St Andrews Links has become the first Open Championship venue to achieve the prestigious GEO Certified ecolabel in recognition of its sustainability commitment and achievements.
St Andrews Links Trust, which manages the seven courses at the Home of Golf including the Old Course and The Castle Course, has operated a sustainability programme for many years and this approach was described by Mike Wood, the accredited verifier, as being "close to defining an ideal model for sustainable management."
A special plaque was presented to Euan Loudon, Chief Executive of St Andrews Links Trust, by Jonathan Smith, Chief Executive of the Golf Environment Organisation, with George O'Grady, the Chief Executive of The European Tour, and Peter Dawson, the Chief Executive of The R&A, in attendance.
The Golf Environment Organisation (GEO) is an international non-profit organisation, supported by stakeholders across the golf community to help build awareness and understanding, provide practical programmes and reward achievements with the GEO Certified ecolabel.
In the GEO verification report the assessor praised the Trust's commitment to social responsibility and community engagement as well as the eco-friendly manner in which the clubhouses, retail outlets and other facilities are operated. They said that not only was the Trust nurturing a 600 year heritage as the birthplace of the game, it was a "standard bearer for 21st Century good practice in golf management."
A number of sustainability measures at the Links were highlighted by the assessor, including:
The high quality of the golf courses' playing surfaces which are maintained with minimal fertiliser, chemical and irrigation inputs.
The restoration of the distinctive dune landscape between the New and Jubilee courses, recreating a natural habitat area.
Managing the courses in such a way as to contribute to the management of the neighbouring SSSI at the Eden Estuary.
The comprehensive range of energy efficiency measures in operation in the clubhouses and facilities.
The re-use of organic materials and other recycling activities.
Working in close partnership and co-operation with the local community.
The transformation of intensively managed mixed farmland, into a new golf course (The Castle Course) with an extensive matrix of grassland habitats.
Euan Loudon said, "We take our duty to manage St Andrews Links sustainably as a golfing resource for future generations extremely seriously.
Over the years we have won awards for the measures we have implemented and developed but this is certainly the most rigorous certification process we have gone through. We are delighted to achieve the GEO Certified ecolabel and we are focused on continuing to introduce new sustainable methods and practices across the breadth of operations at the Links in the years ahead."
George O'Grady said, "We congratulate St Andrews Links Trust on their commitment and achievement. This is the kind of leadership that The European Tour are encouraging across all our venues as part of our own commitment to sustainability in golf, which was further reinforced by last year's comprehensive Ryder Cup Green Drive. As founding partners of GEO, we are delighted to see their customised guidance, programmes and ecolabel gaining this kind of momentum."
GEO has been dedicated to supporting and promoting sustainability in golf since 2006. In the space of two years, more than 250 golf clubs in 34 countries have started the GEO OnCourse programme to achieve the GEO Certified ecolabel. St Andrews Links becomes the 50th golf facility to achieve the distinction.
Jonathan Smith said, "For centuries the Home of Golf has been synonymous with low input, community integrated and ecologically rich golf. This stewardship of the historic Links of St Andrews, and more recently The Castle Course, has occurred through good decision-making that blends financial, golfing and common good interests relating to local people and the environment. We are delighted that our OnCourse programme has helped the staff of such an iconic golfing destination to broaden and deepen their actions enabling them to combine traditional values with a clear appreciation of modern day corporate and environmental responsibility."
Dr Christian Deuringer, Head of Global Brand Management, Allianz SE, the global partner of St Andrews Links, said, "We congratulate St Andrews Links Trust on having achieved the GEO Certified ecolabel. As a leading global Insurance and Asset Management company, sustainability is part of the Allianz DNA and we have therefore decided together with the Trust, that a significant part of our partnership contribution goes to maintaining the courses and preserving the historic coastline. We are therefore especially pleased that St Andrews Links Trust's superior efforts are rewarded and highlighted as examples for other venues around the world."
Working closely with local advisors, consultants and the Scottish Golf Environment Group, the Links Trust has received widespread recognition for its environmental work in recent years. In 2003, it won the Scottish final of the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association's environmental competition. The following year it received the Scottish Golf Environment Group's Environmental Excellence Award. In 2009, the Trust received the Golf Course Environment Award from the Sports Turf Research Institute for protecting the ecology of the Links landscape. The Castle Course Clubhouse was also recognised by St Andrews Preservation Trust for its outstanding design which complements the clifftop landscape.
For more information visit www.standrews.org.uk.