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Milestone in Sustainable Golf Development

New standard established for new facility projects backed by golf industry.

Published:
19th August 2016
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New golf development and renovation projects now have a voluntary standard.  
A new voluntary Sustainable Golf Development standard, developed through close collaboration both within and outside the golf industry, has been introduced as part of golf’s efforts to become a leader in sustainable sport, land-use and development.

After 18 months of open consultation and dedicated work by an International Expert Working Group, facilitated by the Golf Environment Organization (GEO), a credible, accessible and relevant voluntary sustainability standard for golf development has been established. The standard provides a framework which guides the process of delivering new golf developments and renovations, from site selection through to opening day; maximising positive social and environmental value throughout. 

Jonathan Smith, Chief Executive of GEO, the non-profit organisation dedicated to helping advance sustainability in and through golf, said: “Bringing diverse stakeholders together to produce credible and accessible sustainability standards is no easy task and we’d like to thank all those that have dedicated their time and expertise to the process.  In particular we acknowledge The R&A’s leadership, vision and investment; WWF’s engagement; the support of the major golf architect associations worldwide; and the further backing of valued corporate partners, Jacobsen, and sponsors John Deere and Toro.”

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A said: “There is more and more evidence that sustainability is key to the growth and vitality of the sport around the world, which is why The R&A is investing in the long-term solutions the industry needs.  Voluntary sustainability standards have an important role to play and we are delighted to see this significant milestone being achieved.  We would encourage people involved in golf development to utilise this resource as they create the profitable facilities of the future, serving golfers and wider society and enhancing the image and reputation of the sport as they do so.”


Martin Slumbers

Voluntary sustainability standards have an important role to play… Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive, The R&A

Richard Holland, interim Director of Markets at WWF, a leading global conservation charity, and member of the International Expert Working Group said: “I am delighted to have been part of the standard development process and help the sport to address a vital component of its sustainability performance which is crucial for golf’s growth and future success. Congratulations to all those involved in achieving this milestone. The next step is to make sure it is used in practice – by developers, by investors and governments, and their agencies, as a framework to ensure the best possible outcomes from projects in their jurisdiction”.

The eight members of the International Expert Working Group, which shaped the standard from its earliest stages, included representatives from the Society of Australian Golf Course Architects; American Society of Golf Course Architects; The European Institute of Golf Course Architects; The Golf Course Builders Association of America; European Commission; Beijing Forestry University; Australian National University and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). 

Central to the credibility and rigour behind this achievement is The ISEAL Alliance’s code of good practice for standard setting. GEO earned full ISEAL membership status in 2015 and followed the codes throughout the development of this standard document. These same codes of good practice are followed by other well-known sustainability bodies including Fairtrade, The Rainforest Alliance and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Amy Jackson, ISEAL’s Senior Manager for Learning & Membership said: “Golf is the only sport to have representation, via GEO, in ISEAL. Following our Standard-Setting Code shows a commitment to transparency, multi-stakeholder balanced input and, along with our impacts and assurance codes, helps to ensure that this standard will produce positive and measurable environmental and social impacts. Having worked with GEO for several years now, we continue to be impressed with their commitment to sustainability in golf and, as an ISEAL member, working together with other leading sustainability standards. We are particularly impressed with the standard setting process for this Sustainable Golf Development voluntary sustainability standard, which was road-tested against real projects from around the world.”

The standard document and further explanation can be viewed on the GEO website at along with information on the OnCourse® Developments programme, which provides practical support to assist developments and the GEO Certified® Developments mark, which provides credible recognition to developments.