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Driving the Green The quartely publication of the Golf Environment Organisation

Driving the Green


R&A and European Tour CEO’s, Peter Dawson (left) and George O’Grady (right) support St Andrews Links Trust Chief Executive, Euan Loudon (centre right) as he receives the GEO Certified™ award from GEO Chief Executive, Jonathan Smith (centre left)

The St Andrews Links Trust, which manages the seven public courses at the Home of Golf, including the Old Course, was recently awarded the GEO Certified™ ecolabel. The famous old links became the first Open Championship venue to achieve this celebrated recognition.

Ahead of a presentation at the Swilcan Bridge on the 18th hole of the Old Course, Mike Wood, who carried out the independent certification process congratulated the Trust saying, “Not only is the Trust nurturing a 600-year heritage, it is also a ‘standard bearer’ for 21st Century good practice in golf management.”

Euan Loudon, Chief Exectutive of the St Andrews Links Trust said, “We take our duty to manage St Andrews Links sustainably as a golfing resource for future generations extremely seriously,” adding, “Over the years we have won awards for the measures we have implemented and developed, but this is certainly the most rigorous certification process we have gone through. We are delighted to achieve the GEO Certified™ ecolabel and we are focused on continuing to introduce new sustainable methods and practices across the breadth of operations at the Links in the years ahead.”

“We take our duty to manage St Andrews Links sustainably as a golfing resource for future generations extremely seriously,” Standing with Euan Louden at the presentation ceremony were Jonathan Smith, CEO of the Golf Environment Organization, Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of The R&A and George O’Grady, CEO of the European Tour.

“As founding partners of GEO, we are delighted to see their valuable guidance, programmes and ecolabel gaining this kind of momentum,” concluded The European Tour Chief Executive, who will oversee the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at the Home of Golf in early October, the 27th successive year the Tour has hosted a flagship event at St Andrews.

Gordon Moir, Director of Greenkeeping at St Andrews Links, said, “There is a long tradition of sensitive and sustainable management at the Links and, as the Home of Golf, we have a responsibility to take a lead in encouraging the golf industry to take these practices on board. This accreditation programme is an excellent way of ensuring golf courses adopt this approach in a structured way.”

O’Grady commented, “We congratulate St Andrews Links Trust on their commitment and achievement,” adding, “This is the kind of leadership that The European Tour are encouraging across all our venues as part of our own commitment to sustainability in golf, which is further reinforced by our ongoing approach to greening the Ryder Cup.

Driving the Green

Hello, from GEO headquarters in North Berwick, Scotland. And what exactly do we do? We work to make it easier for the golf industry to understand, achieve and be recognized for credible sustainability. GEO has a very practical, positive and collaborative approach, working together with golf organizations, environmental experts, industry professionals and sponsors to guide and reward credible action in golf management, development and events.

A little bit about us We believe the golf community can unite around sustainability and that by 2020, golf will be universally known for a positive environmental and social contribution. Helping the industry achieve that vision is exactly the reason the Golf Environment Organization was founded—and remains our raison d’etre and driving force.

Programme areas include the GEO Certified™ ecolabel; the web-based OnCourse™ programme that helps clubs achieve the ecolabel; Sustainable Golf Development Guidance and GEO Legacy™ for development and renovation; Green Drive for golf events; and the network of GEO Sustainability Associates (GEOSA). More on these and other resources can be found at – a hub for the burgeoning community interested and active in sustainability in golf.

We should also mention, GEO is proud to be a notfor-profit organization, and everything we provide is possible with investment and involvement from a growing number of golf organizations, including The European Tour, The R&A, Ryder Cup Europe, a number of golf federations, and national and international associations representing greenkeepers, architects, club managers and owners. Corporate sponsors have also been very supportive, big thanks to Jacobsen, Rolex and UPS. Further direction comes from a very skilled and experienced Board of Directors, Advisory Council and Technical Commission, all committed to ensuring the continued rigour, credibility, relevance and practicality of solutions, communications, and GEO Certified™.

but more and more people in golf understand the opportunity of bringing sustainability deeper into their decision-making. At GEO, we’re happy to be a catalyst, a passionate advocate, a supporter and collaborator. We’re proud to provide a platform of credibility and a launch pad for action, serving the game of golf from greenkeepers to course owners; land developers to national and local governments; golf federations to governing bodies, not to mention, golfers and their communities. We invite everyone to help golf in Driving the Green.

“We invite everyone to help golf in Driving the Green.”

GEO is based in the historic seaside town of North Berwick, Scotland with famed courses like North Berwick West across the street and Muirfield and Gullane Golf Club down the road.

