Golf has been on a steady rise as the rich man's sport, but people seem oblivious to its detrimental effects on our planet.
At first sight, Golf appears to be a rich person’s sport. And you are, to an extent, right. Golf started as a middle-class sport but soon transcended to an upper-class leisure activity (thanks, society). Now you may wonder why we are picking on such a peaceful sport when aggressive, more dangerous sports like UFC or WWE exist. The thing is, Golf might seem benign, but that’s where the naïvety of the sport ends. Golf as a sport and a lifestyle has numerous passive effects on the environment, society, and our planet in general.
How Golf became “Golf”
As surprising as it may sound, Donald Trump did not popularise Golf no matter how many images we’ve seen of him in his quirky attire. Nor was it Tiger Woods. Golf is more than a century old and is believed to have originated from Scotland. However, the sport wasn’t exclusive to just Scotland, and similar variants of the sport have been spotted in other parts of the world.
The genius idea of hitting a ball into a hole in the ground started gaining traction in Europe first and by the end of the 19th century, was a social sport to boot. But the real popularity came when the sport started crossing borders. After World War II, Golf was introduced to the US, and we might say that’s where the sport started spiralling.
Nothing against the USA of course, but the turning point here was the immediate and extreme exposure it got after the Americans started playing it. America has always been a role model for all the other countries in the modern era (post World War II), whether good or bad, and Golf received the same treatment. That’s where our problem begins.
The Environmental Chaos of Golf
The biggest issue surrounding the sport is the infrastructure. If you’ve ever been to a golf course, you must have been mesmerised by the scenic views, smooth crests, lush trees and beautifully landscaped terrain courses. What people do fail to realise is that none of this is natural. Golf courses are one of the most synthetic landscapes known to man and for a reason.
Golf as a sport is designed to look as natural as possible. You aim to sink the golf ball into a hole while battling the natural elements. Maybe, in 19th century Europe, people played Golf on grasslands or near babbling brooks or riverside.
But now, you barely find such natural landscapes in populated areas. Hence, golf clubs take it upon themselves to set and prune the land based on their ideologies. This results in fantastic looking courses, 9-holes or 18-holes or even mini-golf for that matter, but the cost is too high.
The Victims are Not Just Plants
Golf preys on the fauna too. Ruining the local ecology also results in displacing hundreds of animals who called the courses their home. Most common victims of Golf are squirrels, birds and insects. But sometimes, animals like deer, raccoons, and even fishes get caught in the cross-hair.
To think that Golf is a land-based “sport” and affects only the land would be folly. If anything, aquatic effects have sometimes outweighed everything else—most golf courses like including water on their landscapes. While most are simple lakes or even rivers, exotic resorts and clubs often create courses next to the sea or oceans. And if history is to go by, humans next to anything spells danger.
The golf balls that seemingly get “lost” when overshot end up in these water bodies. They threaten the wildlife, harm the plants, disturb the ecosystem, and so much more. This is often coupled with zero responsibility from the authorities and the businesses responsible for the mess. The land and water pollution with ecological destruction is nothing less than ecocide.
Pebble Beach (a resort in California) alone has released between 1 to 5 million golf balls into coastal water, since its inauguration.
Humans Are Affected Too
Without being selfish as the human species, it is also important to note that Golf ruins human lives. Some golf courses and clubs are created by razing down entire forests and even suburban neighbourhoods. The land used to create ONE golf club is enough to house hundreds of families and essential services.
And even if that wasn’t a huge issue, each club has a membership going up to thousands of dollars. The rich-poor divide becomes evident here, and Golf is no longer a sport. It started as a unique hobby and is now back to a hobby, albeit a luxurious one. Maybe, the attention should shift from beautifying meaningless landscapes to cleaning up the earth.
Golf in the 21st century is nothing but a wastage of land, water, resources, time and of course, money. Society does not need Golf, which might be the most dangerous sporting activity for our planet right now.