Silver Lakes Golf Estate has recently been awarded golf’s highest sustainability accolade, GEO Certified®. The certification is administered and assured by the Golf Environment Organization (GEO), 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 golf course on the Silver Lakes Golf Estate provides green and blue lungs to the community inside one of the largest security housing estates in South Africa. The course is laid out in a Highveld area, which is semi-arid, and features indigenous trees like the Acacia Thorn, African Sumac and Stinkwood. Together with natural rocky outcrops this gives it a classic African look and feel, helping the course blend in with the wider landscape and acting as a buffer for the developed suburbs of Pretoria. The Kikuyu grass on fairways and tees goes dormant in the African winter but comes to life with the summer rains. A 50 ha game reserve borders the course.
The well trained, knowledgeable and motivated staff at Silver Lakes, under the inspired management of Director of Golf Andrew McKenna, fully participated in the OnCourse® programme for sustainable golf, a free online platform for golf clubs throughout the world.
Silver Lake’s GEO Certified® verification report, available on the GEO website, show the clubs commitment across nature protection, resource efficiency and community value. Some of the highlights from this report include:
- the river running through that feeds into various dams and into a large central lake, providing open water and marginal wetland habitat for a variety of birds and other wildlife.
- allowing the fairway turf to go “off-colour” during periods of drought and to enter dormancy over the winter months is part of the estate's policy on water use, and the rough is not irrigated. Full irrigation is only necessary when rains occur late in the season or are less frequent
- as a condition of certification, Silver Lakes has committed to install a fully automatic and computer controlled irrigation system, which will serve to improve the auditing capabilities of how much water is consumed and where; reduce consumption by being extremely efficient; allow precise application of water to targeted priority areas; and reduce energy consumption in the efficient running of the pumps
- Silver Lakes has taken a number of measures to minimize energy usage. Energy efficient lighting is present in all areas of the clubhouse. The kitchen in the new restaurant will make use of liquid-gas for cooking. Timber from cleaning up old trees on site is used in the clubhouse wood burner in winter.
- the club uses local suppliers with the correct BEE status (Black Economic Empowerment) for all purchases
- recyclable waste from the maintenance facility and clubhouse is collected and utilised by a recycling company
- after golf hours the course can be utilised by the inhabitants as a park, with certain limitations; this usage is very popular. A number of holiday camps are held for children which have been well attended and an annual charity run is organized over the golf course and through the game reserve
- Silver Lakes has an excellent working relationship with the community both inside and outside the estate and has regular meetings with the relevant stakeholders.
Silver Lakes is also playing a significant role in the education of future course managers, as it has a greenkeepers school on the premises, the African Turf Academy, where students are being educated and trained to a very high level. The Academy receives an annual grant from The R&A to support this education programme.
Golf Director Andrew McKenna sets high goals, stating that “Silver Lakes is very much committed to taking on a leadership role for sustainability education and practices in South Africa. Achieving GEO Certified® is seen as an important step in this ambition. Having the African Turf Academy on site means that we have a responsibility to ensure that the future course managers graduating from the programme have a good understanding of sustainability in line with GEO and R&A ideology.”
Jonathan Smith, Chief Executive of GEO, said “As the first South African golf course to become GEO Certified®, Silver Lakes has shown strong leadership and are a pioneering example of sustainable golf in the country. We look forward to continuing to work with South African clubs and golf associations as the sustainable golf movement in the country advances further.”