An excellent example of golf's natural fit with sustainability, Golf du Rhin along the border of France, Germany, and Switzerland has just been awarded the GEO Certified™ecolabel.
Nestled unobtrusively in the centre of a nature reserve on an isle between the River Rhine and the Grand Canal d'Alsace, Golf du Rhin is a quiet escape for people and wildlife. The golf club has demonstrated a comprehensive, well-planned and implemented approach to sustainability; completing a number of practical projects to improve the ecology, environmental quality, community relations and resource efficiency of the club.
Notable highlights include a 12% reduction in irrigation water consumption in the last three years; a 15% reduction in electricity consumption; new partnerships established with local environmental groups; and installation of new water treatment and chemical storage facilities.
There are several examples of innovative practices as well. For example, adhering to France's ban on chemical insecticide by employing a biological approach to pest control with the introduction of microscopic round worms on the greens. Another example is the introduction of more drought and disease tolerant grasses on putting greens, due to new approaches to mechanical management, overseeding, increased air circulation and reduced shade.
Michel Zimmerlin, Club Manager, expressed his satisfaction on receiving the accolade as a milestone in Golf du Rhin's continuous journey towards ever more sustainable practices:
"There is no doubt that in the last year we have quickened and scaled up our efforts, and that's to the great credit of all my colleagues here in the club, in particular our Course Manager, Daniel Le Goudives, but also other staff and volunteer committee members.
"We are very grateful for the cooperation of many local organizations across three borders and look forward to working with them over the months and years ahead for more good outcomes. In particular, how we enrich the biodiversity; link with the surrounding nature reserve; drive down further our water and energy use; strive for zero waste and a greener supply chain; and advocate more strongly in the community.
"We are delighted to be first GEO Certified™ club in France, but also hope we have shown clubs throughout the three nations of our membership that sustainability is something to step into and to be very positive about."
Jonathan Smith, GEO Chief Executive shared his endorsement: "Golf du Rhin is a fine example of a dynamic community club, run by well qualified professionals, that has got more and more heavily involved in sustainability. In the last 18-24 months club staff and officials have used the OnCourse programme to deepen their understanding and expand their action across a comprehensive agenda of issues. New partnerships and practical projects have led to a significant improvement in performance in a relatively short time, delivering against a framework of international and national criteria for resource efficiency, pollution control and ecological enhancement. We are delighted that such a club, that is so representative of so many others, has become the first GEO Certified™ in France."
Pierre Lasfargue, Director of Golf Development with the French Golf Federation added: "For over a decade, the FFG and our close partners across France have worked hard on behalf of our member clubs and professionals to provide the research information, the guidance and the programmes which help grass roots clubs to embrace sustainability. We have developed world-leading examples of positive collaboration with national and regional government to ensure that policy towards golf is firm but fair. The achievement of Golf du Rhin shows how clubs can respond, and are responding, by integrating legal requirements, policy targets and voluntary action into their day-to-day decision making - publicly sharing their commitment and achievements across the industry, their members and in local communities."
GEO Sustainability Associate (GEOSA), and accredited 3rd party Verifier lsabel Dobbelaere said: "Golf du Rhin has learned and achieved a lot during their participation in the GEO OnCourse™ programme, building on a baseline of considerable existing good practice, many new initiatives have been launched and their knowledge about the opportunities on the site have increased. Sustainability is now well and truly lodged in the decision making of the Course and Club Managers-with almost the entire Greens Committee acting on the committee that championed the GEO programme."
GEO's Richard Allison was responsible for the final review of the club's certification and verification reports: "The club is performing well against the criteria for the international ecolabel, and against national priorities such as those set out in the French Golf Federation's excellent Golf and Environment Charters. With this obvious dedication, we look forward to seeing what more progress they bring forward over the next three years ahead of re-certification."