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Sport, globalization and the environment

Golf is a major global industry. It is played by more than 60 million people worldwide, and there are more than 32 000 courses in 140 countries across the globe. Golf is a sport that has traditionally appealed to the wealthy and powerful in particular, though it attracts players and spectators from a wide range of demographics. Golf has also received criticism regarding its impact on the environment, particularly when it comes to the appropriation of land for golf course development and the use of water and pesticides in course management. The golf industry has, over time, responded to these and other concerns by stressing its capacity for recognizing and dealing with environmental problems. Yet there are reasons to be sceptical about the golf industry's environmental leadership – and, indeed, to be sceptical about corporate environmentalism in general. This book looks at the power relationships in and around golf, examining whether the industry has demonstrated such leadership on environmental matters that it should be trusted to make weighty decisions that have implications for public and environmental health. This is the first comprehensive study of the varying responses to golf-related environmental issues. It is based on extensive empirical work, including research into historical materials and interviews with stakeholders in golf such as course superintendents, protesters, and health professionals. The authors examine golf as a sport and as a global industry, drawing on and contributing to literatures pertaining to environmental sociology, global social movements, institutional change, corporate environmentalism and the sociology of sport.

The potential and challenges of a chemical-free golf alternative

Throughout this book we have described responses to golf-related environmental problems that are intended to ‘alter’ golf – that is, responses intended to revise and improve environment-related practices within the golf industry. For the most part, the ‘alter-golf’ responses we highlighted were led by mainstream golf industry members and their affiliates. We labelled these particular changes to golf course maintenance and construction ‘light green’ as a way of highlighting that these changes

in The greening of golf

In Chapters 3 and 4 we described the sea change under way in the golf industry in the post-war years. By the mid-1960s, golf’s landscapes had changed in a literal sense: thanks to a combination of powerful synthetic pesticides and powerful terrain-altering machinery, golf was making good on the modernist impulses held by its key spokespeople since it moved across the Atlantic. Yet the social and cultural landscapes surrounding golf were changing as well. On the one hand, television

in The greening of golf
Global and local forms of resistance to golf course development

In the previous three chapters we illustrated how and why members of the golf industry changed their environment-related practices over time. We focused especially on the strategies industry members used to frame and promote their now dominant ‘light-green’ position. One of our key findings was that industry was especially effective in their attempts to position light-green responses to environmental problems as the ‘only’ reasonable responses to these problems and, in turn, to position golf

in The greening of golf

By the 1970s, then, chemicals had grown invaluable to the golf industry. The question of why this was the case is easily answerable on the surface. As recounted in Chapter 3 , greenskeeper Joseph Valentine was not alone in thinking that the efficiency of pesticides was deeply appealing. Products such as DDT were the latest innovations in a lineage of time- and labour-saving devices – each contribution along these lines more remarkable than the last. Valentine’s sentiments were confirmed more

in The greening of golf
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Approaching golf and environmental issues

In a 1964 edition of The Golf Course Reporter , a premiere journal for course superintendents in North America, journal editor Gene C. Nutter wrote a scathing review of Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring . Carson, whose now-renowned book included criticisms of chemical companies for their environment-damaging behaviours, was admonished by Nutter for loading her arguments with emotional rather than scientific pleas, and for using “isolated examples” of pesticide-induced harms

in The greening of golf

In 2008, the magazine Golf Digest published a special feature on ‘golf and environmental issues’ that included an interview with Brent Blackwelder, a Duke University golf team alumnus who went on to become president of the American branch of the environmental non-governmental organization Friends of the Earth. To conclude the interview, Blackwelder was asked, “What would golf be like in a perfect world?” He responded as follows: You’d be playing on an organic

in The greening of golf
Professionalization and post-politics in the time of responsible golf

A key theme of our analysis so far is that managing a golf course is a difficult job, and became ever more so as golf adopted its ‘modern’ sensibilities. At present, the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association (CGSA) describes the duties of the golf superintendent as follows: The Superintendent must know and understand the complexities and interrelationships of soils, irrigation, plant pathology, entomology, plant fertility and drainage hydrology

in The greening of golf
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Golf comes to America

Having established our theoretical foundation, we begin this chapter in the early 1900s, at a time not long after golf had migrated to North America from the other side of the Atlantic. Golf’s official history in North America begins in 1873 with the foundation of the Royal Montreal Golf Club in Montreal, Canada (The Royal Montreal Golf Club, 2011 ). Fifteen years later, the first American course was formed in Yonkers, New York (see PGA.com, 2013 ). The journey from Europe to Canada and the United

in The greening of golf
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Environmental managerialism and golf’s conspicuous exemption

admissions of many in the golf industry in recent decades that an irresponsible past in the realm of environmental sustainability needed to give way to a responsible present and future. Whereas the golf industry in turn adopted measures such as IPM in response to the perceived ‘dangers’ of chemicals, McGuinty’s Liberal government unveiled the Cosmetic Pesticides Ban Act. To this point in The greening of golf , we have focused mainly on the activities of the golf industry itself. Although examining

in The greening of golf