How To Avoid Possible Exposure to Pesticides While Playing Golf

If you love golfing and want to reduce your exposure here are a few tips from the pros.

Many golf courses are exempt from provincial bans against using pesticides for cosmetic purposes.  But if you love golfing and want to reduce the risk of any potential exposure here are a few tips:

Play on an organic course.

The Vineyard Golf Club on Martha’s Vineyard featured in Dad and the Dandelions and famously visited by former US president Barack Obama sets the standard for industry impact. Kitchen sink detergent and vinegar are used to keep the greens playable and microscopic worms are brought in to keep turf-ruining grubs in check. Getting a round in might to be tough though because the club is members only and has a waiting list.

SCENE FROM THE FILM: A visit to the Vineyard Golf Club in Martha's Vineyard.

To find environment-friendly courses in Canada, the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf certifies courses that meet specific standards for water use, pesticides and native vegetation. Of the roughly 2,400 golf courses in Canada, just over 80 are certified with more in progress.

Find out what pesticides golf courses in your area are using.
Kissing a golf ball. Definitely, do not do this!

In Ontario, all golf courses are now required to report online about pesticide use.  Annual reports are available online.  Click the green button to search for a registered golf course. The reporting has been mandated since 2009.  Director Andrew Nisker checks the site to make an informed decision to play on courses that use fewer pesticides and are making efforts to reduce them year over year.

In Quebec, golf courses are required to submit pesticide use reduction plans every three years (as of April 2006). And in New Brunswick and PEI, golf courses are generally not subject to restrictions provided they obtain Integrated Pest Management accreditation.

Environmentalists are hopeful that these reporting requirements will shed light on usage and encourage a decrease in pesticide use across the country. Generally, public and municipal courses aren't heavy chemical users because they don't have the budget.

Don’t golf when the pesticides have been recently applied.

Find out from the golf course superintendent what chemicals were applied and when. Golf courses schedule their applications, so there’s minimal contact with players.  

In some places, there is a requirement for a sign at the clubhouse and at the first tee and the tenth tee notifying the public of the application.

Avoid direct contact with the greens.
SCENE FROM THE FILM: Andrew interviews Aaron Blair, Scientist Emeritus, National Cancer Institute, Maryland

Wear long pants when weather allows, wash your hands and forearms at the end of a round and never play in your bare feet.

Don’t move anything from the turf to your mouth.  Don’t give your golf balls a 'go-faster' lick before teeing off.

Find out more about how the industry is working with environmentalists to 'green' their greens.

Available on CBC Gem

Dad and the Dandelions

Nature of Things