Golf has the potential to do a world of good… From protection of coastal zones and urban greenspace, to improved air and water quality, employment, community, and a healthy, intergenerational sport set in nature. In fact, there are few industries better suited to embrace and deliver real results. It is primarily a voluntary pursuit,

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any opinions or ideas on this publication, programmes or the GEO Certified ecolabel. We’d love hear from you. We also hope you’ll visit us often at

Driving the Green

Leaderboard The growing community engaged in sustainability in golf are leading the way in many different and exciting ways around the world.

Ryder Cup; The 2010 Ryder Cup in Wales was a triumph not only for Team Europe, but also for the GEO-led Ryder Cup Green Drive as the event’s overall carbon footprint was driven down by over 30%. Ambitious plans are already in place for Gleneagles 2014 for the venue, staging and outreach projects

“carbon footprint was driven down by over 30%”

PGA Seniors Champion Green; With a comprehensive sustainability initiative, supported by sponsors, contractors, suppliers and media, the 2012 Allianz PGA Seniors Championship held at GEO Certified Broken Sound Club in Florida set a very inspiring standard.

Leading the way in Asia; The Jockey Club Kau Sai Chau Public Golf Course was the first in Asia-Pacific to achieve the GEO Certified™ ecolabel; another milestone in a remarkable transformation from military firing range into one of the world’s most sustainably managed golf clubs. A second Gary Player-designed course, Jinji Lake International Golf Club in Jiangsu Province, People’s Republic of China, which hosted the 2010 Volvo China Open has also earned GEO Certified™.

The Kau Sai Chau management team: Cameron Halliday, General Manager; Mike Carey, Head of Golf Operations; Christine Chan, Superintendent; Benjamin Warren, GEO Strategic Projects Manager.

R&A ‘Working for the Golf Course’; Attended by over 50 representatives from 25 different affiliated National Golf Federations, the R&A Golf Course Committee continued their rigorous work to promote sustainable golf course maintenance with a recent seminar in St Andrews.

Golf at RIO 2016; Congratulations to Gil Hanse, Owen Larken, and the rest of the team on their successful bid to design the Rio Olympic golf venue. Sustainability was a core theme throughout the tendering process, underpinned by GEO’s Sustainable Golf Development Guidelines in course planning, design, construction and ongoing management.

Driving the Green

Call to Action Consideration and action across six areas ensures sure you’re doing the best for your business, the good of the game, and the welfare of society.

Great Golf Environments An incredible variety of different landscapes and ecosystems cover the surface of the earth. These are the places in which we live, work and play, and which we share with an awe-inspiring variety of plants and wildlife. Golfing in such bio diverse landscapes provides an added dimension and extra enjoyment to the game.

Environmental Handicap The 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment demonstrated the significant and escalating impact that human activity has on the biodiversity of the world’s ecosystems, with dozens of global indicators demonstrating how the earth’s ‘life support’ systems are feeling the strain. This year, at events such as the UN RIO+20 Conference, governments will aim to define new sustainable development goals that reduce biodiversity loss. Meanwhile, the importance of private sector, voluntary conservation of ecosystems, habitats and species has never been greater.

As a large surface-area sport, with courses located in interesting and sensitive ecological locations, golf courses can help lead a genuine and meaningful contribution to biodiversity and ecosystem conservation.

Golf for Good A number of recent surveys have reaffirmed that golfers appreciate the quality of the landscape around them while they play. In addition, golfers emphasized their desire for courses to support and accommodate wildlife. These findings are important. They remind us that while the quality of playing surfaces is fundamentally important, these can be

integrated into stimulating surroundings that stir the senses as golfers enjoy an authentic outdoor experience. The implications are important in terms of golf’s ecological contribution. Rather than restricting the amount of natural and seminatural vegetation on and around the course, this view advocates that ecological richness can be embraced as part of the unique golfing experience that every course can offer. This is how the most sustainably managed golf clubs, led by skilled, creative and professional managers are looking at their courses. Asking how can we enrich the biodiversity of the course and the golfing experience at the same time?

Money does grow on trees And - it’s a winner for business too. A landscape and ecosystem led approach to course design and management boosts the bottom-line. Every small patch of managed grass or vegetation that can be converted to a more natural state saves energy, water, time and… money. Discover more at landscapeandecosystems

Tips for a More Natural Course 1. Look at the areas currently being maintained. Are there spaces where rough grassland, shrubs and trees could be introduced? 2. Look for non-native species. Could you introduce native species instead for a more natural feel and unique sense of place? Native species (especially plants) require less water and are easier to establish and maintain. 3. Look at the edges. The fringes of golf holes are where some of the most visible and ecologically rich areas are. Can you design woodland, grassland and wetland edges differently, to provide more colour, texture and ecological diversity? 4. Ask for help. Who can help you understand and record the biodiversity of your course? Consider asking members, or a community or academic group to help.

