About the Science of the Green Initiative
In May of 2017, Kelly Uhrich, presented her capstone project titled “The University of Minnesota Les Bolstad Golf Park”. The presentation represented the culmination of her work towards a masters degree in landscape architecture. The project envisioned an alternative future for the University of Minnesota Les Bolstad Golf Course, considered an underutilized university asset in Kelly’s opinion. The “golf park” designed additional uses and values into the business of the golf course. Things like pollinator habitat, wetland restoration, community park space, educational opportunities, and gathering spaces were all tied into the golf course so that a golfer could still have a great golfing experience while also allowing for the golf course to engage a variety of other stakeholders and users, and therefore increase the value that space provides to the community. Enjoy the VIDEO.
As a significant educational resource to the university, the University of Minnesota Les Bolstad Golf Course has become the first GolfLABSM site in the country. The Science of the Green Initiative ® has begun utilizing this historic golf facility to demonstrate how a golf course can become a laboratory for sustainability; focusing on engaging the community, achieving profitable finances, and producing a net positive environmental impact.
Visit the Science of the Green GolfLAB page.
University of Minnesota Les Bolstad Golf Course
Image: Parker Anderson
It is critically important, and at the heart of what it means to be a sustainable golf course, to provide a healthy environment for human and non-human inhabitants of the course. Developing a strategy for protecting pollinators must be addressed. Reducing, and potentially eliminating, the need for chemical applications on the course will often benefit pollinators. Planning a planting plan that addresses the flowering times of plants will provide pollinators with forage year round. Additionally, keeping honeybees on a golf course is a great opportunity for a mutually benefitial relationship. Honeybees provide valuable pollination services (a significant societal value) as well as provide the valuable resource of honey. In addition to these services, honeybees are a great educational tool. People are curious about honeybees and often engage in environmental stewardship based on their peaked interest in protecting pollinators.
UMN Bee Lab
Bees and Golf in the News
An increasingly common site:
Image: Parker Anderson
Historically the golf industry has fought against the incorporation of sustainability goals into their management strategies for fear of short-term costs and risks to quality of play. This resistance is often unfounded because environmental sustainability and economic profitability in the golf industry are not mutually exclusive.
Using the definition of sustainable golf that is built around care for the earth, care for the people, and fair share, there appears to be significant opportunity for the creation of shared value. The golf industry stands at a critical juncture; incorporation, exploration, and development of these opportunities for shared value appear as a strong chance for fostering the next generation of committed, responsible golfers and mitigating the effects of climate change on the game. Holistic and long-term considerations in golf course management decisions offer an exciting, fruitful future for the sport of golf. The Science of the Green Initiative is devoted to developing research projects that explore and create innovative strategies to guide the industry towards this sustainable future.
By Parker Anderson, Research Scientist
Sustainable Golf Definition
In order to achieve sustainability in the golf industry it is important to create a working definition of sustainable golf around which to frame specific research and recommendations for the industry. As an industry with a wide range of stakeholders and influences, the golf industry requires a holistic definition of sustainability in order to capture the many facets of influence and impact. In this definition the ethics of permaculture are used as guiding parameters for defining sustainable golf.
The permaculture movement includes the integration of three main tenets (see above diagram):
- Care for the Earth: the ecological and environmental benefits and implications of incorporating potential multi-use spaces and native ecosystems in golf courses
- Care for the People: the individual and communal benefits of restorative green space offered by golf courses
- Fair Share: an investigation of the natural capital of a golf course and the societal values associated with that resource as well as possible trade-offs in economic growth and sustainability
Sustainable golf occurs at the intersection of these three tenets.
By Parker Anderson, Research Scientist
Science of the Green Initiative
The Turfgrass Science Research Lab’s Science of the Green Initiative, a research partnership between the University of Minnesota and the United States Golf Association, just completed its pilot of a nation-wide study on the impact of course conditions on pace of play. This portion of the study focuses on the variable of green speed. Green speeds not only impact player experience but also the maintenance practices of course superintendents. The pilot study was conducted at the Philadelphia Cricket Club Militia Hill Course just outside of Philadelphia, PA. A University of Minnesota Turfgrass Researcher worked with the host superintendent to adjust the speed of the greens (Image 1) in three consecutive weeks while maintaining the rest of the course consistent with the standards of their facility. Golfers participating in the study were given GPS loggers (Image 2) to carry in their pocket. The GPS loggers captured time and location of each golfer during their round. The GPS loggers were then collected at the end of the round and the data analyzed. The result for each golfer is a “track” of their path throughout their round (Image 3). Researchers can now analyze these tracks and compare the tracks from week to week focusing on the player’s interaction with the green. Future study sites for this project will be in Minnesota, Northern California, the Carolinas, and Philadelphia.
Image 1: Militia Hill Course Superintendent Curtis Harder checks green firmness, green moisture content, and green speed. (Photo: Parker Anderson)
Image 2: GPS logger, about the size of a flash drive, used to capture data during a round of golf. A golfer will receive a GPS logger on the first tee, keep it in their pocket for the round, and turn it in after their round. (Photo courtesy of the United States Golf Association)
Image 3: A visual representation of the data, or an individual golfer’s “track”, resulting from using a GPS logger for a round of golf. (Image courtesy of Google Earth)