A landmark partnership project has just got underway - to promote a more sustainable model for new golf facility development. Instigated and coordinated by the Golf Environment Organisation (GEO), the project is supported by The R&A, the European Golf Course Owners Association (EGCOA), the European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA) and the European Tour.
International machinery manufacturer, Ransomes Jacobsen, of the Textron Group, is also contributing significantly to the project as exclusive corporate partner.
The partnership vision is that new golf development should positively impact on the environment and people’s social and economic well-being. Jonathan Smith, Chief Executive of the Golf Environment Organisation expressed his enthusiasm for the project: “We aim to produce a challenging, but relevant, set of internationally applicable guidance for the planning, design and construction of new golf facilities. We believe it will be highly valuable for golf going forward – helping the industry move further towards ecologically rich, highly water and energy efficient facilities.”
Steve Isaac, Director - Golf Course Management at The R&A, the lead funding body for the project, said: “Environmental and social issues are perhaps the leading external factors now affecting the growth of the game. It is vital that those involved in golf facility development have access to best practice guidance on issues of planning, design and construction.”
Lodewijk Klootwijk, Director of the EGCOA, expressed his enthusiasm for the project, adding: “This is good news for the golf development business. It will provide practical guidance on how developers can more efficiently and effectively deal with environmental, social and economic issues in the planning process. It is important that new golf facilities have a long term economically sustainable future, and an increasingly large part of that is to do with community integration, resource efficiency and enhancing local environmental assets.”
Ken Moodie, President of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects said: “Last year the Institute launched a new Environmental Policy for golf course design and the environment. This project is the logical next step, providing constructive guidance for golf designers. We hope it will help them to express their creativity in a way that enhances environmental quality, contributes to profitable developments, and produces courses that are enjoyable to play.”
David Withers, Managing Director of Ransomes Jacobsen, a Textron Inc company, said: “Ransomes Jacobsen are delighted to be the exclusive corporate partner to the project. We have long supported the Golf Environment Organisation, and have demonstrated our drive towards environmental sustainability through our ISO 14001 accreditation and pioneering work on end of life product re-cycling.”
GEO are currently discussing the project with a number of international environmental bodies, to ensure that the content is credible and representative of the latest thinking on environmental and social sustainability.
John Finisdore of the World Resources Institute is encouraged by the effort. “Golf has been criticised, and often with justification, for its impacts on the natural environment and cultural heritage. Of all sports, golf has perhaps the closest affinity with the environment as courses not only impact the environment but depend on it. The industry is increasingly aware that designing courses with the environment in mind can have positive affects on the bottom line. In turn, this forward-thinking design also improves the health of the environment itself.”
Conor Kretsch, Director of the international network for Cooperation on Health and Biodiversity (COHAB), added: “Although golf developments often involve major alterations to natural habitats across large tracts of land, with careful site selection, design, construction and wise long term management approaches, golf courses have the potential to support considerable biodiversity. As golf becomes an increasingly popular sport and tourism activity, it makes sense for the sector to ensure that it protects, rather than harms, the ecosystems upon which human wellbeing and economic development depend.”