Sustainability In Golf – Industry Players That Are Leading The Environmental Charge


Sustainability in the golf industry is something that is relatively new.

But as sustainability in general has matured more and more golf clubs, golf developments and golf tournaments have been adopting sustainability principles.

Last year was the first year that the Global Golf Tourism Organisation (IAGTO) introduced sustainability categories to their annual Awards programme. The move has spearheaded a greater interest amongst their 2,500 members, with over 120 IAGTO golf courses having now enrolled with the Golf Environment Organisation’s (GEO) On Course Sustainability programme. Many of these golf courses are pursuing full GEO certification.

Here are the three main areas of focus that golf courses and developments can focus on to improve their sustainability track record!


Water consumption is arguably the single biggest challenge for golf courses. The business case for acting on water conservation projects is clear as the price of water continues to climb globally, and will only get more expensive as this scarce resource depletes. The financial benefits of optimising water consumption by improving efficiency and adopting innovative technologies often far outweighs the cost when measured across a 10-year period.

Here are some of the practical things golf courses can do to conserve water:

  • Use of new drought and disease resistant grasses that can survive using low quality irrigation water – although there is still a lot of research and development to be done in this space, the turf-grass industry is moving quickly and new, highly resistant grasses are coming onto the market more frequently
  • For new golf developments, designers should look at design and construction solutions that reduce the need for turf-grass in certain areas
  • Golf courses should adopt designs and construction projects which take into account the natural function of aquatic ecosystems and watersheds. With clever design, golf courses can actually help the water cycle by allowing slow percolation into ground soils and aquifers, this in turn helps attenuate and treat water, thus ultimately improving water quality.
  • Courses and future developments should look at the use of ditches, wetlands, swales, waterways and other drainage features that have sustainable attributes, as these make a meaningful contribution to the purification, recycling and natural replenishment of water reserves.


Golf courses can be wonderful places for biodiversity to flourish! Peter Thomson, the five-time winner of the British Open Championship once said: “It’s the balance between foul and fair ground that sets the greatest golf courses apart”. And we totally agree!

Rich biodiversity on a golf course only enhances the experience and aesthetics of the game!

With healthy biodiversity and ecosystems comes loads of natural benefits, like water purification services, oxygen production and nutrient recycling. Negative impacts like soil erosion are also kept at bay!

Golf courses can make a great contribute to the natural environment through smart design and construction. Configuring the landscape in a way that fits the ecosystem and allows it to flourish is key.


Energy is often overlooked on golf courses as from a surface level it seems that energy consumption is generally low, but when you consider the embodied energy of the products that go into maintaining the course, such as the pesticides and fertilisers, machinery and water treatment facilities, it is clear that energy is a key resource consumption area.

To overcome the energy challenge golf courses should be looking at ways to:

  • Reduce the consumption of product with high embodied energy, like pesticides and water that has been treated
  • Some golfers can look at harnessing geothermal heating and cooling, as well as wind and  solar-power generation
  • For developments that have a large residential component the use of passive design to avoid the use of inefficient materials, particularly around insulation, can be used by designers and architects to reduce or remove energy loads from buildings. Many of these technologies are available as retrofit solutions for courses and club houses.

It is clear that the sustainability journey for the golf industry is still in it’s nascent stage, but the benefits from taking action early and getting ahead of the curve are significant. Immediate cost saving benefits are clear as both water and energy are resources that are only getting more expensive. With smart design and progressive thinking golf courses and golf equipment can capitalise on the profitability and showcasing elements of sustainability to drive forward a better industry for the 21st century!

About the Author Staff Writer

Our writers come from all over the world, but one thing unites them - their passion for sustainability.

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