Clearing the way: Golf courses are benefitting by removing trees

Golf courses can greatly benefit from removing trees, and improving safety, playability, and aesthetics. But the idea is often met with disapproval from club committees.

Tree-lined fairways can sometimes seem like a nice thing, especially when you’re hitting the ball straight. Long shadows during an early morning or late evening round of golf are a thing of beauty.

But trees can also interfere with the playability of the course, and maintaining the growth of the greenery around them comes with its own set of challenges. Ask any greenskeeper about the difficulty of growing grass in the shade of a large tree.

In a recent feature for Australian Golf Digest, Derek Duncan and Steve Keipert cover the detrimental tree planting on golf courses over the past century, and their impact on not just playing lines but on local wildlife as well.

It seems the problems that come from adding trees, particularly non-native ones to a golf course are finally being understood by club committees, and the benefits of removing trees are being realized.

Not everyone believed the forestation of the course was a good thing. Shortly after Larry Nelson won the US Open there in 1983, former long-time head professional Bob Ford took the Oakmont greens committee out to the first hole to demonstrate how overgrown and invasive the trees had become. He climbed into a fairway bunker and asked them to stand behind to see what kind of shot a player in that position faced.

“I had to hit out of the bunker and over a tree to get to the green,” he says, “and the tree was 50 feet tall by then. I looked at the grounds chairman to get his reaction, and he said, ‘You know, Bob’s right – we need to take that bunker out.’”

It’s a fascinating read and well worth your time. At the very least I now know about the Bob O’Link Golf Course.

Check out the full article The Last Stand, over at Australian Golf Digest.

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