As a significant milestone in the advancement of sustainability in and through the sport of golf, the associations of Sweden, Portugal, Switzerland, South Africa, Netherlands, Flanders, Scotland, England, Italy, Iceland and South Africa have stepped forward to set new leadership targets, and provide further support to grass roots clubs.
Partnering with GEO Foundation, the international non-profit dedicated to golf and sustainability, the move follows years of collaborative development of OnCourse® - an on-line programme for sustainable golf course and club management.
OnCourse® makes it easier for golf facilities to implement, track and communicate their actions for nature, resources and community, while at the same time gathering key data and stories which enable greater knowledge share and promotion of the progress and value of the sport.
A major part of OnCourse® is devoted to 'sustainable materials', with explicit guidance and resources to help facilities achieve zero waste to landfill, and to minimise/eliminate the use of petroleum based and single use plastics.
Jonathan Smith of GEO Foundation said: "Finding ways to live, work and play sustainability is society's greatest challenge, and it requires a combination of teamwork and individual leadership. This group of golfing nations are demonstrating both - pulling together on robust and common solutions, while also setting out strengthened leadership to support grass roots action. We'd like to thank them and the many other associations and pioneering facilities that have helped shape and move this forward, including Strategic Partners The R&A, Vidauban Foundation, European Tour, International Golf Federation, Toro and Textron Golf."
Jochem Verberne, Director Global Partnerships of WWF International: "We are pleased to see innovative voluntary sustainability systems emerging across sport - to a large extent being led by the example of golf. By using the standards, technology and certification tools that have been developed, golf will be able to generate significant measurable outcomes for people and the environment - that will show how the sport's often perceived negative impacts can be turned into clear 'net positive' value. We applaud GEO, the Strategic Partners and countries listed here, and encourage others in golf to get involved and take advantage of this platform, which will be increasingly important to the sport's long term viability".
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A added: "It is important that issues of sustainability are being widely considered throughout the golf industry and that they are addressed in order to safeguard the environments and communities in which the sport is played. We are strong advocates of technology which enables golf facilities to adopt and track the use of sustainable management practices and we are pleased that a number of our affiliates are encouraging member clubs to integrate the OnCourse sustainability platform as part of their daily operations."
Julie Duffus, International Olympic Committee Sustainability Manager added: "This is a significant initiative by some of the leading golf associations, and dovetails perfectly with our own sustainability activities, and World Environment Day efforts to 'Beat Plastic Pollution". This is such a huge and globally important challenge that needs proactive leadership from across the sport community, so it's great to see an Olympic sport like golf step up in such a coordinated and credible way".
Antony Scanlon, Executive Director of the International Golf Federation added: "This is a significant milestone in golf's efforts to be a leader in sustainable sport, which is great credit to all the people and organisations that are helping to make that happen."
National association statements:
Miguel Franco de Sousa, President of the Portuguese Golf Federation said: "OnCourse Portugal will be of central importance to the future of golf in Portugal - helping drive operational efficiencies and best practices in private clubs and commercial facilities; and strengthening the image and reputation of the sport - domestically and internationally."
Gunnar Hakansson, Chief Executive of the Swedish Golf Federation added: "OnCourse Sweden dovetails with our initiatives to promote the 'Societal Benefits of Golf' and the considerable environmental, turfgrass and social research carried out by STERF. We now have a consistent way to engage and guide clubs which also gathers the essential data and stories to back our public communications. GEO's reputation and credibility - linked to their standards, certification, accreditations and endorsements - is also highly relevant."
Jeroen Stevens, Chief Executive of the Royal Dutch Golf Federation: "With over 150 clubs already OnCourse and 76 fully GEO Certified® we have already seen the benefits this approach brings at clubs, courses and at national level. These span golfer engagement, pride, better local community relations, a co-regulatory agreement on pesticides, national NGO partnerships and joint communications, positive engagement of contractors and suppliers, and creation of a new bank of valuable sustainability metrics. We look forward to launching the regionalised and upgraded OnCourse® Netherlands later in 2018."
Barbara Albisetti, General Secretary of the Swiss Golf Association: "It is very important that Swiss golf has a central platform for sustainability. OnCourse will help us get the best guidance and resources out to our member clubs, while also enabling us to gather key data and highlights across the most important environmental and social issues. We want to show that golf cares about, and brings value to the environment and communities, and OnCourse Switzerland will be central to our further work in this area".
Nick Pink, Chief Executive of England Golf: "As one of England's largest participation sports and recreational greenspaces, it is important that we have a credible and joined up strategy on sustainability. As part of our approach, we see great value in the multi-functionality of OnCourse, which provides a custom-built business support tool to clubs, as well as a vital database of new metrics for the sport."
Grant Hepburn, Chief Executive of Golf RSA: "As well as being the right thing to do, bringing sustainability forward more strongly is important to the health and vitality of golf in South Africa - to ensure we proactively address emerging challenges, as well as opening up new business opportunities. We'd like to thank both GEO and The R&A for making it easier for us to take fast and effective action, through the ability to customise and promote OnCourse, and the other components of the system".
Brynjar Eldon Geirsson, Managing Director Golf Union of Iceland
"We see multiple benefits in GEO's OnCourse platform. By using it, clubs have reported savings and increased efficiency. The programme also facilitates decision making, helping to unite views within clubs and committees. It is a valuable data source of the future, helping us to spot new opportunities. We can become more transparent, do the right thing and be recognized for it."
Marc Verneirt, Secretary General Golf in Flanders: "OnCourse Flanders will make it possible for the local 'Golf&Milieu' programme to grow to the next level, and our clubs will be able to show their efforts on environment, nature and sustainability on national and international level."
Tony Bozzi, Vice President of the Italian Golf Federation: "Every year the Italian Golf Federation runs several projects to push owners, golf managers and course superintendents to focus on golf's sustainability. With "Impegnati nel Verde" for example we reward clubs that show a proper use of water and energy; several Italian courses are already "On Course" and a few of them have already achieved GEO Certified® status. Biogolf is our newest project that will identify 100% biologically maintained golf courses. The main target is to train the whole golf population on minimising the impact of golf on the global environment. We strongly believe that if golf courses will succeed in informing the public on how they are dealing with environmental issues, the overall image of golf could achieve a major improvement"
Andrew McKinlay, Chief Executive of Scottish Golf: "We see the OnCourse Scotland online platform as a valuable part of our environment and sustainability support for clubs. It will provide an ideal tool for club and course managers to record and track their sustainability data and activities and promote their achievements across Scotland and internationally. The gathering of important national data and metrics will also help positively represent our industry performance, enhancing our reputation and value to our strategic partners."
More information about golf and sustainability, and all the other partners involved is available at www.sustainable.golf, @sustainablegolf and www.getoncourse.golf, and enquiries regarding OnCourse® should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.