Science communicator Abbie Richards argues that the game of golf is both environmental and socially destructive.
Society has evolved beyond the need for golf.
Few things make me angrier than an ill-intentioned pitch. A piece of land, for example, that could be affordable housing, a community farm, a public park, or a natural habitat, but has instead been converted into a massive board game that functions more as a status symbol than a form of entertainment.
Almost ago 40,000 golf courses in the world. They sit there, using 26 times more space per player than a football pitch – while providing far less value to the global community.
Dominating nature as a sport
There is a common misconception that playing golf is about being in nature. It’s wrong. Golf courses aren’t natural – they’re nature-themed amusement parks. There is an art to their craft, an art that requires deforestation and restructuring of the earth.
Golf is not a celebration of nature. It is the celebration of domination over nature. It’s nature, but clean with trimmed and barren green grass, less biodiversity and lots of alcohol. Mankind has taken nature and bulldozed the earth into a board game so big they have to drive through it.
More 9 billion liters of water is wasted in the United States each year for maintain appearance of golf courses. In Thailand, a single golf course uses as much water as 60,000 rural villagersjust so rich tourists can play the same game as at home but with a Mai Tai.
Yards often dump unregulated fertilizers and pesticides on their green lanes to keep the grass unnaturally green. Fertilizers flow in water bodies, causing a state of nutrients over-enrichment called eutrophication resulting in algal blooms that destroy ecosystems. Pesticides leach into water, seep into the ground, or are blown into other ecosystems where they wreak havoc on existing species.
As a reminder, 98% of insecticides and 95% of herbicides reach a destination other than their target species. While pesticides may be needed in agricultural productionusing them to maintain a game’s aesthetic appeal is undeniably unwise.
If you want an agrochemical-free golf experience, there is only one all-organic course in the United States. You can’t join though, because their membership is capped to 315 members.
If you somehow get out of the waitlist, membership is only a $350,000 (€285,000) initiation fee, then $12,000 (€9,760) per year .
Where does golf come from?
The Scots are generally credited with inventing golf in the 15th century, but the sport’s origins are disputed.
The Dutch played a similar game on ice in the 14th century, and another comparable sport was also invented in the Song dynasty over 1000 years ago. Even the ancient Romans had a stick and ball game in 100 BCE.
Just as the agricultural revolution arose in civilizations around the world, so did golf. It’s like the monkeys hitting Hamlet: over time, each society will invent golf.
The Scots, however, were particularly innovative in that they dug the ground.
The sport didn’t really explode in popularity until the late 19th century. In 1880, England had 12 golf courses, but by 1914 it had over 1,000. Wealthy English and Scottish travelers of this period brought golf to the United States.
What does this have to do with the United States?
The transition from sport golf to eco-villain is ultimately due to the United States.
Now is the time to reveal that I am American. And I’m sorry about that. Deeply, deeply sorry.
The scourge of golf courses that ravage our environment is our fault. This is why I feel such a strong obligation to the public to see this “sport” eradicated.
Golf came to the United States as a sport for wealthy coastal elites, but after World War II when (white) people moved en masse to new suburbs, golf tracking.
Advances in technology, advances in medicine, and a booming post-war economy meant that people lived longer, earned more money, and retired younger. For decades, golf was the game of the elite, and the emerging white middle class who suddenly owned land and cars and had free time wanted to feel rich – so they played golf.
Here we are, on a beautiful planet filled with rich biodiversity and beautiful ecosystems that have been demolished and replaced by 40,000 grassy wastelands.
The game that exploded in popularity as a symbol of middle-class achievement now symbolizes waste, excess and inequality. Golf is literally a waste of space. People are homeless and starving in the same towns where a select few are hitting small balls across the land that could accommodate and to feed thousands.
Golf celebrates the waste of resources and the degradation of nature for the benefit of the privileged few who can afford it.
The ice caps are melting, the oceans are on the rise, globally temperatures increase, and species are on the verge of extinction. Real nature is crumbling, but maybe golfers don’t notice because the view from their astroturf is perfect.
The 20th century is over. It’s time as a society to admit that golf was a bad idea and move on.
**Abbie Richards is a science communicator who discusses climate and misinformation. She is currently studying her Masters in Climate at Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands, and is a researcher at the __Accelerationism Research Consortium.**
Twitter: @abbieasr | Instagram: @abbiesr | TIC Tac: @Tofology