GEO issues new guidelines for sustainable golf development

At Verdura Golf & Spa Resort on the south coast of Sicily, the seafront land where two 18-hole courses sit used to be a grove of fruit trees on exposed soil.

In 2009, California-based Kyle Phillips Golf Course Design built the new courses to reflect the agricultural heritage of the region. There are now more than 40 species of native plants and 1,400 acres of olive and orange trees.

“We believe in creating greater biodiversity that promotes a park-like habitat,” Kyle Phillips said in a report recently released by the Golf Environment Organization.  “That vision is not one of an isolated habitat, but of a system of recreational corridors that connect throughout the golf course and the entire development.”

Verdura is one of 55 examples included in the second edition of Sustainable Golf Guidelines. The theme of the report, from Scotland-based GEO, is that golf is more than a game.

The report states that golf has potential to positively contribute toward sustainable development, and the organization is seeing more facilities developing innovative solutions around the world.

“Facilities like this typify the sentiment that golf can be more than a game ... they can be new recreational facilities for golf, walking, cycling and socializing,” the report stated. “Golf facilities everywhere, of all shapes and sizes, are used as meeting spaces for local community groups and councils, school groups, evening socials, coffee clubs, local markets and more. They also play a role in conserving local habitats, cleaning rivers and streams, housing bats, birds and amphibians, connecting green corridors and linking up wider pedestrian networks. This work is being done now and often goes unnoticed.”

The report was first released in 2010. The new edition includes refreshed guidelines and examples that closely align with the current dialogue in the sustainability world. It’s endorsed by many of the major industry associations in golf development and sustainability. The guidelines examine the process of realizing a golf development from site selection right through the design and construction process to opening day and beyond.

Other examples include river restoration in the South of Portugal; zero chemical construction and maintenance in the Caribbean and Scandinavia; renovation with 33 percent reduction in resource consumption in the U.S.; and support for local communities and education in South America.

The report includes sections on business standards, preparation, design, construction, along with benefits and expectations, and support and recognition.

Many leaders in the industry share insights in the report, and reinforce the importance of sustainability in development.

For instance, Jeremy Slessor, managing director of European Golf Design, sets out the importance of fully understanding the site and embracing its qualities.

“Emphasis must be placed on good site selection criteria and the fundamental qualities that make up a great golf course: character, views, topography, soil, water and accessibility,” he said. 

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