Eric Piolle points out the always watered golf greens

FOCUS – In anti-drought decrees, a derogation allows green spaces to be watered (green vegetables) golf. The mayor of Grenoble Éric Piolle denounces a measure of convenience, which aims “to protect the rich and the powerful”. But is playing golf only for wealthy people? And are golf course managers and their practitioners so careless about the environment? No, according to professionals in the sector who see it as stubborn clichés.

Why can we water the golf greens when everyone is short of water? »a pretense of questioning the mayor of Grenoble Éric Piolle on the set of BFM TV, July 31, 2022. “ It just shows that the state of mind is not the right one […], where we continue to protect the richest, the most powerful. Emmanuel Macron’s mandate has been, I believe, the symbol of this for five years. “, he added.

Do golf professionals thus escape water restrictions in order to always take care of a privileged public? Éric Besse, director of the Bresson and Seyssins golf courses for the Bluegreen course manager, sees some relevant clichés more “of a relentless ideology which does not reflect the reality on the ground. »

Watering restrictions

What is this reality? A golf course consists first of all of a starting area (1), then passes through the fairway (7), an alley which leads to the green (8), short grass area where the hole is located, at the end of the course. Or the water consumption of golf courses has already been reduced by 60%, as part of the drought system provided for in the Golf and Environment 2020-2024 framework agreement signed by the State and players in the sector in France.

With drought alert 4, only the start (1) and the green (8) are still watered. The fairways (7) have not received any water for four weeks in Bresson. © R. Engelhardt – Wikipedia

And this framework agreement stipulates that in the event of ” reinforced crisis threshold » as in case of drought alert 4, it is forbidden to water the golf courses as a whole. ” The greens could however be preserved. But the quantity of water used cannot then exceed 30% of the usual volumes.

The Bresson site, for example, has 18 greens, which must be maintained. ” With drought alert 4, only the tee (1) and the green (8) are still wateredsays Éric Besse. The fairways (7) have not received any water for four weeks in Bresson. » Evidenced by the dry grass on the course.

© Eric Besse / Bleuvert

On the courses, watering is limited to what is strictly necessary to keep the heart of the golf courses alive. © Eric Besse – Blue green

“If there are no more golf greens, there is no more golf! », emphasizes Eric Bresse. However, it is the central part of a course that requires a significant initial investment. About 300,000 euros, according to the director.

Golf greens with regulated consumption

Should golf courses be closed in times of drought? “A counterproductive measure” for the manager, because watering the green vegetables would still be retained. This would also have social consequences insofar as the Bresson structure employs around thirty employees.

“The French golf federation has been working for ten years with the prefecture to set up watering restriction zones on golf courses in the event of drought”, further specifies Éric Besse. Decisions to maintain a golf course are subject to grids, criteria based on water services and the Ministry of Agriculture. However, there may be derogations depending on the regions, the prefectures and the origin of the water in order to be able to irrigate more.

© Eric Besse / Bleuvert

The golf courses of the territory apply the prefectural decree of May 18, 2022 setting the framework for measures for the management and preservation of water resources in times of drought in the department of Isère © Eric Besse – Bluegreen

The manager Bluegreen has been working for several years to optimize the water consumption of its establishments. Hence a change in the irrigation system. In addition, during this period of high heat, the greens and tees are watered at night at a frequency of two to three times a week (compared to every day in normal times).

Antinomic demand for drought and golf?

For the course director, it is not inconceivable to play during this period. The approach is just different and more like what the English do, with just the greens and watered tees. Historically, rangelands in Anglo-Saxon countries are thus dry during periods of drought. “The idea is to make the golf federation and all the partners work in this direction. »

© Eric Besse / Bleuvert

Regional, national and international customers will have to deal with the drought. © Eric Besse – Blue green

Practitioners are also informed in advance of the state of the courses and the prices are adapted to the situation of drought. In Bresson and Seyssins, prices are reduced by 30% to encourage golfers to practice in these far from optimal conditions. “Indeed, the balls do not stop rolling on dry ground, especially in Bresson, a course with a drop”, says Eric Besse.

A practice that is becoming more democratic
Is golf still reserved for a very wealthy clientele? No, assures this professional. His practice is becoming more democratic, he says. “Today, you can learn to play for 79 euros per month. » The policy is to allow as many people as possible to try out. Free courses are offered for a month and a half, around September. The structure lends the bag for a year, in case of extension, and the courses are unlimited.
“The pool of people who practice golf today is much more open than before. But even if we try to invite Eric Piolle to see it, he will surely not come! », ironically Eric Besse.

The precise water consumption of the greens remains difficult to know, however.

How many cubic meters does a golf consume? Water consumption varies greatly depending on the type of course, the nature of the soil, the region, etc. However, the average annual water consumption of a golf course at the national level is 25,000 m³ per 9-hole section, according to the French Golf Federation.

© Eric Besse / Bleuvert

At present, the 70 hectares of vegetation in the Bresson golf course are more like the African savannah than the verdant grove. © Eric Besse – BluegreenWater quality and sanitation in France

And overall water consumption on all French golf courses would have fallen by 14% over the period 2006 – 2010, according to the federation. Data from the National Golf and Environment Charter dated March 18, 2013… which is almost ten years old. These efforts seem to continue to save water, but it is difficult to be more precise, for lack of recent reliable aggregated data.

Asked about the subject, Éric Besse replied that he did not really know the consumption of his establishments in the year. But he assures that “the sinews of war is water consumption”. And adds: “We don’t expect anyone to be measured and respectful of the environment”.

Finally, Éric Piolle underlined “bad state of mind” of this measure authorizing the watering of golf greens. The director of the Bresson and Seyssins establishments replies that the discipline “is not limited to a retransmission of a competition on television” and invites him to come and see the reality “on the ground”.

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