GCSAA Research Offers Profile of Golf Courses

The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) has published a report that outlines what a typical 18-hole golf course looks like. Until recently, it was anyone's guess as to the makeup of thousands of these playing fields.

GCSAA's Golf Course Environmental Profile is a collection of data on property features, management practices and inputs associated with golf courses across the United States. The project is actually a series of five surveys that will be completed by 2009, focusing on property features, management practices and input associated with golf courses and their maintenance. The process will be replicated in the future to document change and identify key issues for potential future research.

Results from the first survey were compiled and published in the November 2007 edition of the online scientific journal, "Applied Turfgrass Science." The article, "Golf Course Profile Describes Turfgrass, Landscape, and Environmental Stewardship Features," was written by GCSAA Director of Environmental Programs Greg Lyman, Director of Research Clark Throssell, Ph.D., Senior Manager of Environmental Programs Mark Johnson, Senior Manager of Market Research Data Greg Stacey and National Golf Foundation Director of Research Clark Brown. Non-subscribers of "Applied Turfgrass Science" can receive a copy of the article by contacting Lyman at glyman@gcsaa.org.     

According to the survey, the average acreage for an 18-hole golf course is 150 acres, with only 100 acres maintained as turfgrass. On most courses, intense maintenance is limited to only six acres (three acres each for tees and greens). From an environmental management perspective, during the last 10 years an 18-hole facility has, on average, implemented five environmental improvements to enhance golf course stewardship.

"We are pleased with the project on many fronts," Throssell said. "First, the participation we have received from GCSAA member and non-member superintendents is appreciated and crucial to the project's success. Second, we are pleased that editors at 'Applied Turfgrass Science' reviewed the work and accepted the manuscript for publication. Third, the information of this first survey provides a strong foundation for creating a golf-course profile that will assist in identifying research, programming and communication that will enhance golf course management. Lastly, this project could not have been undertaken without the support of the Environmental Institute for Golf, its donors and The Toro Foundation."

The National Golf Foundation helped conduct the survey, manage the recruitment of participants and analyze the data in collaboration with GCSAA. The survey was distributed to 16,009 golf courses in March 2006, with responses accepted until July 2006. A total of 2,981 usable surveys were returned (an 18.6 percent return rate), and all types of courses (daily-fee, municipal, private, etc.) were adequately represented across seven agronomic regions of the nation.

"The success of the project lies squarely on the shoulders of the facilities in providing data," Throssell said. "It is important that the leadership at these facilities and golf's allied associations support the golf course superintendent in this project. This is an intense process and we appreciate their efforts."

While the results of the first survey did not surprise Lyman, he indicated he was encouraged by the environmental stewardship that superintendents are displaying on the golf course. He is hopeful that the data supporting the positive contributions of formal, voluntary environmental stewardship programs will increase from the current 29 percent participation rate nationally.

For more details, visit www.gcsaa.org.