Distant Greens - Aiming for Green (Part 3 -Final)

Editor: In this third and final part Of Aiming for Green, Paul sums up his perspective on the “new ” thinking about golf course development in Asia

“Golf courses – like many things – are not simply good or evil,” Bruce Tolentino, a director at The Asia Foundation, points out. Some are wasteful or environmentally destructive, while others are as environmentally friendly as current technology allows. “As we learn more about the environmental impact of what we do,” Tolentino says, “we see courses adjusting in response.”

I still needed to see for myself. So I went to Cambodia to see how to handle the challenge of buildings a course in a seasonally dry region. In designing the new Phokeethra course in the historic city…of Siem Reap, Thai architect Weerayudth Phetbuasak worked with Sofitel, the resorts managing company, to provide adequate water without harming the ecosystem or jeopardizing the water supply of local farmers. To do so, he created 19 lakes holding 800,000 cubic meters to collect rainwater for irrigation, and a pumping system to channel the water through all the water hazards on the course.

Other Asian courses have addressed environmental challenges in different ways. Red Mountain Golf Course on Phuket was built on a disused tin mine, a good example of restoration ecology in which a devastated, empty landscape has been transformed into a vibrant relatively natural ecosystem., today the course has become a haven for wild birds seeking sanctuary on an island where green space is fast disappearing.

Vietnam Golf and Country Club, outside Ho Chi Minh City, takes a “minimalist approach” to fertilizer and pesticide use, according to Blair Cornthwaite, the club’s general manager. One innovative strategy is to use the organic by-product produced by a nearby monosodium glutamate factory to produce liquid organic fertilizer.

Bangkok Golf Club has taken a pro-active route to promoting biodiversity – they have planted some 2,500 species of plants and trees and introduced a wide variety of local waterfowl and other birds to create an “all-natural” aviary.

Jeffrey A. McNeely, chief scientist of the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature, and a keen golfer, recognizes the need for responsible golf development, but thinks it’s possible to create sustainable courses in the future. “All land use has an impact on the environment. The trick is to minimize damage and, where possible, enhance natural values, “he says. “While there is no standard global certification process, an increasing number of people in the conservation movement recognize that golf is here to stay and urge that golf courses take steps to improve the site on which they are built. They can do it, but it takes some effort, planning and commitment:”

I got a good indication of the Keppel Club’s strategic importance on the course’s par-4 18th hole. Just 100 meters behind the tee-box, Singapore is adding a new station to its subway system. Behind that building site cars whizzed past on the West Coast Highway, and behind that the Singapore skyline stood in all its steel-and-glass prominence.

But turning my back on “new” Singapore, I tee up and spot a broad green expanse on the right side of the uphill fairway. It’s the Belayar Creek mangrove, and as I walk to my ball I smell the moldy, musky scent of a living mangrove, where the vegetation grows and deteriorates in a satisfying, never-ending cycle. I read a signboard posted by the club that told me that the rare Tanimbar cockatoo, Cacatua goffini, which is listed as “near threatened” internationally by conservation experts, has been sighted here, just one of the 58 bird species which have been recorded within the club’s territory. This isn’t just a golf course after all.

(c) Paul Spencer Sochaczewski, Reprinted with permission.  Be sure to read Paul Sochaczewski’s new book The Sultan and the Mermaid Queen (Editions Didier Millet 2008), and can be ordered at: Amazon.com

We hope you enjoyed this article – please let us know. The Editor

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