards for fairway turf, the chemically maintained area of the course could be decreased by as much as 90 percent....Golf architects must start building green complexes that remain playable even if the standards for fairway turf are relaxed...The sport of golf can and will survive more flexible standards of course maintenance; it might even become stronger. The vanity of eye-appealing green turf is all that has to be sacrificed."