City Courses Expensive, Poisoned

City-owned golf is under-used, expensive, and toxic. So why keep them?

By Matt Baume
|  Wednesday, Oct 13, 2010  |  Updated 12:07 PM PDT
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Open House: A Golf Course View Estate

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Golf is popular in San Francisco, but is a city course worth the cost?

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If a good game worth it if it means standing ankle-deep in poison?

Of the more than 2,000 pounds of pesticide applied each year to San Francisco parks, nearly half goes on to golf courses. Although application citywide has declined over the last decade and a half, five municipal golf courses still get a heavy dosing of toxic chemicals.

The worst is the Harding Golf Course near Lake Merced. Not only are the most dangerous chemicals applied there, and not only are they applied in the greatest amount, but pesticides have been shown to filter their way down into the watershed and infiltrate streams and lakes. That means that threatened species around the lake may be dying out so that a few golfers can have a dandelion-free lawn.

One reason for the pesticide use: budget cuts. When Rec and Parks cuts staff, it has to rely increasingly on chemical pest and week management.

Of course, the city could always ditch the golf courses and turn them into more natural parkland. There's no shortage of courses in nearby cities, and San Francisco's courses are notoriously under-used. A recent analyst recommended re-examining city ownership of such amenities, citing the high cost and meager public benefit.

But no matter which way you look at it, losing the golf courses and their accompanying poisons would probably be a win for the environment.

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