Golf Course Go Organic, Playing With Fewer Greens

With golf courses increasingly being criticized for environmentally unfriendly practices, the Vineyard Golf Club has become a model for alternative maintenance techniques.

It has opened eight years ago, the club is thought to be the only completely golf course go organic in the US.

Its 18 holes golf course is groomed without the use of synthetic pesticide, fertilizer, herbicide or other artificial chemical treatment. Jeff Carlson is the superintendent charged with maintaining the club grounds.

“When we started here, some of my peers thought this golf course would be a dust bowl,” Carlson said. “I admit I wasn’t so sure it could be done myself. People said we were crazy.”

The Vineyard Golf Club opened, it was the first club in 30 years built on the island, where the wealthy, many of them environmentally conscious but also accustomed to playing on chemically enhanced private courses, have long keep summer homes.

There is no clear definition of what constitutes an organic golf course. Opposition on this liberal leaning island was fierce. The Martha’s Vineyard Commission eventually allowed the course, prohibiting the use of any product whose active ingredient was synthetically produced.

The club has now a prominent endorsement, President Obama playing the course twice last year. When the private club opened in 2002, Mr. Carlson was in hand to hand combat with fungal diseases, insects, grubs and the skunks, crows and raccoons that tore up the turf to get to the grubs.

There was also the matter of teaching the membership that nothing in the rules of golf that the game always be played on green grass. “We have to promote the notion of playability rather than visual perfection,” Carlson said.

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