The author is a Canadian teaching English on the island, a contributor for The Weekly and an avid golfer.
Environmentalist groups have recently criticized Ecoland Golf Course for its desire to use chemical herbicides on the greens at its course. At the time of opening Ecoland had made a promise to operate without chemical pesticides or herbicides. Previous to November 2010, the course operated using a micro organism treatment. They were able to avoid using herbicides by also using grass native to Jeju which is more resilient to disease than imported bent grass which is in use at most other Jeju courses.
For many, the course was a shining beacon of light. They were changing the stereotype that golf courses need to be damaging to the environment. The course was and is still thriving with wildlife. The environmental measures also reduced the cost of upkeep on the course and so green fees were low. It seemed to be a perfect example of how being green, can also be good for business.
That was until this summer when the greens on the course were afflicted by some kind of algae. The grass was not able to survive, and on some greens there were small dirt patches. The greens are the most vitally important part of a golf course. They represent the only place where your shot does not leave the ground. Due to how short the grass is cut on the greens, the different type of soil that is used, as well the high level of foot traffic, greens are particularly vulnerable places. Good greens can make a course and poor greens can ruin one.
There are methods of maintaining a putting green without the use of herbicide or pesticide. However, during very humid months, the only defence against total collapse of a highly trafficked green may be the use of chemical herbicides or pesticides. Use of chemicals, to protect the greens Ecoland is therefore a totally reasonable course of action.
The misguided environmentalists who criticize Ecoland fail to consider that the greens only represent a small portion of the golf course. They also ignore the fact that Ecoland is still environmentally friendly in their use of grass native to Jeju which requires less watering. Ecoland also uses electric carts as opposed to more polluting gas powered carts. The course has left large swaths of forest intact and in doing so reduced the impact they have had upon the local ecology.
With some 40 or so chemical spewing golf courses on the island it seems absurd for environmentalists to go out and attack the one course that has tried to maintain all its grass without chemicals. For environmental groups to try to force Ecoland and its parent company The One Inc. to either close or remain open with shoddy greens is to shoot themselves and environmental movements in the foot. The multi-million dollar investment that is Ecoland can represent the success that environmentalism and business can enjoy. If Ecoland is forced out of business because they are not allowed to use herbicides at all, Ecoland will come to represent the incompatibility of being green and profitable, which would strongly deter other large companies from making large scale eco-friendly changes to their businesses.
I feel like Ecoland deserves recognition for having made steps in the right direction. As with many things, the process often involves two steps forward and one step back. Those groups critical of Ecoland’s decision should instead offer suggestions as to other ways the course could deal with the issues they have. Environmentalists could also focus their attention on other, far more important issues, such as recycling, reduction of waste, or the lax emissions standards which exist in this country.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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