Sustainability Tim Lobb Paul Kimber ASGCA SAGCA The R&A GEO RSSGCD Matt Johns

Date: Wed 03 Aug 2022

Is the climate emergency a golf emergency?

by Keith Duff, EIGCA’s Sustainability Consultant

Jonathan Smith (GEO)

Jonathan Smith (GEO)

The theme of the EIGCA 2022 Annual Conference was “Is the climate emergency a golf emergency?”, and to underscore EIGCA’s commitment to climate action the event was planned and organised to be a Net Zero event. This commitment was reinforced further by the signing of a joint pledge to climate action within the wider framework of sustainable development by the Presidents of EIGCA, ASGCA and SAGCA.

It became clear during the event that there was a wide range of perceptions amongst EIGCA members about what sustainability means for golf course architects, and the Sustainability Committee agreed to produce a simple and clear statement to explain this in the context of EIGCA Members work. Drafting of this is well advanced at the time of writing.

Jonathan Smith (GEO) made clear that climate is a global issue for golf, and that new developments, restorations, and ongoing management of golf facilities need to take full account of their impacts on emissions and environmental quality. He reminded us of the recent publication of the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) 6th Assessment Report, which reinforces what is known about the impacts of climate change, and the need for action.

Arlette Anderson of The R&A

Arlette Anderson of The R&A

The report Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptability , Vulnerability is a powerful call to action, and national governments are already drafting legislation to strengthen regulatory procedures which will impact on golf developments. Golf course architects would be wise to stay abreast of the practical implications of all this, which is likely to include consideration of the emissions generated by all aspects of a development, throughout its full life cycle. Jonathan highlighted the need for climate neutral golf course construction, which includes:

  • Reduction in reliance on carbon and its emissions from our actions
  • The ability to measure and collate results
  • A strategy to credibly offset unavoidable emissions at the end of the process

Jonathan Smith (GEO) finished by urging us all to make golf the sport that did the most when it was needed the most.

John Kemp of The R&A

John Kemp of The R&A

The panel discussion, involving Tim Lobb MEIGCA, Jason Straka (ASGCA), Harley Kruse (SAGCA), Arlette Anderson (The R&A), Jonathan Smith (GEO) made clear that all their organisations were committed to promoting and delivering good practice in sustainability.

The afternoon sessions moved the focus on, to look at examples of existing good practice, reducing carbon emissions during construction, and knowledge and tools which are being developed to help improve sustainability in practice.

Five EIGCA members who have completed the RSSGCD programme successfully, and therefore appear on the Sustainable Design Register, used examples from their case studies to demonstrate how they had addressed sustainability challenges on the ground. Keith Duff used this opportunity to announce that Council had agreed that RSSGCD would henceforth be known as the Sustainability Programme, a decision acclaimed by the members present.

Sam Thomas (GEO), and Paul Kimber MEIGCA spoke about the need to reduce carbon emissions during construction, drawing on guidance in GEO Sustainable Golf Development Guidelines, and again highlighting the fact that facility lifecycle emissions are rapidly moving towards becoming part of regulatory procedures.

The final session of the day looked at what knowledge is needed to take forward more sustainable approaches to golf development, and what tools exist (or are in development) to help us do that. EIGCA Affiliate, Matt Johns spoke about the Biodiversity Net Gain metric and calculator which is being developed by the UK’s Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, and he is in the process of producing a short briefing paper for EIGCA members on this. John Kemp (The R&A) updated the conference on progress with the Golf Course 2030 programme and how it was likely to develop, and Jonathan Smith (GEO) spoke about the carbon calculator being developed by GEO.

Continuing the conversation

The theme of golf and sustainability is growing daily and it’s often difficult to keep abreast of new information and thinking.

What are your thoughts? What would you like to know more about and how can we help to keep you informed of the evolution of relevant information within the industry? Perhaps you also have experience in a particular area which you would like to share with other members. Get in touch with the EIGCA Sustainability Committee through Chair, David Bily, to continue the conversation.

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