GEO Sustainability

Date: Tue 12 Apr 2022

Is the climate emergency a golf emergency?

Sam Thomas and Jonathan Smith, GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf

Copyright GEO Foundation - Golfe Jamor

Copyright GEO Foundation - Golfe Jamor

This is the second in a series of articles we will publish this year focusing on environmental sustainability. Sam Thomas and Jonathan Smith, GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf talk about climate change in the lead up to EIGCA’s Annual Conference in June which is on the theme of: Is the climate emergency a golf emergency? A Net Zero Event for Golf Development and Design

Climate change is now one of the most prominent topics in society – transcending the environmental movement and amplifying the need for us all to live, work and play more sustainably on this one planet.

Decades of global climate science shows that human activity is increasing levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHG) in the earth’s atmosphere, and that this is trapping extra heat – leading to changing weather patterns.

The consequences of this have consequences for us all and our future generations – including how and where we work when designing and renovating the world’s golf courses.

How are we future proofing courses and our clients’ businesses and clubs? How can we best measure and communicate the contribution that golf design is making in terms of carbon emissions and storage? How can golf courses provide the maximum ecosystem services that help communities adapt to changing climate impacts – such as more frequent flooding; water shortages; and extreme heat and humidity?

“The world is reaching the tipping point beyond which climate change may become irreversible. If this happens, we risk denying present and future generations the right to a healthy and sustainable planet – the whole of humanity stands to lose.”
Kofi Annan, Former Secretary-General of UN

“We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last to be able to do anything about it”.
Barack Obama

Caption 1: Mapping showing increase in ‘Extreme Heat’ days in US. Copyright

Caption 1: Mapping showing increase in ‘Extreme Heat’ days in US. Copyright

Extreme Heat is increasing in various regions around the world. This, when combined with high humidity (the Wet Bulb Ratio) poses a direct risk to how long human beings can recreate safely outdoors. Today 30% of the world’s population gets more than 20 days of the year of this Extreme Heat - the recommended time to spend outside in these sort of conditions is just 15 minutes…golf takes a little longer than that.

For some, golf is part of the solution – protecting greenspaces, sequestering more carbon than it emits, cooling urban areas, providing flood alleviation and showcasing natural resilient climate solutions.

For others, golf is part of the problem – emitting large amounts directly and indirectly through energy, water, fertilisers, pesticides, machinery and degradation of soil carbon. It can be seen as land that could be used more productively for social and environmental purposes.

There is a clear need and growing expectation for the sport as a whole and for individual facilities (operations, renovations and new builds) to be able to clearly represent their climate action and their contribution on this critical issue accurately and credibly - the industry is already now seeing the need for golf projects to disclose their carbon emissions to local authorities.

Caption 2: One of a growing number of sustainable golf highlights taking climate action - Copyright

Caption 2: One of a growing number of sustainable golf highlights taking climate action - Copyright

That’s why GEO Foundation, and other leading golf bodies and researchers, have been collating knowledge to build customised carbon calculators for golf. You can find out more at and by contacting the GEO Foundation, which will be able to point you towards key research sources, such as the Carbon Par projects in Iceland.

This year’s EIGCA Annual Conference is in Iceland in June, with the entire program dedicated to this important topic of Climate Action. EIGCA Members and partners will convene alongside friends and fellow professionals from the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) and the Society of Australian Golf Course Architects (SAGCA) to explore all aspects of climate action in relation to golf design and development.

Topics covered during the event will include reducing carbon emissions in design and construction, design changes for a changing climate, protecting (and adapting to) our future and what knowledge and tools are being implemented on courses to ensure success.

Click here to read the first article in this series (“The tree dilemma – carbon sequestration on golf courses, by EIGCA Sustainability Advisor, Keith Duff)

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