Article by GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf
Driving change: A path forward for golf in climate action
As the dust settles on the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, and people around the world reflect on the outcomes, there remains a central requirement - that individuals, businesses, sports and sectors need to do what they can to create a lower carbon future.
For golf, this will play out in different ways and with different priorities across grassroots facilities, tournaments, organisations, players and the diverse supply chain.
With some 39,000 golf courses covering an area roughly the size of Belgium and significantly larger than the many island states most impacted by rising sea levels and climate change, golf has a responsibility and opportunity to lead and be part of the solution. More than 5,300 of these courses lie in the European Union and a further 3,100 in the UK.
Looking to the future
The most profitable and popular facilities of the future will be more self-sufficient in cleaner energy, with more efficient heating and cooling systems, and more electrified with less petrol and diesel-powered equipment. Staff will be attuned to the cost of energy and will play their part in behavioural efficiency measures. Bulk materials, heavy in embodied carbon, such as virgin sands, aggregates and soils, and synthetic fertilisers will phase out to be replaced by second generation, recycled versions and variations.
Tournaments will be powered through combinations of onsite renewables and much wider electrification with green hydrogen and other innovations, while an emphasis on accessibility will become more important – particularly around rail and other public mass transit alongside the provision for electric vehicles.
Organisations, such as golf associations, will be required to have climate transition strategies and net zero roadmaps, which include not only their own operations, but also policies and programs that support change across their memberships and events.
And players can be invited and encouraged to play their part – whether grassroots golfers travelling to and from their clubs, or as climate-conscious golf tourists who contribute to climate mitigation activities in the destinations they travel to. For professional players, whose livelihood and inspirational position requires unavoidable travel, commitments, contributions and communications will need to be clearer in front of expectant fans and sponsors.
Sound like a lot of change?
In some ways it is, in other ways it is change that is already happening, with many leadership examples already emerging and scaling across the sport.
It is also a change that is going to happen as old fuels, technology and materials are replaced by modern innovations.
Driving Net Zero
Being at the forefront and making this transition in a planned and proactive way will be the most important aspects for businesses across golf and for the sport as a whole. A proactive transition towards net zero emissions will be more productive and less painful than the alternative.
It will ensure capital investments are wise investments that futureproof the operational running of facilities, events and organisations. Engagement of staff and members, if done in the right way, will bring pride and loyalty and build goodwill with communities and the wider public. It will make clubs and events and the sport even more investable from the public and private sectors.
According to science-based targets we have between 15 and 25 years for our facilities, tournaments and organisations to reach net zero. It’s a target we can and need to lean into. For the future of our courses and our sport, our families, local communities, and to ensure we play our part in global climate justice. So that we are on the right side of history and stepped forward as the sport that was willing to do the most, when it is most needed.
Find out more about how we can all be involved in Driving Net Zero at sustainable.golf.