The results of Superintendent’s golf course superintendent survey revealed that 88 percent of you were either “concerned” or “very concerned” about the water crisis in the U.S.

Judging by what has been implemented on the golf course, it is refreshing to see that you are acting upon your concerns. For many years, there has been steady development of measures to improve water efficiency and reduce consumption, but nothing compares to what we have seen over the last two decades:

  • improved efficiency in irrigation systems and controllers,
  • moisture sensors,
  • irrigation audits,
  • mapping with GPS, and more.

When combined with research and education, those factors have made your water management strategies both more effective and more admirable.

Despite the advances, however, I do not believe the water issue will shrink in importance any time soon (short of not using any potable water).

Why? In my opinion, it is part perspective and part ignorance – and the best tool to address both of those things won’t come from a turf industry vendor, research paper or turfgrass seminar. That tool is communication, and if you aren’t employing it, you aren’t tackling your concern in full.

Our industry has largely dispelled the myth that golf is only for the affluent, but it hasn’t been eradicated completely. I don’t have to tell you that the elitist perception of the game by a solid percentage of Americans hinders our ability to portray golf as an activity for the masses. If you told the average person on the street that the community has 125 acres of green space enjoyed by 200 people a day, they’d likely approve because they’d think it was a park, soccer complex or trail system. If you told that person it was a golf course, however, they’d likely be less positive about the land use.

Golf “haters” who believe that golf is only for the rich will frown upon any use of water, no matter how efficient you are in using it. That is why the industry, through both its words and actions, must continue to position golf as an activity for people from all socio-economic backgrounds and age groups. In doing so, golf will gain a stronger and more positive foothold. We all have an opportunity to make a difference in this area.

All too often, perception is based on ignorance. Let’s face it: Those not well-versed in water use do not understand the hydrologic cycle or volume levels. When people drive by a golf course and see dozens of sprinkler heads spraying water all over the course, their assumption is likely to be negative. Heck, when something’s volume is measured in the “tens of thousands” of anything, it sounds like a lot.

Thanks to the work of GCSAA, its members, and funding from the USGA, we now have better information on golf course water usage. We know that overall water use on golf courses declined during the past 10 years, that about only 12 percent of water use is from municipal facilities, and that golf course superintendents are using numerous techniques to be more efficient in their water use.

Armed with that data, it is incumbent on everyone in the industry to communicate, to the choir and the congregation, about water use. With the growth of new communications technologies, we now have the ability to craft our own message and distribute it – in words, pictures and video. At the facility level, you have signage, bulletin boards, websites and newsletters. You can go beyond the 18 holes by reaching out to both traditional and social media. Just be sure that your actions match your words.

We should not apologize for using water on golf courses, which provide great economic, social and environmental benefits. But if we do not work to change perceptions, all of our positive work will go unnoticed.