Turning Landfills Into Links

GARBAGE DUMPS AS FAIRWAYS? Many a golf widow will appreciate the irony, but we're talking here about the increasing trend to convert filled-up landfills into courses. The National Golf Federation counts two dozen--and says more are on the way. One of the most celebrated is the Tournament Players Club at Eagle Trace in Coral Springs, Fla., which opened in 1984. A more recent one is the aptly named Fairwinds Golf Course in Fort Pierce, Fla.

O.K., there's some pretty foul stuff beneath those fair putting greens. But the designers say they can put layers of gravel and plastic sheeting beneath the earth to keep reminders of the old days contained. Controlling methane gas from rotting refuse is another problem. In January, a methane explosion blew out three walls in the clubhouse on a converted landfill in New Hyde Park, N.Y. The early-morning blast injured no one.

Turning landfills into links is a nice revenue enhancer for towns whose dumps top out. But it's not cheap. A conversion can double the average $3 million or so it costs to build a course. A plus: Demand is rising, with the nation's 24 million golfers growing some 5% yearly.