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Building a Better Future for Your Public Golf Course4 min read


Posted on: 1st Jul 2019

The GEO Foundation’s most recent press release recognises that some of the world’s most socially, environmentally and economically productive facilities can help strengthen the viability and value of public golf. 

A new publication, ‘Sustainable Golf Development – Public Facilities Guidelines’, is aimed at public decision makers, developers and other influencers who are considering either new public golf development or planning the future of existing facilities.

The guidance illustrates that through careful and creative planning and decision making, public courses, particularly those in urban areas, can go on to deliver even more enjoyment to local communities, whilst also increasing their wider service to society.

The central rationale behind the guidance is that by thinking more broadly about the ‘whole value’ that a public course and facility can provide can not only boost direct use, revenue and profitability, but can also elevate the wider environmental and social benefits provided.

Key themes that run through the guidance, and over 40 case studies, include:

  • Multi-functionality – looking creatively at ways to integrate a diversity of recreational services, that can also diversify customers and revenue
  • Naturalisation – as a means to reduce maintenance costs, enhance the golfing landscape and experience, and increase the wider ‘ecosystem services’ provided
  • Marketing and communications – letting golfers and non-golfers know what the local public golf course offers, and its value to the area

Inside, the examples and guidance set out the social and environmental benefits associated with responsibly designed and managed public golf facilities, including means and methods of delivering sustainable refurbishments and long-term operations.

Sam Thomas, GEO Foundation Director of Sustainable Golf Development, said: “With increasing competition for peoples’ time, availability of public land and public service budgets, there is a need and opportunity to make public golf courses as productive as possible.

“This guidance aims to help public golf decision makers to effectively review operations and make more significant renovation plans, in a way that creates stronger businesses, as well as providing more services to society. It’s a win win that we are eager to help more people unlock – for the benefit of golf, communities and the environment”.

Highlighting the value of sustainable high quality cities to people and businesses, the European Commissioner for Environment Janez Potočnik stated: “Europe’s cities need more than ever to be sustainable and should offer the kind of quality of life and opportunity that make people want to live in them and make businesses want to invest”.

Included are examples of watershed management in the UK, flood alleviation in Illinois, accessible sport for all in Peru and Portugal, environmental restoration in Switzerland, biodiversity improvements in California and social or education initiatives in Sweden and Brazil.

Beyond examples, there are practical ideas, insights, initiatives and technical guidance covering design, construction and maintenance of public facilities as well as their governance, size, function and costs.

And the golf industry is taking the opportunity to build in these wider benefits as it looks to reimagine public golf facilities for the 21st century. Ross McMurray, President of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects comments on this approach: “Now, more than ever, golf course architects, like all designers working in open green space, must demonstrate the benefits to the local environment, society and economy – delivering long-term value for future generations”.

 Reinforced by Bruce Charlton, President of the American Society of Golf Course Architects Foundation: “Public golf courses are most often the heart of the community, playing a key role in securing the recreational enjoyment of the citizens while providing an environmental asset that is suitable for many land uses”.

Endorsed by leading golf industry bodies, including The R&A, the publication supports the current focus on the importance of public golf to the sport.

Collated and authored by GEO Foundation, the international non-profit dedicated to helping advance sustainability in and through golf, the contents address wider societal challenges and goals with responsible, well designed and creative approaches to golf facility design, construction, management and operations.

If you are a golf facility manager, professional or otherwise and want to know more, then the full version of the Sustainable Golf Development Public Facility Guidelines is free and available to download as a pdf here. This is the third in the series of Sustainable Golf Development publications including the Voluntary Sustainability Standard and the private industry’s Development Guidelines. Please email hello@sustainable.golf to request hard copies.