How Green Is Too Green?

Bulldozers. Pesticides. Fertilizers. If you live in South Florida, golf's threat to the ecosystem might get you teed off.

Some preliminary sense of the threat to the local ecosystem should emerge from the upcoming county/state monitoring-well survey of the aquifer beneath five golf courses. Golf advocates aren't at all worried: An ongoing USGA-funded study at the University of Florida, they say, has demonstrated the effectiveness of turf as a sponge for filtering out chemicals.

Anne Leslie, a chemist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Atlanta, certifies these findings -- sort of. "This is the advantage that turf gives: Grass is a tremendous absorber of whatever chemicals you put down," she says. "Very little gets through to the groundwater."

Unless, she adds, the groundwater is near the surface.
Like in Dade County? "Well, yes," she ponders. "You could have some problems there."

During the past year, though, as part of a $3.9 million redesign undertaken to improve the course, workers killed the old grass, ripped out scores of trees, and reconfigured the water hazards. Having carted in 150,000 tons of sandy topsoil and shoved it around with bulldozers to form the current desertscape, workers recently began cultivating a lush blanket of Bermuda grass.

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