Royal Birkdale has hosted nine Opens, with the championship due to return in 2017, along with other major and amateur events, including the Ryder Cup. It has now added to its list of honours by achieving the GEO Certified® ecolabel which recognises environmental stewardship, resource efficiency and community value. The certification is administered and assured by GEO (the Golf Environment Organization), the not-for-profit group dedicated to sustainability in the golf industry. The standard is independently verified and publicly reported, making it a credible and significant distinction.
The third party verification reported a particularly strong emphasis on environmental management. Approximately 80% of the Royal Birkdale site is wildlife habitat, providing for a wide variety of rare plant and animal species. The course sits adjacent to a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Local Nature Reserve (LNR) and management of the course is dedicated to the stewardship of these areas.
Other highlights noted by the verifier include:
- two successful year’s breeding by a barn owl pair in a purpose installed nest box
- 1,500 metres of natural drainage ditches providing habitat for breeding colonies of the European protected natterjack toad
- investment plan for an irrigation system to install more efficient, modern directional sprinkler heads
- close relationships with local government, environmental and community organisations
- regular hosting of visits by local education establishment, Myerscough College, greenkeeping and land management students, as well as other golf architect and industry bodies
- specific conservation education for employees and encouragement to attend local environmental meetings
- 2015 STRI ‘Conservation Greenkeeper of the Year’ awarded to the club’s John Kelly.
Peter Griffiths, Captain of Royal Birkdale said: “We are delighted to have achieved the GEO Certified® standard and honoured by the recognition it gives to our work across all areas of sustainability. We will continue to work hard to protect our environment and enhance the benefits the club can bring to our surrounding nature and community.”
Royal Birkdale is the latest Open venue to become GEO Certified® with all host venues on course to become certified by the end of 2015. The clubs certification and verification report can be found here.