The golf courses being rewarded for environmental brilliance

By Alistair January 27, 2024 07:55

Clubs across Europe are being awarded sustainability certification for measures ranging from using treated wastewater for irrigation to implementing new grass species that have high resistance to diseases and pests on key parts of golf courses.

Frilford Heath Golf Club in Oxfordshire has become the latest venue to be awarded GEO [Golf Environment Organization] certification, an acknowledgment of the club’s dedication to environmental sustainability in golf course management.

The GEO Foundation is a global authority in promoting sustainable practices within the golf industry, and the certification serves as a testament to Frilford Heath Golf Club’s unwavering commitment to fostering environmental stewardship, an ethos deeply ingrained in the club’s operations.

It’s not just in the UK that sustainable golf clubs are being recognised for their work by this body.

Quinta do Lago in Portugal has pledged to invest further in sustainable golf course management practices and projects as the resort continues to work closely with the foundation to boost its environmental footprint.

Located within the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve in the Algarve, Quinta do Lago has always made protecting nature one of its prime operational goals and has committed to further enhance its sustainable practices across its three 18-hole championship layouts – the South Course, North Course and Laranjal.

Plans are in place for an upgraded irrigation system to be introduced across the site. In its final stages, the new technology will allow treated wastewater to be used across the entire resort to reduce water usage.

Quinta do Lago will also introduce a new GPS spraying system, reducing chemical usage by up to 30 percent through targeting only the specific locations on a hole which needs attention.

In addition, the resort is also aiming to further reduce its water consumption by replacing many grassed areas at Laranjal and the North Course with pine-bark chippings.

The latest changes come as part of a wider sustainability plan in place at the venue. More than €1 million has been spent upgrading the electric buggy and company car fleet, while large parts of the course are being left unmaintained to create a safe habitat for animals to live and thrive. In 2022, Quinta do Lago had 75 percent occupancy in its bird houses around the course, while occupancy was also high in its bug hotels and bat houses.

Elsewhere, recycling and compost programmes are in place while the resort is reducing its use of single-use plastics in the pro shop, and has inserted water fountains in the clubhouses.

Quinta Farm – a development in which produce is grown on-site and supplied directly to the restaurants at Quinta do Lago – has seen the resort reduce the amount of produce delivered each week. An extension of the restaurant kitchen with chef’s being able to request specific ingredients needed to make signature dishes, more than 50 different organic fruits, herbs and vegetables, such as wild strawberries and golden beetroot have been grown so far.

Scott McLean, superintendent of Quinta do Lago, said: “Our unique positioning within 2,000 acres of the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve brings us even closer to nature, and really helps reinforce the need to always look at better ways to implement sustainable practices.

“On our three courses over the last few years we have really looked at how best to do just that, and we are excited to further improve our environmental credentials through everything we have got planned with the GEO Foundation for 2024 and beyond.”

Camiral Golf & Wellness (formerly PGA Catalunya) in Spain, is also GEO certified. The club is introducing new sustainability actions that will cut water consumption on its golf courses by 35 percent.

Following a recent €1 million sustainability-focused investment in its Stadium Course and to Hotel Camiral, the resort is implementing new water reduction measures, which include reducing irrigated areas, changing turf variety and conducting a study to update its irrigation system with the latest water-saving technology.

“As a European Tour Destination and a leading golf resort in Spain, we recognise the importance of sustainable water management. We are committed to taking proactive measures to minimise our environmental impact – already validated by our use of 100 percent recycled water across the resort since our opening in 1999,” said David Plana, CEO of Camiral Golf & Wellness.

“These new actions will be implemented over three years, reducing our water consumption by an estimated 35 percent, clearly demonstrating our commitment to responsible golf course management, especially at a time when it is critical to protect precious water resources in the region.”

In 2022, Camiral Golf & Wellness introduced tall fescue to all its green complexes, and then in 2023, it began the implementation of Celebration Bermuda grass on its tees and surrounding areas.

The Bermuda variety is native, naturally resistant to drought and heat, making it ideal for the Mediterranean climate.

David Bataller, director of Agronomy at Camiral Golf & Wellness, said: “The first phase of work was completed in July 2023 and included changing the turf variety on our tee boxes, its surrounds and carry to the fairways to the same species grown at the renowned Augusta National in the US.

“The new grass types – which include Celebration Bermuda, Platinum Paspalum, Bent Grass and Tall Fescue – are producing the best turf surfaces in the world and they can all be watered with recycled water.

“Being native to the region, they also have high resistance to diseases and pests. We will also be conducting a study to upgrade our irrigation system to the latest sprinklers and reducing our irrigated areas to playing areas only.

“As a world-class destination for international golfers, we are committed to maintaining our two championship courses in prime condition while also being responsible stewards of the environment by using sustainable practices and cutting-edge technologies to minimise our ecological impact.”

Back in England, Russell Stebbings, managing director at Frilford Heath, has expressed his enthusiasm for the direction the industry, and his club in particular, is heading, stating; “Receiving the GEO certification is a testament to our enduring commitment to environmental responsibility.

“It reflects the hard work and dedication of our entire team in maintaining a golfing environment that is not only challenging but sustainable for future generations.”

A pivotal force behind this achievement is the exemplary work led by Paul Sheather, courses and estates manager at Frilford Heath, and the dedicated estates team.

Commenting on the award, Paul said; “This certification is a reflection of our team’s collective effort to integrate sustainable practices into every facet of our course management. It underscores our commitment to not only delivering an exceptional golfing experience but doing so in harmony with the environment.

“Frilford Heath Golf Club stands proudly as a beacon of environmental responsibility and this certification underscores its commitment to being a leader in sustainable golf.”


By Alistair January 27, 2024 07:55

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