How golf clubs around the world are meeting their environmental targets

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 1, 2020 08:57

The environment has received less coverage in the last few months for obvious reasons, but clubs around the world are still carrying out eco-friendly improvements. Here, we look at one in Europe and two in the Middle East, to see how, from introducing native plants to supporting a vast array of bird species, clubs are going ever more green.

Before golf courses around the world went into lockdown, the global talking point surrounding the industry was probably the environment.

Now that most have reopened, it’s a subject that will probably come back to the forefront of the industry.

Here, we look at three venues around the world to see what they have been doing to improve their environmental credentials both before and during the pandemic.

Quinta do Lago in Portugal unveiled an ‘eco-strategy’ earlier this year. Working with the Golf Environment Organisation (GEO) and following its ‘On Course’ environmental stewardship programme, the Algarve venue launched a multi-tiered plan with three key aims: to foster nature, conserve resources and support the community.

“Our aim is for Quinta do Lago to become an inspirational, community-engaged and high-profile champion of sustainability,” said Sean Moriarty, CEO.

“The great thing about the golf legacy is that it works so well together with the other different business units of the resort. Golf can be a leader in so many ways; from eco-system services, conservation of wildlife and health and well-being for all ages to creating jobs and adding value to the economy through local supply chains.”

The resort created its own farm last year to provide its restaurants with homegrown organic produce and this summer announced a series of measures to help foster nature, including placing information boards on the golf courses and nearby nature trails advising people of the wildlife living nearby.

Improved irrigation and introducing native plants in and around the golf courses to control and remove invasive exotic species; building ‘bug hotels’ for insects – helping to control garden pests so reducing the use of insecticides – increasing the number of bird-nesting boxes and constructing bee houses; removing single-use plastics at its restaurants; and using a new fleet of electric golf buggies across the resort are among the initiatives introduced to help conserve resources.

A series of events and activities are also available, including guided nature walks through the golf courses, educational trips to the resort farm and working closely with the animals living in and around the resort.

Golf course superintendent, Mark Tupling, said: “As a trained agronomist, I am an advocate for environmentally-responsible approaches to life and this is something I also aspire to uphold in the way I manage golf courses. Quinta do Lago is blessed to border the Ria Formosa – one of the world’s largest nature reserves – and working with environmental organisations is a key focus of mine in promoting the benefits that golf courses offer in nature.”

Golf venues in the Middle East are being equally forward-thinking. Al Mouj Golf in Oman this year retained its designation as a ‘Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary’ for the second time (three times in total), thanks to the eco-friendly management approach of the wider team and the practices they have adopted toward the maintenance of the club as a habitat for a diverse range of wildlife.

Al Mouj Golf is now one of less than 20 courses to be certified by both GEO and Audubon. Commenting on this achievement, Nasser Al Sheibani, CEO of Al Mouj Muscat, said: “I am incredibly proud of the team at Al Mouj Golf for successfully retaining the natural heritage of our golf course, as well as being recognised by Audubon for a third time.

“This is a significant environmental and sustainability achievement in balancing such a wonderful lifestyle asset with nature.

“Maintaining the biodiversity of the grounds at Al Mouj Golf is central to providing golfers with a world-class facility. Thanks to the efforts of the Al Mouj Golf team, we were able to become the region’s first achievers of this outstanding certification back in 2014. By continuing this success and retaining this certification, Al Mouj Golf continues to put Oman on the map as a leading party in environmental protection and management.”

“Al Mouj Golf is honoured to be certified by both Audubon International and Golf Environmental Organisation for our environmental, sustainability and commitment to the greater community” said Steven Johnson, course superintendent at Al Mouj Golf.

“Both programmes are internationality recognised for their cutting-edge approach to sustainable golf course management practices and these certifications ensure Al Mouj Golf’s maintenance programmes are at the forefront of world golf.”

“Al Mouj Golf has shown a strong commitment to its environmental programme. They are to be commended for preserving the natural heritage of the area by protecting the local watershed and providing a sanctuary for wildlife on the golf course property,” said Christine Kane, CEO at Audubon International.

“To reach certification, a course must demonstrate that they are maintaining a high degree of environmental quality in a number of areas. These categories include environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, outreach and education, chemical use reduction and safety, water conservation, and water quality management. Courses go through a recertification process every three years.”

The Greg Norman designed course is nestled along a two kilometre stretch of the Indian Ocean in the Sultanate of Oman, with the Hajjar mountains standing tall over the lush green grass, bunkers, natural dunes and water hazards. The venue offers a unique biodiversity with 173 different bird species.

Similarly, Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in the UAE has also achieved its designation as a ‘Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary’. Corey Finn, senior assistant superintendent, completed the effort to obtain sanctuary designation on the property.

An observation made during the visit was that the course inhabits over 150 bird species and a thriving gazelle population. It was apparent that staff were always conscious about protecting the threatened and endangered species that also inhabit the course.

The course has also reduced its water consumption by over 30 percent over the past three years and with a local community partnership to allow for the use of recycle water, water consumption will be reduced even further.

It was noticeable that management is dedicated to continuous improvement.

Commenting on the recent achievements, Clinton Southorn, cluster director of agronomy, said: “Saadiyat Beach Golf Club was designed with sensitivity to the surrounding natural environment of Saadiyat Island. Through this certification, we demonstrate our responsibility when it comes to environmental stewardship, and in ensuring a safe and healthy environment for the wildlife that inhabit the golf course, and are vital to Abu Dhabi’s ecosystem.

“I’m proud of the dedication and work of Corey Finn, who led the certification effort in collaboration with our teams. We look forward to continuing our work with Audubon International to drive sustainable and positive impact in our local community and across the globe.”

Christine Kane added: “Saadiyat Beach Golf Club has shown a strong commitment to its environmental programme. They are to be commended for their efforts to provide a sanctuary for wildlife on the golf course property.”

Francisco de Lancastre David, cluster general manager at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Saadiyat Beach Golf Club and Yas Links Abu Dhabi said: “Our vision for Saadiyat Beach Golf Club is to successfully operate a world-class golf course in full harmony with its natural environment. We will continue to assess our ongoing practises to ensure we are operating at the most efficient levels.”


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 1, 2020 08:57
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