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3PM Report: Pesticide Use on Michigan’s Golf Courses

By David White, Region 1 Lead Pesticide Inspector
Pesticide and Plant Pest Management Division
Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

One of Michigan’s greatest pastimes for many residents and tourists alike in the summer months is the game of golf.  Michigan’s approximately 900 golf courses stretch all the way from the Ohio and Indiana border to the shores of Lake Superior, and perhaps millions of golfers patronize Michigan golf courses over the course of the season.  Having strong, vigorous, and attractive turf is important for a successful golf course.  In most cases, pesticides are necessary to maintain strong and attractive fairways and greens.  From broadleaf weed control and grub control to the use of fungicides to control foliar, stem, and root diseases, pesticides are used extensively on golf courses.  The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), Pesticide and Plant Pest Management Division regulates the use of pesticides on golf courses in an effort to safeguard the environment as well as to minimize chemical exposure to the handlers of pesticides and to the patrons of Michigan’s golf courses.  The misapplication of pesticides or the inadvertent exposure of the chemicals to persons on the golf course could be hazardous.  To ensure compliance with Michigan’s rules and regulations concerning the use of pesticides, MDARD conducts inspections at golf courses.

One of the primary requirements that must be followed is that each person who applies pesticides at a golf course, other than a ready-to-use pesticide, must be certified as a Michigan commercial pesticide applicator in the appropriate category for the application, such as the Turfgrass Pest Management category.  This certification can help ensure the safe and effective use of pesticides.  The certification is acquired through self-study from manuals that can be obtained from Michigan State University Extension (MSUE), and then the successful completion of the certification examinations proctored by MDARD.  Study manuals can be obtained through a local MSUE office or ordered through the MSUE website.  The website can be reached by going to www.michigan.gov/pestexam, and then clicking on the link titled “Where to Obtain Study Materials”.  Once the applicant has studied the manuals and is ready to take the certification exams, they can register for an exam session on the same website.  Michigan’s pesticide application certification is valid for three years, at which time the certification must be renewed if the applicator wishes to continue making pesticide applications for a commercial purpose.  

MDARD has made a renewed effort to conduct inspections at golf courses in the last three years.  MDARD began by identifying golf courses in Michigan that did not have a certified applicator as an employee in MDARD’s records.  Of the approximate 900 golf courses in Michigan, MDARD identified 322 golf courses that did not appear to employ a certified pesticide applicator.  Over the past three years, 113 inspections have taken place, with a high rate of non-compliance with MDARD’s regulations found.  Eighty-one golf courses or 72% of the 113 inspected golf courses received an immediate stop order followed by an enforcement action after the inspection was completed.

In addition to the certification requirement, there are recordkeeping, posting, and notification requirements for the use of pesticides on golf courses.  The notification requirement involves the use of a poster that would be placed in the pro shop, registration area or locker rooms.  The poster provides a statement that from time to time pesticides are used in the management of turf and ornamental pests.  The notification poster must also provide the name of the golf course representative that, upon request, would provide information concerning the pesticides used.  The posting requirement details the date and time of the application, the common name of the pesticide used, the area treated, the name of the person to be contacted for further information, and any re-entry precautions.  These posting signs must be placed in a conspicuous place on the 1st and 10th tees and shall remain in place until the re-entry requirements from the pesticide label have been fulfilled.  The recordkeeping requirement records the name and EPA Registration Number of the pesticide applied, the concentration and amount of end use dilution applied, the target pest or purpose, the location where the pesticide was applied, and the method and rate of the application.  The application records must be maintained for one year for general use pesticides and three years for restricted use pesticides.   

Another important requirement to be aware of is that if golf courses mix and load pesticides, other than in hand-held equipment, for over 10 days in a calendar year, the golf course will be required to conduct the mixing and loading operation on a mix and load pad that is constructed of impervious materials.  The pad shall be bermed, curbed, sloped or otherwise designed to contain spills, leaks, releases or other discharges that are generated during the mixing and loading of pesticides.

A very good source of helpful information about weed, insect, and disease identification, including pesticide recommendations and phosphorus fertilizer restrictions, can be found at the MSU Turfgrass Science website at www.turf.msu.edu/golf-courses.

Golf course representatives who need more information about complying with the rules and regulations contained in this article should contact the Pesticide and Plant Pest Management Division at (800) 292-3939, or visit the MDARD website at www.michigan.gov/mdard.