Golf, one of the world’s most coveted sports, contributes $80 million to the U.S. economy. Golfers play in all types of weather including heavy rain and heat waves. However, the U.S. Golf Association (USGA) has begun fearing the worst for golf, and climate change is to blame.
Since the 1920s, USGA has been sponsoring research into the use of turfgrasses. Climate change was not an established concept throughout much of this time, but officials in the golf world already knew that creating efficient water and turf practices were necessary to create ideal conditions for golfers.
It wasn’t until the 1980s, however, that the USGA upped funding for research after several years of extreme heat and drought. When it comes to extreme heat, golf courses plan to make use of natural fungi which acts to increase the tolerance of the green to heat. Grasses like tall fescue, which are often included in course rough, could benefit from the added fungi. This could be extremely beneficial to golf courses in the South where temperatures are expected to rise the most through the next couple decades.
In addition to extreme heat, drought has become a major threat to the existence of golf courses. Extreme drought in many golf-friendly regions of the country such as California and the Southeast in recent years have threatened to wipe out golf courses or make them more difficult to maintain. USGA research has found that certain genetically engineered varieties of buffalo grass could withstand heat up to an extremely high threshold. Using improved varieties of grasses, many of which are salt-resistant, could be helpful in the maintenance of coastal golf courses, which are found up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Using improved varieties of salt-resistant grasses allows these courses to use recycled water, which often has increased salt content. Fifteen percent of courses in the U.S. already reported using this method. Coastal courses also face another major threat: ocean flooding, which is expected to increase by 2100. Salt-resistant grasses would be able to withstand future flooding, whether it is astronomical or hurricane-induced.
While many courses have adopted the aforementioned techniques, one course in Florida took it a step further. Candler Hills in Ocala, Florida has enough solar energy from their solar panels that the course is sending energy back to the power grid. Golf course officials expect the golf course to pay for itself within a decade and will save the course $200,000 in electrical costs as long as the panels continue to function properly.
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©2018 Weather Forecaster Jacob Dolinger