Golf Courses Taking Measures to Reduce Run-off

A day on the links just wouldn’t be as enjoyable without a lush green on which to putt, but at many courses, the green wouldn’t be so green without fertilizer containing phosphorus.

Most people haven’t thought about phosphorus since high school chemistry class, but the chemical is found in everything from dish detergent to fertilizer.

A bill limiting its use is now on the desk of Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Phosphorus is being blamed for dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay, so the bill would make it illegal for people to use fertilizer with phosphorus for lawn care, including golf courses.

Surprisingly, many golf course superintendents supported the bill because they’ve already limited phosphorus use for environmental reasons.

“The association that we are in is very environmentally sound in what we do and have been for years. We just don’t normally get the credit for it, and we don’t search for the credit for it either,” explains the superintendent at Ingleside Golf Club, Edwin Eagle.

The bill would also require golf courses to limit chemical run-off.

Eagle says, though courses often get a bad reputation for pollution, many were already working to protect the bay before the General Assembly passed the bill.

“At Ingleside, we are trying to create what I call ‘buffer areas’ where we let the grass grow higher, and that helps with run-off,” adds Eagle.

He already uses phosphorus sparingly and only in liquid form, but he says he could live without it.

Eagles explains that the ground in the Valley is naturally phosphorus rich, so even if courses are unable to add the chemical, they can provide the grass with other nutrients to help it absorb the phosphorus already present. It will just mean relying a bit more on the magic and art of green maintenance.

“We’re pretty inventive in how we can make things with adding little bit of nothing to a little bit of anything,” quips Eagle.

If signed into law, the phosphorus ban would take effect in 2013, but it would not apply to gardeners, nurseries or new lawns.


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