hose of us who are joyously incompetent at this wonderful game are well ahead of the curve when it comes to ecologically friendly golf. Let’s face it, every time we walk onto the course, we recycle the same old garbage.
Some players believe that pitch markers, skewed pin locations, and stimp readings are the main causes of golf’s green problems. Of course, the larger, more serious debates cannot be overlooked.
Although the phrase “sustainable” appears to be omnipresent these days, it is far from being a buzzword. Rather, it’s the foundation upon which golf is attempting to construct a long-term future.
In recent years, the game’s environmental credentials have been called into question. Major developments on sensitive land — no, I’m not talking about the Trumps – have gotten the type of negative attention you’d get if you threw a party in the Downing Street garden.
Meanwhile, massive expansions to existing championship courses to combat the modern game’s big-hitters, the sapping of vast reserves of water, the sprinkling of chemicals here and there, and the general jet-setting demanded by the global tours give golf a carbon footprint that would see Extinction Rebellion activists blockade the R&A’s Spring Meeting.
“Over the last 20 years, the public conversation about golf and sustainability has been much more on the negative side,” Jonathan Smith, the founder of the GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf, which is located less than an hour from Edinburgh, admitted. “However, it is golf’s responsibility to inform those outside the game about the industry’s actions, as well as the results and value it generates.”
There is a great deal of good work going on. Smith has spent 25 years helping golf protect nature, assist communities, and save resources, beginning with a trailblazing appointment as the Scottish Golf Union’s environment adviser in 1996.
His non-profit company is a one-stop shop for information and advice that everyone – from the game’s governing bodies to professional tours to small clubs – continues to appreciate. As environmental challenges become more serious, that knowledge is proving to be a valuable asset.
“It can be an easy trip in many respects,” Smith said of some of these sustainability milestones, which might range from zero-emission buggies to birdhouses and beehives.
“For example, a club could identify ten places of semi-rough that could turn harsh. The path becomes more normalized after that. This, in turn, reduces maintenance man-hours and fuel consumption, potentially saving 4,000 pounds ($5,500) per year.
“It’s all about thinking creatively.” We had a number of individuals come to us last year and say, “We get it now, we need to do something, how can we do it?” Naturalization, water resilience, and novel energy generators are all generating a lot of attention. The world is conspiring against you if you don’t consider these things as a land-based sport right now. You’re squandering money, incurring higher expenditures, and being chastised for turning your land into housing developments. For decades, if not forever, sustainability will define most industries, not just golf. It’s all about going on the offensive in golf.”
There’s a lot to think about here. Rory McIlroy recently admitted to feeling “guilty” about his carbon impact and highlighted the costly offsets he was implementing in collaboration with the GEO Foundation. Smith’s ears rang with delight.
He stated, “Rory’s authenticity is extremely important.” “When he tries to perform his job, club managers, greenkeepers, and everyone else notices, and it filters down.” Golf is what brings us together, and we’re all in this together.”
Whether it’s reduction in single-use plastic, recycled caddy bibs, or paper-free media centers, there are concerted, high-profile attempts to promote the environmental message at significant professional or amateur events these days.
“We have to be honest about the difficulties,” Smith remarked. “How can golf become a zero-carbon industry?” That is not an easy task. But it’s better to admit that it’s not simple and explain why we’re working to improve things. Long-term, there are going to be some severe pressures. Consider what would happen if golf didn’t have access to irrigation water in various regions of the world. What would the courses look like, and how would the players react? I’m not trying to terrify you; there are solutions to these problems. Golf, on the other hand, must identify those solutions and work toward the future it desires.”
The green drive in golf continues…