Re: Golf

Subject: Re: Golf
From: "M. S. O'Keeffe" <>
Date: Sun, 08 Jun 1997 01:00:58 -0700
Toni Stansfield wrote:
> While I have some sympathy with your opinion that golf course designers
> could take a more environmental approach to planning, planting etc., I
> object very strongly to the description of golfers as elitist. I have
> played golf since I was a child. Most of the golfers I knew and know are
> ordinary people with ordinary bank accounts - but with a passion for
> their hobby. The birdwatchers I know fit into the same category. Isn't
> it great that some people enjoy golf - or cricket - or football- or
> whatever else - and haven't yet discovered the joys of birdwatching. If
> they were all converted, it would get very crowded out there. Maybe I'm
> wrong, but I did detect a slight note of self-righteousness in your
> letter, and contempt for those poor bewildered hackers who spend time
> wandering after a little white ball. But it takes their minds of their
> mortgages, you see.
> Toni Stansfield

I have received, as I expected, criticism of my opinion on golf courses.
It has been suggested that perhaps my observations of golf courses are
really self-righteousness dressed up as observation.  Not correct.  I
have considerable direct professional experience of golf course
developers and I can also claim my share of personal experience of the

Oh yes, I've golfed.  And I base my observations, in part on those
experiences.  I've carried my binoculars with me while whacking away and
I have yet to see a golf course which supported more than a good range
of farmyard birds.  By the definition in the Oxford dictionary, golf IS
an elite sport, since it caters primarily for a select few.  Golf course
memberships are now bought and sold on the stock market.  They are so
expensive that it is cheaper for wealthy Japanese business men to fly to
Australia for a game than it is to play on Japanese courses.  Those who
are presently paying to build many of the courses going in here there
and everywhere are not designing them for ordinary people. Have the
ordinary people really been clamouring for golf that much?   Ask the
poor farmers throughout Asia who are being displaced by golf whether
they think the sport is for ordinary people.  One could, or course,
claim that birdwatching, or indeed most other recreations (except
gardening, which something like 60% of the population claim to
"practice")are elitist. There is a fundamental difference.  My
birdwatching does not require the alienation of any land. It does not
require forest, heath, grassland or farmland to be cleared. Nor does it
require that my birding haunts be doused with chemicals or that the
local streams be drained or that they become drains.(All it really
requires is observation and appreciation) 
Like it or not, I'm afraid the problems I have mentioned are pretty much
the norm for golf courses. I don't hate golf per se. Or football. Or
tennis. Or model railway collecting.  But when football grounds are
built on lakes which are drained and filled, or if model railway towns
are built on the local heath with its 400 species of plants, I am
perfectly justified in getting stroppy.  And if model railway
enthusiasts or footballers or golfers are not speaking up to ensure that
their pastime is not destructive they will end up being criticised. Open
your eyes golfers, and speak up if you are concerned.  Insist that those
who provide your course do it properly.  As for my part, Im designing a
course. I hope it is actually built, and is good enough to set the
standard.  For starters, its being built on degraded land. The course
takes up only a third of the land, and instead of paying landscape
architects a fortune for silly clumps of Beverly Hill palm trees, we're
working with Greening Australia to restore nearly 40 ha of local
vegetation....... (if thats self-righteous, perhaps there should be more
of it). 
Scott O'Keeffe
Centre for Conservation Biology, University of Queensland

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