Viet Nam News
By Robert Bicknell
I guess the biggest story in Việt Nam lately was in regards to pollution and a lot of dead fish. This is the type of incident which not only affects the locals living in that area, the fisherman and the environment, but also causes reverberations around the world. Many countries start to more closely examine exports from the country.
In short, everybody suffers.
Yes, I know you’re sitting at home with your morning coffee saying "Sure Bob, but what does this have to do with golf?"
It has a lot to do with golf, but in a related manner - specifically, environmental practices and ensuring the golf courses and facilities are not polluting.
Contrary to what a lot of people mistakenly believe, most golf courses do everything they can to not cause pollution. The professionals (golf professionals and superintendents) in the business are considered "stewards of the environment" and we have a responsibility to make sure our golf courses not only meet the environmental standards of the host country, but also international standards.
If you read some of the negative, anti-golf websites, you would think that we run around wantonly spraying every possible toxic chemical known to mankind on the course in ridiculous amounts. I even saw a cartoon on one of those sites which suggested we used an old crop-duster to dive-bomb the fairways with hideous chemicals just to kill one mole cricket.
Which, of course, is utter rubbish. There is no such thing as just "one" mole cricket. Secondly, crop-dusters aren’t seen in Việt Nam. And most importantly, we have better ways to do it which are less expensive and less toxic. Please note the key words "less toxic".
First of all, let me give you some background into the chemicals used on the golf courses. The most common thing sprayed out there is fertilizers and, in Việt Nam, most of them are the same exact fertilizers and chemicals used by the farmers - except we use a lot LESS of it, and in a more diluted form. We also spot spray trouble areas instead of blanketing the entire area with the stuff.
Other common chemicals are fungicides, insecticides and selective herbicides. Yes, I can hear you gasping in horror… but have no fear because we don’t use a lot of them, partly because they are expensive and mostly because if the golf course superintendent is smart and experienced, he knows how to grow good turfgrass without needing those chemicals.
The biggest influence is which grass is selected for the golf course.
Unfortunately, a few years ago, someone decided to promote Seashore Paspalum as the ideal grass for golf courses. Yes, if your golf course is near the ocean, it makes perfect sense. However, many inland courses also selected it and the trouble began.
Despite many different strains, its virtually the same basic type of grass and has two things in common: A high tolerance for salt; and a complete lack of resistance to disease, so you need to work very hard to keep the grass healthy.
However, a smart superintendent who understands turfgrass science, knows that salt is the best ally for Paspalum. Throw some down once a week and guess what, no weeds. No Bermuda grass encroachment. Even the insects seem to hate it. It will not relieve every symptom, but it sure helps a lot.
Nowadays, turfgrass science is more proactive in that they find ways to keep the grass healthy and strong naturally. They use less toxic chemicals, and more natural nutrients. This makes a big difference, especially when it comes to guarding against pollution.
Most of the newer golf courses in Việt Nam are designed to be closed-systems, meaning the runoff water is controlled and filtered before it ever gets outside the facility. We know how to do this and the Vietnamese government now insists on it. No problem.
We also have professional technology to control all waste water from the maintenance areas, the clubhouse, kiosks and other areas. Nothing gets outside the facility without being treated.
And yes, the Government does conduct checks of air and water around the facility. They check out systems regularly to make sure we are in compliance.
We have no argument with this and are happy to oblige.
We all live here in Việt Nam and when something hurts the country, like the recent incident, we all suffer. But we will make sure golf in Việt Nam will never be to blame. VNS