In the golf industry, you could spend your entire working life attending conferences and exhibitions. Golf administrators regularly meet with other golf administrators, greenkeepers attend seminars with other greenkeepers; in fact, we are all pretty good at talking to our own peers.
These events are extremely useful, and allow us to raise challenging issues and to communicate on sustainability and other important subjects. However, while we do communicate regularly with other people involved in golf, we tend to be much more reticent about seeking the views of groups who we feel might not be as enthusiastic about golf as we are - and that is something which certainly does not help our cause.
The simple fact is that many of these groups will have more influence on the development of golf than those individuals involved in the game itself. Politicians, environmental NGOs and others can control what we can, and cannot, do when it comes to course development and management so it is essential that golf engages with them at international, national and local level.“
International engagement at the BirdLife International World Congress
At international level, the International Golf Federation (IGF), The R&A and the USGA all engage in this manner. A good example of this was the golf workshop held at the BirdLife International World Congress this June.
Most of the big international NGOs have a national network and a number of national golf governing bodies, notably the Netherlands Golf Federation, work with them on environmental matters. It is at this or regional level that political engagement can also be undertaken. In Europe, the European Golf Association (EGA) has been active in Brussels for a number of years, developing a working relationship with MEPs and the European Commission. On a national level, many of golf’s governing bodies are also active in working with their governments on behalf of the game. The French Golf Federation is a good example of that.
There will be many golf clubs that are hesitant about engaging with outside agencies at a local level, fearing that by communicating in this manner they might be opening their doors to organisations who will be critical of what they do and who might even attempt to persuade them to change their ways. However, in reality, such communication often has the opposite effect.
Golf’s visitors will see the efforts that more enlightened golf clubs are making on behalf of the environment and local communities and begin to appreciate what golf can provide.
So, the message is that, despite perceptions to the contrary, engagement at all levels is a positive move, and one that can address negative perceptions about the game and bring direct benefits to those managing golf courses.