Above Par Four golf courses getting it right: • Venice Golf and Country Club thevenicegolfandcountryclub • Twentsche Golf Club twentschegolfclub#landscape-landscape • Noordwijkse Golf Club noordwijksegolfclub#landscape-landscape • Auchterarder Golf Club

Driving the Green

Perspective Outlook on the role golf can play in sustainability by leaders from many corners of the golf industry and environmental community.

Outlook on Sustainable Golf As one of the key players in the sustainability game, Gordon Shepherd of WWF International is helping nurture the pivotal relationship between golf, the environment and all-important sport

In 1972, the landmark report, Limits to Growth warned, “If the present growth trends in world population, industrialisation, pollution, food production and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached within the next 100 years.” But that with early intervention we could “establish a condition of ecological and economic stability that is sustainable far into the future.” Two decades later, a further keynote study, Beyond the Limits highlighted that, “Use of many essential resources and generation of many kinds of pollutants have already surpassed rates that are physically sustainable,” leading to, “An uncontrolled decline in per capita food output, energy use and industrial production.” Again, this study optimistically concluded that, “A sustainable society is still technically and economically possible,” but counselled that it would now require not only productivity and technology, but also, “Maturity, compassion and wisdom.”

“It is no longer a question of whether society must respond, but instead what actions to take and how quickly.”

stakeholders. In this keynote commentary, GEO Board Member Shepherd reflects and takes stock on what the future holds for the game of golf in today’s hypersensitive environmental landscape.

These studies, combined with many others, show it is no longer a question of whether society must respond, but instead what actions to take and how quickly. We should also be asking, what can golf do to be part of this action, as an industry, as a community, and as individuals. Over the forty years since the Limits to Growth report, the game of golf has grown exponentially, fuelled by increased leisure time in the developed world and thus golf tourism, and domestic growth in emerging economies. Further demand will likely be sparked by golf’s readmission to the Olympic Games for Rio de Janeiro in 2016. The European Golf Association reports a 100% growth in global golf courses and a 350% increase in player participation over that time. The Golf Research Group confirms there are now 32,000 golf courses and some 60-million-plus practicing players worldwide. These numbers are significant, but as Shepherd points out, “The main impacts on the planet’s resources are agriculture, forestry, fishing, urban development, industry, mining and transport.” Adding, “However, increasingly golf may struggle to be viewed as enough of a priority in a resource-strapped world, competing for resources in increasingly high-pressure circumstances.” Societal considerations are important too, “Think about the perception in many parts of the world that golf is a niche sport for the privileged, and in some regions the sole preserve of the rich or foreign visitors whose contribution to regional prosperity can be marginal or, at worst, inequitable.”

So, how well does this lifelong environmentalist believe golf has been responding to challenges that would have been unimaginable 250 years ago when the game emerged from the links land of his native Scotland?

“Leaders across all aspects of the game need to openly and collectively embrace a broad concept of sustainable golf and inspire all of us...” “It is clear that many in golf see opportunities to make it a game uniquely placed as sustainable and contributing to the society and communities where it is played,” says Shepherd. “However, much of that thinking seems pretty limited in its outlook, and questionable in terms of underlying sustainability principles. It certainly has not yet taken shape globally, nor would it clearly demonstrate that the industry as a whole views its future as contributing positively to sustainable communities at the local level and a driver for good at broader national and global levels.” He continues, “Individual and collective initiatives appear to abound, but can be confusing and opaque,” explaining, “It is evident from sustainability efforts in forestry, fisheries, and the wildlife trade that transparency, public scrutiny, consistency and comparability are essential to long term success.” “In this context golf is at a very early stage of development and in my view that development is neither strong enough nor rapid enough,” insists Shepherd, adding, “Yet the game is played often in beautiful and potentially biodiversity rich areas of the world, with onsite renewable energy options and links to communities that could all be the basis for a shift to substantive and ongoing sustainability.” Golf’s stewardship of landscapes, its unique etiquette of discipline and respect, its sphere of influence including large numbers of players and spectators, and the jobs

provided throughout a global industry put the game in a position to be a significant force for good. So how can these opportunities be harnessed in a way that respects cultures and communities whilst maximising its contribution to society and the environment? “First of all, leaders across all aspects of the game need to openly and collectively embrace a broad concept of sustainable golf and inspire all of us who love the game to see it as part of a healthy society and a sustainable planet,” he says with a clear commitment bridging his two passions. “Many of the ideas and information necessary to steer action arising from such leadership do exist but they need much more support – financial and logistical – and scaling up”, he added. “I believe GEO has broken a lot of relevant ground by defining a strong, clear and positive vision, underpinning all work with solid ‘one planet’ principles, creating space for broad stakeholder engagement, talking openly and objectively, and delivering accessible guidance and programmes that empower people to take sustainability, comprehensively, into their management and development decision making.” “On this platform, people are engaging, changing practices, communicating more credibly, results are being shown, and a strong multi-partner communications platform is emerging.”

