Tuesday, November 10, 2009

One More Reason to Hate Golf

In addition to the boredom, there's another reason to hate golf:

Research teams at the Danish Golf Union have discovered it takes between 100 to 1,000 years for a golf ball to decompose naturally. A startling fact when it is also estimated 300 million balls are lost or discarded in the United States alone, every year. It seems the simple plastic golf ball is increasingly becoming a major litter problem.
Though I'm far from an authority, I have long thought golf was one of the most offensive "privileges" of middle- and upper-class Americans. It's not just the classism (though that doesn't help), nor the sheer boring nature of the so-called "sport," which ranks just above Nascar in terms of "sportiness" to me (and I have both watched golf and played a few rounds, trying to make sense of why it's interesting, to no avail). Golf courses take up an inordinate amount of land - the square mileage of two and a half Rhode Islands in the U.S. alone. Yes, it's our smallest state, but still - two and a half states worth of golf courses in this country.

And then, there's the environmental damage. "But golf courses are green and have trees!" Sure - and they need ridiculous amounts of watering to stay "green." And there's the expense of gasoline used to mow the greens (nobody's going out there with handmowers, folks). And in places like the Southwest, where water is scarce and grass not exactly a "natural" phenomena, the environmental tolls of golf courses is even greater. In my first year at the University of New Mexico at the beginning of the decade, out-of-state tuition for two semesters cost about $10,000, and a friend and I bitterly half-joked that at least half of that tuition was paying to water the two golf courses UNM has. Arizona is even worse - 330 sunny days a year, and some of the lushest golf courses. I've had friends who were golfers and were offended by my suggestion that if you want to golf, don't live in the desert, and if you want to live in the desert, don't golf. They were horrified at such a "radical" proposal, but that's just how entrenched the privilege of golf has become to some people.

And now, the golf balls issue. I would occasionally wonder what happened to lost balls, but never in great detail. Still, 1000 years to biodegrade, and 300 million lost or discarded balls in the U.S. alone each year? On top of the land use issues and the wasteful use of resources for middle-class and upper-class (mostly white) people? Just one more reminder of why golf is awful.

[On a semi-related note, I've also always wondered about cigarette butts - are they biodegradable? How long do they take to biodegrade? This is another one of those everyday "rights" that people seem to accept uncritically, without ever considering the environmental tolls not of the smoke itself, but of the butts they unthinkingly throw anywhere and everywhere.]