‘Brown is the new green’ at sustainable US Open golf course

The US Open golf championship, which kicked off this week, is being held at a course labelled "the poster child of sustainable golf", but not all players are happy with the new water-reduced playing surface.

For the first time, the US Open will be held at Chambers Bay golf course in Washington – a course with a strong sustainability focus. It uses a limited amount of water compared to many other golf courses in the US, which often rely on lush but incredibility water-intensive grass and water features.

Chambers Bay is a walking-only course, meaning it doesn’t allow golf carts. This has allowed the course team to plant ‘fine fescue’ grass, which is highly drought-tolerant and requires far less water to maintain than many traditional US golf courses.

Disgruntled players

The United States Golf Association (USGA) wants the course to be an example of a sustainability drive it is calling “brown is the new green” – a move away from the heavily watered, bright green golf courses common at US golf championships.

But after the opening day (18 June), some players have said they were struggling with these ‘brown’ greens and fairways. World number 8 Sergio Garcia tweeted:

Former Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie told Sky Sports News: “The quality of the surface of the greens is extremely poor. That is going to take away the consistency of the putts.”

Chambers Bay also features a drainage system with sediment-retaining ponds; filtration basins by plants and soil and bioswales which remove pollution and silt from surface runoff water.

USGA executive director Mike Davis told the Washington Post last year water scarcity was set to become a major problem facing golf. “We happen to think that, long-term, water is going to be the biggest obstacle in the game of golf,” said Davis. “It’s not going to be a question of cost. It’s a question of: will you be able to get it?”

Sustainability drive

Earlier this year, edie reported that a number of UK golf clubs had begun their own sustainability drives; turning to wood pellet boiler systems in their own bid to improve sustainability credentials.

Windermere Golf Club in the Lake District and Taunton and Pickeridge Golf Club in Somerset installed biomass boiler systems to generate renewable heat energy for their buildings. Windermere also stated it was investing in a waste-to-water filtration scheme and a zero-waste-to-landfill recycling scheme to increase its sustainability.

Henrick Stenson and Dustin Johnson came through as overnight leaders in the first round of the US Open, sharing the lead on -5.

Matt Field

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