Sustainability – The Centre Pole at the Centre of Golf’s Tent!

“Sustainability is absolutely the centre pole that keeps this whole Olympic tent up”. So says Head of Deliverance Ian Fletcher in the BBC comedy ‘Twenty Twelve’, the spoof series based on the organisation of the 2012 Olympic Games. It’s a metaphor, often used by the lead character, played brilliantly by Hugh Bonneville, to express the central importance of various issues as the Olympic Delivery Commission lurches from crisis to crisis.

Yet is this metaphor so far from the truth? I’d argue that sustainability is becoming the ‘centre pole’ for many new developments. At European Golf Design sustainability is certainly at the heart of our design process. From the early stages of any project we work hard to create courses which exhibit a positive environmental, social and economic benefit.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s the principal concern was the environment. At that time there were growing concerns about the impact of golf, especially regarding the use of water and the effects of chemicals and fertilisers on natural habitats and water courses. Environmental Assessments were incorporated into the UK planning system in 1988, and this led to projects having to compensate for any negative environmental impacts.

In the mid-1990s the Committed to Green initiative led the way in giving golf a voice within the environmental lobby and for the past decade that task has been led by the Golf Environment Organisation (GEO). It has taken many years for the golf industry to put across the message that golf is not the blight on the landscape that many perceive, and in fact golf courses which are properly designed, constructed and managed can actually benefit local ecology and provide valuable green space.

But it is no longer just the environment that concerns us. Today’s developments not only need to demonstrate a greater degree of environmental awareness, they also need to achieve higher standards of social and economic stewardship. Sustainability is defined as the relationship between these three elements.

GEO is dedicated to ensuring that golf leads the way in the development and management of sustainable projects and at European Golf Design we work closely with GEO to help all of our projects meet the appropriate sustainability criteria. As part of our commitment to sustainability, three of our staff will soon be taking part in an important new initiative jointly organised by the European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA) and GEO.

The EIGCA’s ‘Raising the Standard of Sustainable Golf Course Design Programme’ will be the first Continuing Professional Development course on sustainable golf in the world. Those who attend the course will learn design principals based on the six action areas that comprise Sustainable Golf: Water, Energy & Resources, Environmental Quality, Landscape & Ecosystems, People & Communities and Products & Supply Chains. In the final phase of the programme, designers will need to demonstrate their understanding through the submission of a real case study. Those who successfully complete the programme will then be listed on a Sustainable Design Register.

It is an important step forward for golf and one that will hopefully lead to real improvements in the standard of golf course design and also in the way that golf developments are perceived outside the industry.

If sustainability wasn’t the ‘centre pole’ of the golf course design tent before, then it is definitely moving closer to the centre now, and to quote Ian Fletcher once again, “were it not for that centre pole at the centre, then how would we know where the centre was”!