Why is sustainability important to golf, why do we need to consider the future? Why is golf seen by many as a negative use of land? Why don’t we talk more about our value to nature and communities, and why should we? Explore what golfs positives and negatives are and why we should all take action to safeguard our future.
How can we find out where we are and where we want to get to? How do we share our positive impacts and gain credible recognition for our actions? Discover golfs sustainability programme and internationally acclaimed eco-labels.
What does sustainable golf look like? what are the benefits, the opportunities and challenges? What are others doing? Discuss the practicalities and read through some real results and practical examples of sustainable golf in action.
Why does golf need to be sustainable?
You start to get an image of how much our enjoyment of the game relies on nature, resources and community. That is why golf needs sustainability, it doesn’t exist alone, it is part of a wider group, an ecosystem, which requires balance, social, environmental and economic balance, to ensure we can continue to enjoy golf, forever and always.
The good the bad and the beautiful
All too often golf is thought of as having negative impact, taking up land, wasting resources, being elite and backward. Our sport is not perfect, but it does have a lot of very positive impact and we should be talking about it and proud of the social and environmental value our clubs and our sport provide. Being part of OnCourse®, a collective industry programme driving forward sustainability, can give us the confidence and credibility to talk about this positive impact in a meaningful way and shows our commitment to reduce any negative impacts and increase the image of our clubs and the game. As George E. Woodberry said “Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.”
Sustainability is not only about taking our responsibilities as stewards of the land seriously - is about good business. The saving’s we’ve seen through our irrigation and energy initiatives have been substantial, both short and long term. Managing the club and course in a sustainable way means that we are not only protecting the beautiful nature which makes sport so special, it also means we are providing value to our golfers, our staff, and our community.
It’s simple, sustainable golf is golf which will last, golf which is for now AND for the future. It means golf which protects nature, uses resources wisely and provides positive community value.
What is Sustainable Golf?
The R&A defines golf course sustainability as: “Optimising the playing quality of the golf course in harmony with the conservation of its natural environment under economically sound and socially responsible management.” The idea is to mange and maintain a site which maximises quality of play, protection of nature, and positive value to members, visitors, staff and neighbours whilst minimising pollution, use of water, use of energy and production of waste – within, and to the benefit of, individual club/facility budgets.
The Benefits of Sustainable Golf
Often the word ‘sustainability’ can raise alarm bells – it can be thought to mean more work and cost more money, when time and budgets are already stretched. That’s not the case, you might be surprised about what is already happening at your club, or what a difference a few small changes can make. Yes there are options for large scale investment with long payback periods, but there are also options for small tweaks to the daily running of the club which cost little or nothing and can bring instant cost savings and other benefits. For example reducing mowing of out of play areas – saves staff time, reduces fuel consumption and costs and increases habitat for wildlife!
Essentially, sustainable golf can offer you and your club three key returns:
- Playing Enjoyment – The overriding aim in maintaining quality, sustainable playing surfaces is to maximise the golfer’s enjoyment throughout the year.
- Financial – In the long term a sustainable golf course will be less expensive to maintain. It will require less input of chemicals and water so golf club funds can be used elsewhere.
- Environmental – Sustainable management of a golf course can increase habitat variety, enhance biodiversity, and protect delicate and rare habitats such as dune and heathland and ensures your club is up to date and ready for changes to legislation.
- Social – Happy players and neighbours. Maintaining high quality playing surfaces and building strong positive relationships will maximise enjoyment and reputation with your golfers and neighbours alike.
Real World examples of how sustainability can mean profitability for your club:
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How can we become more sustainable?
The first step on the journey is to find out where you are already. Some clubs might already be well down the sustainability journey, without even realising, while others will be starting from scratch. The important thing to remember is we’re all different, and a we can all improve.
Next we need to know where we want to go, what are our aims and targets, where should we focus our efforts now, what should we do, how do we know if its worked and what are the benefits.
Once we know where we are, where we want to get to and how to get there – we need to shout about it, let everyone know we’re trying, that we are committed to making a positive difference and how we’re going to do it. Lets celebrate milestones and achievements and share with each other so we can all benefit from a more sustainable image and reality for golf.
OnCourse® is a global online sustainability programmes for golf facilities. No matter where you are in the world, or how big, or small, your club is – OnCourse® is for you. It will allow you clearly and easily determine where you already are on the sustainable golf journey, offer advice on actions you can implement, from large scale investment to simple everyday tips and tricks and provides valuable tools to help you to record, monitor and report your performance.
You can dip in and out at your own speed, and completion of the programme can lead to gaining golf’s global eco-label GEO Certified®. Managed by not-for-profit GEO (Golf Environment Organization), funded and supported by industry bodies, OnCourse® is the one stop shop for sustainable clubs. It also provides support to help your facility communicate your positive impact to in a credible and meaningful way and gain the positive recognition you deserve.
Below we have listed several researches that underpin the importance of sustainability in ensuring the future of the game: focusing on the major environmental and financial factors to identify the WHY factor.
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2017 sees the launch of a new platform for golf facilities – OnCourse®, a one stop shop for facilities to uncover, improve and promote their social and environmental value. Endorsed by The R&A and national federations and managed by GEO OnCourse® provides best practice guidance and easy to use practical reporting tools to ensure your facility is recognising, and maximising, its positive impact.
Sustainable golf development is successful golf development. This guidance explains why and how you can make it a reality in your golf development – to leave a lasting positive legacy for people and the environment.
GEO Certified® Facilities – a credible and respected eco-label available to all golf facilities across the world.
The R&A Golf Course Management
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Page prepared by the EGCOA with support from GEO – the non-profit dedicated to supporting sustainability in golf www.golfenvironment.org