“The solutions are out there, and it’s encouraging to see some clear evidence that golf is not just responding, but being proactive.” He concludes, “The solutions are out there, and it’s encouraging to see some clear evidence that golf is not just responding, but being proactive. More and more companies associated with golf are taking their Corporate Social Responsibilities very seriously, collaborating with and giving essential practical, moral and financial support to GEO’s work.”

Driving the Green

As there is no ‘silver bullet’ or ‘quick fix,’ to the environmental challenges faced by an increasingly fragile global ecosystem, how does the GEO Board Member view the organisation’s contribution and effectiveness going forward?

“Golf has the opportunity to lead the way...”

“As I see it, GEO can help bring together individuals and organisations interested and involved in the game of golf - and its environmental consequences - to share a vision, find the science, secure the finance, and deliver the necessary package of solutions and support that is essential in helping make golf a compelling and credible example of how environmental sustainability and millions of rounds of golf around the world are not just mutually exclusive but indeed very comfortable, even inseparable bedfellows. Golf has the opportunity to lead the way in creating an economically and socially profitable, sustainable, enjoyable, ethical and respected sport.”

In his closing statement Gordon Shepherd acknowledges, “The challenge facing golf and its environment is a significant one, crossing countries, continents and cultures. But with inspirational leadership allied to practical advice and support, there is no reason why golf, a game with a proud history and now a clear, visionary environmental future cannot provide a clarion call to its many stakeholders and become a beacon for best practice, today, tomorrow, next week, next year and forward, with authority and advocacy towards its second Millennium and beyond.”

“Highly regarded on the global stage, Gordon Shepherd has directed WWF’s International Environmental Treaties”

Mini-biography of Gordon Shepherd Raised on the east coast of Scotland, surrounded by some of the world’s finest links courses, (including St Andrews), Gordon Shepherd was educated at Montrose Academy and University of Edinburgh and in 1965 began a career that led to his dedication to improving the natural environment and the lives of those who depend on it. Gordon worked for nineteen years in policy and communications for a number of organizations, including the Overseas Development Adminstration and the British Prime Minister’s office at 10 Downing Street. In 1986, he joined WWF as Director of Information and Education, and led WWF International Policy for 20 years.

Driving Environmental Performance “For the environment and the long-term strength of the industry, we want to help create more sustainable approaches” A global partnership has been signed with turfcare equipment manufacturer Jacobsen , which will help GEO deliver sustainable golf programmes faster and wider than ever before. Commenting on the collaboration, Jonathan Smith, GEO’s Chief Executive said, “We are grateful to have such a dedicated partner, committed to continued investment in the things

that make sustainability more accessible and productive to people in golf.” “For the environment and the long-term strength of the industry, we want to help create more sustainable approaches [and] we are very proud to endorse and support the work GEO does to give people the motivation, guidance and solutions to take more and better action,” added David Withers, President of Jacobsen.

The Green Light for Golf Development With the right outlook and commitment, new golf developments and renovations can have a positive impact on the planet. Sustainable Golf Development: Creating a Positive Legacy is a new definitive, practical guide to help this happen. In an address at the China Golf Show in Beijing, GEO’s Jonathan Smith said, “We want to help people integrate the full range of sustainability issues throughout the unique and complex process of golf development and renovation—creating resource-efficient, ecologically rich, and community integrated golf facilities.” The project has been delivered with support from The R&A, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), European Tour, Oxford Economics, European Golf Course Owners Association, and Golf Course Architect associations from America, Europe, Japan and Australia. Visit the GEO website, to find out more about e-reader, PDF and print editions, which are available in English, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch.

