Utne Blogs > Environment

The Air-Conditioned Golf Course

by Will Wlizlo

Tags: ground management, golf courses, SubAir, environment, BLDGBLOG, Golf Digest, Will Wlizlo,


To some, golf courses are Edenic symbols of leisure, athletic skill, and success; to others, the manicured grass and constructed hills represent opulence, waste, and sprawl. The latter group will probably feel like they’ve been hitting from sand trap to sand trap after reading this: SubAir, a company specializing in ventilation technology, has developed a mechanism that air conditions turf on golf courses.

To be clear, the SubAir system does not keep the air above the fairway 72 degrees on a 95-degree August afternoon. Instead, the units regulate the amount of water, air, and composition of both that enter the soil. “The concept is to supply fresh air into the root zone and help provide a more optimal growing environment for the plants,” SubAir project manager Kevin Crowe told Golf Digest’s David Owen. According to SubAir’s website,

Ripping up the earth to install computer-regulated machines sounds at first stroke like a double bogey for environmentalists. “The management of terrain from below by subterranean machine-strata embedded in the earth itself is surely an extravagance whose accepted price of operation does not include its long-term environmental cost,” writes BLDGBLOG’s Geoff Manaugh. Is ecological progress uprooted when the machines need repair? Even if soil surfaces are thriving, what effect will terrain-conditioning units have on deeper earth and the water table?

Despite his looming environmental concerns, Manaugh is an optimistic futurist at heart. Imagine, for a minute,” he concludes,

Sources: BLDGBLOG, Golf Digest 

Image by Dan Perry, licensed under Creative Commons.