Have Turfhugg'n Hippies Taken Over the Golf Industry?

For years I've heard scepticism about the environmental certification programs (Audubon, EPar, GEO, Par "0") meant to create a high environmental operations standard across our industry. I've faced a few environmental groups who claim these industry efforts are not sincere and are purely PR driven. Although there's been greenwashing in our industry, I believe the majority of Superintendents and Architects have taken big steps to prevent negative impacts to the natural environment. Despite my certinty, I wash shocked, and impressed when a Golf Environment Organisation (GEO) press release crossed my path.

The press release begins by claiming the Waterford County Council has "disregarded the principles of sustainable development and failed to fulfil its obligations under existing legislation and international environmental agreements" by granting permission for a proposed golf resort on Irelands southern shoreline.

The press release goes on to list a number of EU and local regulations that the Islandikane Golf Development has disregarded. From the document:

"Furthermore, despite the fact that the developer has proposed to follow the principles of the Golf Environment Europe ECO Management Programme (now superseded by the Golf Environment Organisation certification scheme) and apply for accreditation, the development design and assessment process has run contrary to those principles, by selecting a protected area for development, failing to act on the advice of government scientists and leading environmental experts, and by assuming that any negative impact can be overcome by future mitigation measures".

"While GEO appreciates the intrinsic value of dramatic cliff top golf, and the great potential that creative golf planning and design can have in many contexts, we believe that in the modern day, harming fragile assemblages of rare species and habitats is not acceptable. The technology and expertise exists to create great golf developments that avoid environmental conflict and deliver true environmental and economic gain, but that requires adaptation of the development model to specific site conditions, and respect for fundamental social and environmental values".
Photo courtesy of PunkBirder

"The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local G
overnment has formally objected to the development proposal, highlighting the sensitivity of the site and stating: “the Islandikane area has been identified by the chough survey team as being of particular importance for choughs within the proposed SPA…….The area is host to a large comunal roost……… the developers own survey team recorded 127 choughs on site in one visit. Research has shown that choughs spend 78% of their time within 300 metres of the coast. The proposed golf course would run the entire length of the coastline within the development site…for over two kilometres. At some points associated buildings appear to be within 160m of the main communal roost…..For these reasons this Department has serious concerns regarding this proposed development. Therefore, we recommend that planning permission should not be granted for the proposed development in its present form.”

Mr. Conor Kretsch, a technical advisor on biodiversity and ecosystems for GEO, says the decision to grant planning permission is bad for the environment, and bad for golf: “Appropriate golf development can support nature conservation planning and thereby provide significant benefits to local communities, the economy and the environment, but only where every available option has been taken to guarantee the conservation of local biodiversity, and respect the integrity of protected areas and ecosystems. As with any development, it must be a case of the right project in the right place at the right time. By co-operating with the Department of the Environment and BirdWatch Ireland, rather than resisting them, there could be ample scope for a developer to incorporate sustainable golf development with nature conservation objectives at Islandikane. It is a shame that such initiative has not been shown, that the current design and approach to planning is contrary to the principles of sustainable golf development, and that Waterford County Council has failed in its remit.”

Okay, the reason I've posted this info is because it gives a clear snapshot as to where our industry is today. We've stepped away from neglecting the issues and are facing them dead on! By issuing this press release I believe the GEO has given the industry a great deal of credibility and integrity when it comes to responsible golf course developments. Cheers to GEO for this one!

More press info here.

Funny enough it comes at the same time that a famous American Pop Star Justin Timberlake has opened the doors to his newly restored, and Audubon Classic Certified Mirimichi GC.


In response to your title, No we've always been here.

Great idea for a site.

Any plans for articles on organic fertilizers or nematodes?

To hear the other side, check out the bottom of this article at Golf Course Architecture Magazine.