The growing numbers of Americans who regularly flocked to these municipal golf courses convinced municipal governments that the sport was here to stay and that additional investments were warranted, and existing municipal golf courses were expanded and improved during the 1920s and a number of entrepreneurs across the country also enjoyed success by opening daily fee-based golf courses (Kirsch, 2007). During the early 20th century, a number of major universities in the United States also incorporated golf into their athletic program regimens, including Harvard and Yale (Napton & Laingen, 2008).
Perhaps the most significant event that contributed to the popularity of golf prior to World War I, though, was when a young player from Boston, Francis Ouimet, won the 1913 U.S. Open (Hardin, 2008). According to this golf historian, "Ouimet's accomplishment gave America its first golf hero. The media celebrated Ouimet's feat by portraying the former caddy as a national icon which, in turn, boosted the popularity of golf in the United States" (Hardin, 2008, p. 158). Like a modern Tiger Woods, the victory by Ouimet was amplified by the fact that he was just an "average Joe" who came from a family of modest means with no particular social connections (Hardin, 2008).
As a result, Ouimet was enormously popular with many Americans whether they were interested in golf or not. Contributing to the clamor that resulted from Ouimet's win was the fact that the victor was just in his early 20s, and had been a golf caddy during his summer vacations in high school prior to entering the U.S. Open (Hardin, 2008). The win by Ouimet not only propelled the young man from Boston into the national (and international) spotlight, it generated a new interest in the sport by Americans who had never considered it before as well. Likewise, Ouimet's victory, like the spectacular performances delivered by Tiger Woods, helped to make Ouimet a role model for countless young Americans who wanted to emulate his life and championship status thereby fueling interest by an entirely new generation (Hardin, 2008). According to Hardin, "Ouimet fit the ideal of an American hero, that is, a clean-cut boy from the 'wrong side of the tracks' who worked during his summer vacations. He was modest, appreciative, and a gentleman. The more people learned about Ouimet, the more they liked him. He was the perfect representative to bring golf to the masses" (Hardin, 2008, p. 158). As a result, by the mid-1910s, golf had become a national pastime that was being enjoyed by the rich and less-affluent alike, and community golf clubs assumed a new level of social significance for the affluent that lived in pricey suburban regions (McComb, 2004). Golf received further impetus and standardization of play during the early 20th century when the Professional Golfers' Association was established in 1916 (Moss, 2006).
Just as with its origins in Scotland, golf began as a sport for upper-class members of society in the United States who had the first golf courses built in and around eastern suburbs near coastal concentrations of population and important financial centers (Napton & Laingen, 2008). In fact, the vast majority of these original golf courses in the United States were private courses, a pattern that continued until the 1960s when public courses first outnumbered private ones (Napton & Laingen, 2008). According to Kirsch (2007), the introduction of public golf courses represents a milestone in the history of the sport in America where it ultimately became a more democratic activity that allowed anyone with the requisite resources and desire to participate.
Today, the golf industry represents one of the largest sectors of recreation in North America (Scott & Jones, 2006). Throughout North America, there are approximately 20,000 golf courses and about 30 million amateur golfers (Scott & Jones, 2006). In 2000, golf generated $62 billion in goods and services in the Unites States, and about $20.5 billion of these revenues were the result of expenditures at various golf facilities, primarily green fees (Scott & Jones, 2006). In fact, the golf industry in the U.S. has been estimated to generate about the same economic impact as the motion picture industry (Scott & Jones, 2006). Because of the large tracts of land that are required for a typical golf course, though, the sport is not without its detractors. According to Napton and Laingen (2008), there are few other sports besides golf that require so much land or impart such a significant impact on land as golf. Modern golf courses are readily identifiable from the air because of their regular patterns and the highly visible green that results from carefully maintained grounds (Napton & Laingen, 2008).
Although estimates tend to differ from year to year, one of the most recent indicates that golf is currently the eleventh most popular sport in the United States; from 1975 to 2000, golf experienced a four-fold increase in the number of actual players (from 10 million to in excess of 25 million), a rate that far outdistanced the corresponding increase in the general population (Napton & Laingen, 2008). These golfers played nearly 600 million rounds annually during this period (Napton & Laingen, 2008). While Napton and Laingen (2008) emphasize that golf courses are an important component in land use across the country, the approximate 16,000 golf courses in the United States require an area that is equal in size to the states of Delaware and Rhode Island together, and many observers are not convinced that this is the best use of these natural resources that theoretically belong to everyone, rather than just the golfing enthusiasts in the country (Napton & Laingen, 2008). In this regard, Platt (1999) reports that, "Around the world, golf course developments are disrupting human and ecological communities in ways rarely contemplated in golfing magazines or clubhouse restaurants: they displace people, destroy habitats, pollute surrounding water and air with their heavy concentrations of fertilizers and pesticides, and deplete public water supplies" (p. 27).
Despite these considerations, though, golf continued to experience significant growth throughout the 19990s and golf course construction became the fastest-growing type of land development on a global basis (Napton & Laingen, 2008). In fact, around the world, there are approximately 25,000 golf courses that require as much land as the country of Belgium (Platt, 1999). One of the most vocal critics of this restricted land use was the late comedian and social satirist George Carlin, who became increasingly critical of golf courses and the people who play it in his later years. In his comedy sketch, "Golf Courses and the Homeless," Carlin proposed: "I know just the place to build housing for the homeless: golf courses. it's perfect. Plenty of good land in nice neighborhoods that is currently being squandered on a mindless activity engaged in by white, well-to-do business criminals who use the game to get together so they can make deals to carve this country up a little finer among themselves" (quoted in Walsh, 2008 at para. 3).
Nevertheless, America's golf courses represent a significant investment of public and private capital and land. In many cases, golf courses are focal points of destination resorts and vacation areas and therefore provide incentives for recreational visitors as well as those seeking a golf-compatible lifestyle during their retirement years (Napton & Laingen, 2008). In fact, given the increasing amount of attention being focused on golf courses and their adverse effect on the environment through their high usage rates of pesticides and other chemicals as well as their prodigious use of water, it is somewhat ironic that the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) elected to hold its 72nd annual educational conference at the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course at the Westin La Paloma in Tucson, Arizona in 2008 with a primary theme of onsite wastewater management system (NEHA, 2008).
Irrespective of the particular pro-or con stance taken regarding golf courses, Schmidt (2006) emphasizes that the golf course are placed in many highly desirable, prime tracts of real estate and require large amounts of pesticides and water for their maintenance. Although it is possible to create golf courses in almost any type of terrain (even the desert where sand traps are everywhere), the majority of golfers want their courses to have bright green fairways and carefully manicured greens no matter where the course is situated (Schmidt, 2006). According to this authority, "Golf courses thus must be intensively coddled with lots of water and lots of pesticides. Each of the more than 17,000 golf courses in the United States alone can consume hundreds of thousands of gallons of water per day" (Schmidt, 2006, p. 286).
While no ready cost-effective alternatives exist for some of the chemicals that are being used to "coddle" golf courses in the United States, it is possible to do something about all of the water that is being devoted to this activity and conservation efforts are therefore a high priority for many golf course facilities across the country that are seeking to…