Summer is just around the corner, and you know what that means: blockbuster disaster movies on big screens across the world, depicting all sorts of crazy Doomsday scenarios.
Well, the Pulitzer Prizes were announced recently, and the winner in the Feature Writing category was New Yorker writer Kathryn Schulz’s piece “The Really Big One,” about the potential for a devastating earthquake along the Cascadia subduction zone, a barrier between a geological ocean plate and a land plate that runs down much of the Pacific Northwest United States.
Not that this would be a major concern in the grand scheme of things, but if “the big one” were to happen there or in Northern California, some of the world’s favorite cliffside layouts could be tossed into the ocean or crumpled beyond use. So…let’s hope that doesn’t happen.
Unfortunately, earthquakes are not the only future global events threatening some of the world’s favorite golf destinations…
No matter your stance on global climate change, it is demonstrably true that whatever the cause, sea levels have risen in the last few decades, causing beach erosion and the general encroachment of the sea on many golf courses. Abroad, many of the world’s great links are under threat – particularly those in and around St. Andrews. Jan Bebbington, a professor at the University of St. Andrews, has predicted that The Old Course could find itself completely underwater as soon as 2050. Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen.
Stateside, the Links course at Wild Dunes Resort has experienced the very real effects of rising sea levels and beach erosion. In the last couple years, it became necessary to shorten and move the 18th hole away from the advancing surf, as the Atlantic Ocean had carved away the original greensite. Other coastal courses like The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, Sea Island’s layouts and any number of Florida courses could face similar fates if sea levels continue to rise – and their rise continues to accelerate – in coming years.
Water shortages and restrictions
We are big fans of desert golf, but in light of the recent droughts across the West – particularly in California – many golf courses have been forced to cut back on their water usage, some by more than 25%. If such conditions continue, courses in places like Palm Springs and Phoenix/Scottsdale, which need a lot of water just to keep the grass alive – much less an unnatural shade of emerald green – will need to radically rethink their maintenance philosophies in order to keep serving golfers, who will in turn have to adjust their own perspectives on what it means for a course to be “in good shape.”
At the risk of coming off as being totally doom-and-gloom, there is some good news on this front. Many courses out West have adapted capably to new realities of water usage, and the result has been firmer, faster playing surfaces, which golfers are increasingly regarding as perfectly acceptable compensation for any changes in grass color.
What are your thoughts on the potential threats Mother Nature poses to golf courses? Be sure to let us know in the comments!