Driving the Green

Clubs OnCourse the road forward. Designed just for golf, the GEO OnCourse™ programme is a straightforward solution to move quickly from intent to plan to results. It is fast, easy and free to start at, and those who have visited before will notice many new features and improvements recently available. From Spain and Slovenia to Dubai, Denmark and beyond, golf courses all over the world are currently leading the way with the GEO Certified™ ecolabel. GEO OnCourse™, a web-based programme that offers owners and operators, managers and maintenance professionals clear and practical sustainable course solutions, are helping pave

Matt Johns, a member of the GEO Sustainability Associates network (GEOSA), visits clubs who have completed the online portion of the programme for verification and forward planning, “For both traditional members’ clubs and pay-and-play operations, GEO OnCourse™ delivers environmental and commercial benefits and a great way to be recognized for commitment and achievement.”

Kudos to Costa Rica Costa Rica, which, translated means, ‘Rich Coast’ may be a relatively small country of less than five-million people and just over 50,000km2, but in terms of environmental credentials, it punches above its weight. According to the New Economics Foundation, Costa Rica ranks first in the Happy Planet Index and is the ‘greenest’ country in the world; it ranked a remarkable fifth out of 132 nations listed in the 2012 Environmental Performance Index, published during this year’s World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland. When it comes to greener golf, Costa Rica also packs a punch. Costa Rica Country Club opened its unique layout in 1940 and recently became the first Central American golf course to be accorded GEO Certified™. In the words of Fernando Calderon, a verifier from the GEOSA network, “Visiting CRCC was an inspiring experience on the commitment to environmental conservation and social development. These values have been adopted

by the entire country of Costa Rica, which has pledged to protect ecosystems and become carbon-neutral by 2021, and CRCC is well on its way to achieving this goal.” The environment is not the only beneficiary from CRCC’s dedication to sustainability. Every member of staff is an integral part of the process, helping to engrain the club’s mission and values and ultimately benefitting the member experience and professional development and work environment of staff. The efforts within the club also serve as an example and inspiration for staff and members in their lives outside the club.

Burhill OnCourse Burhill Golf & Leisure, owner of ten courses in the UK, were the first multi-course owners to sign-up for the GEO OnCourse™ programme. Colin Mayes, Burhill’s Chief Executive, announced the group’s commitment to sustainable golf at the European Golf Course Owners Association (EGCOA) Golf Business Conference in Marbella, Spain saying, “In recent years we have made a conscious effort to bring environmental stewardship and corporate responsibility into the heart of our business model. He added, “There is no doubt that sustainability

is part and parcel of sound business management,” explaining, ““We recognise that GEO’s excellent OnCourse programme will help our strategic and operational staff collaborate to build on actions and achievements to date and extend into new aspects of resource efficiency, community engagement and ecological enhancement.” Burhill has already made significant changes to its operations through a group-wide Environmental Plan implemented in 2009, designed to enrich the environments of its courses and promote sound, sustainable management of its facilities.

Colin Mayes, Burhill CEO; Kelli Jerome, GEO Director, Programme Management, Lodewijk Klootwijk, EGCOA Director and GEO Advisory Council member

Some projects include: • R  eservoir construction at Aldwickbury Park Golf Club and Hertfordshire Hoebridge: Making both facilities entirely water selfsufficient. • Integrated Turf Management (ITM) systems across the group: Using proactive management strategies to minimise the effects of pests and weeds.

• H  eather regeneration at Burhill Golf Club: Quadrupled growth around the classic heathland course. • H  abitat creation and conservation with a newt habitat at Abbey Hill Golf Centre • 7  ,000 new saplings at Ramsdale Park Golf Centre

Driving the Green

Delivering Green Golf

UPS trucks, planes and staff uniforms may be brown, but inside they’re a hundred different shades of green. Throughout its global network, UPS is championing the green agenda, talking the talk, walking the walk, driving, sailing and flying the world with ecological efficiency and sustainability deeply rooted in their mind-set. UPS is not only a sponsor of the European Tour and an official supplier to The Open Championship, but they are also a Premier

Partner of the Golf Environment Organization and sponsor of the Driving the Green publication. Jennifer Oliveras, Manager of International Sponsorships at UPS, says, “Sustainability is at the core of our business and, through our support of Driving the Green, we are delighted to help continue raising the profile of golf’s increasingly important relationship with the environment.”

A Collaborative Approach to the Green The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) and the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) recently signed a new agreement that seeks to continue to raise standards in course management, demonstrate a global commitment to sustainability and enhance the professional image and status of golf course managers. The collaboration will cover education conferences and trade shows; support from industry sponsors and partners; professional development and education and membership products, services and information. Both GCSAA and BIGGA, the two largest associations in the golf course management industry, have a long-standing commitment to

support greenkeepers and superintendents in all sustainability pursuits, and this new agreement to share and develop resources together will be of even further benefit for members. Find out more: • • •

GEO Newsletter - phase 6  

GEO Newsletter - phase 6

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