Golf De La Sainte Baume

GEO Certified® 08/2015
Telephone: 0033494786012

Executive summary (English & local language)

The Golf de la Sainte Baume, located in Nans-les-Pins in the VAR (South of France, close to the Mediterranean) had only to take some small additional steps to meet certification standards and transform the management of the course accordingly to a more sustainable one.

Although the golf club enjoys the much appreciated warm Mediterranean climate, its unique location with a mountain chain that form the skyline, it is also confronted with cold, snowy winters, what is an additional challenge for the greenkeeper to maintain a good quality turf in a natural environment.

As the club engaged to participate in the project to establish the Parc Naturel régional de la Sainte-Baume. The regions rich natural environment has attracted human occopation since the iron age and the project aims to reconcile the preservation of its unique heritagewith a further harmonious development of the territory. So the golf management opted this a good opportunity to integrate its natural environment to this typical Mediterranean natural environment, as the golf has some woodland and a ancient road part on its premises. These efforts to make the golf course better mingle with the surrounding nature added to the steps previously taken to minimize its environmental foot print, were just the needed steps to apply successfully for GEO recognition. As this label also expresses not only the environmental oriented approach but also the respect for the local community.

A major factor is the need for irrigation combined with the warm summers, what make the grasses very susceptible to diseases. The selection of stronger grasses and maximization of mechanical maintenance activities, make the need of fungicidal treatments minimal.
Also the construction of a state of the art technical building with an integrated waste water treatment plant further minimizes the environmental impact of the golf club.

The results and actions are regularly communicated to the public so that everyone can see how golf and nature can easily co-exist by developing and safeguarding the botanical and faunal wealth typical for this area, even in a club that aims to make golf easily accessible for everybody.

As such all criteria are met to grant the GEO recognition for a sustainability conscious golf club.

Le Golf de la Sainte Baume, situé à Nans-les-Pins dans le VAR (Sud de la France, près de la Méditerranée) avait qu'à prendre quelques petites mesures supplémentaires pour se conformer aux norme de durabilité et en conséquence adapter la gestion des cours pour un système plus durable.
Bien que le golf bénéficie du climat méditerranéen chaud, un climat très apprécié par la plupart des gens, son emplacement unique avec une chaîne de montagnes qui forment l'horizon, il est également confronté à des hivers froids et enneigés, ce qui est un défi supplémentaire pour le greenkeeper pour maintenir un bon qualité de gazon dans un cadre naturel.

Comme le club engagé à participer au projet de création du Parc Naturel Régional de la Sainte-Baume, ce projet de parc naturel régional visera à concilier la préservation de ce patrimoine exceptionnel et un développement harmonieux du territoire, parce que le richesse naturelle de région ait très tôt attiré les hommes qui se sont succédés depuis l’âge de fer jusqu’à nos jours. Le management de golf ont trouvé ceci une bonne occasion d'intégrer son terrain dans cet environnement naturel typique de la Méditerranée. Les efforts visant à rendre le terrain de golf de mieux se mêlent avec la nature environnante en combinaison pour les mesures qu'il a prises pour minimiser son empreinte environnementale ont été les mesures nécessaires pour appliquer avec succès pour la reconnaissance GEO. Comme ce label exprime également non seulement l'approche axée sur l'environnement, mais aussi le respect pour la communauté locale.

Une préoccupation majeure est la nécessité pour l'irrigation combinée avec les étés chauds, ce que font les herbes très sensibles aux maladies. La sélection des herbes plus fortes et la maximisation des activités d'entretien mécaniques, résulte en un besoin de traitements fongicides minime.
Également la construction d'un bâtiment technique au règles de l'art intégré avec une installation de traitement des eaux usées minimise l'impact environnemental du club de golf.
Les résultats et les actions sont régulièrement communiqués au public afin que chacun puisse voir comment le golf et la nature peuvent facilement coexister en développant et en préservant la richesse de la faune et flore typique de la région, et ca même dans un club qui vise à faire Golf facilement accessible pour tout le monde.
Ainsi, tous les critères sont remplis pour accorder la reconnaissance de GEO pour un club qui est respectueuse pour l'environnement.


The course maintains some natural zones as woodland and some grassy natural zones. Several more 'garden like' elements are still available and in the past a lot non-local plants have been planted and thrive well, however they still mingle well with the overall Mediterranean environment.

The club engaged itself to participate in the project to establish the Parc Naturel régional de la Sainte-Baume and as such took some of the following actions:
The last few years some rough zones are kept as natural zones that are mown only once a year, so natural area is increased, and new planting is in accordance with the natural vegetation of the area. So we get an interesting mix of elements that look rather natural, but some elements are exotic (like the bamboos e.g.). Today they mingle well in the landscape and just add some exotic elements to the course (as . e.g. a small bamboo bush). The non native species of trees often need additional watering tot help them trough the hot summers. So these are gradually replaced by local species to reduce maintenance whereas others, such as eucalyptus, thrive well but have no ecological value and give a 'strange' view in the landscape. These are also gradually replaced.
No detailed inventory of plants/animals is yet at hand, however there are some rare species present on the site.
Certain zones are not irrigated, so that only natural plants can survive the harsh climate (hot summers, rather cold winters)

The club tries to restore the typical woodlands and more open grassy-herbal vegetations as typical for the Mediterranean area.

The club tries to use as drought and cold tolerant varieties to minimize the need to irrigate and minimize the need of treatment against fungal diseases (as the combination summer heat and humidity of irrigation is complex to manage). The golf uses strong and dry tolerant varieties (e.g.bent) or varieties very resistant to wear (e.g. ryegrass on the tees).
An external consultant is regularly inspecting the turf quality.

Continuing the replacement of non local species by natural species when the opportunity is there (dead tree, necessary maintenance works...).
Continuing using strong grasses that resist the dry hot summers and cold more humid winters.


Irrigation water is obtained from the SCP (Societé du Canal de Provence) and is coming from the Alps via the Canal de Provence. The SCP delivers different qualities of water in relation to the usage of the customers and has a specific quality for irrigation to different golf courses in the Provence. The golf stores it then in a pond from which it is pumped in the irrigation system. Some of the surplus rainwater is diverted also to this pond, but no major drainage system exists to divert all the surplus rainwater to the pond. Currently rainwater is infiltrated in the soil, or diverted to brooks that cross the grounds. The used volume is relatively stable from year to year. The volume is rather high, but average for this type of climate as fairways need also regular irrigation to keep the turf alive to guarantee a reasonable playable turf quality. (non irrigation would result in a turf mat with a lot of barren ground and by play of the wind would get very bumpy).
Drinking water is obtained from the public mains water.
Waste water is also going to the public sewer.
The two field toilets are open toilets and waste is collected by an external company when necessary. Urinals and toilets are low flow, to reduce water consumption.

Good awareness boards for the visitors are present to not use water unnecessarily.
The turf was very wet in the morning (even a bit soggy), but according to the greenkeeper this is necessary to have a sufficient storage that lasts till the evening, so that plants get exposed to dry stress... (so by windy days with temperatures of 36°C in the shadow)... this method seemed to work to keep the turf in acceptable condition.

Irrigation is done at night to reduce loss by transpiration, and so that soil can buffer sufficient water so that the topsoil will not get hot and dry before the end of the day as this would also be negative for the survival of the grass. Greenkeeper balances the need volume (computer) based on the weather forecast (temperature, wind).

Water from the roof of the new building is captured for usage in the toilets and cleaning of the vehicles. Waste water of the new technical building is treated and the effluent water after the treatment is infiltrated in the soil.
When work needed to be done (replacing sprinklers e.g.) the most optimal technical product is selected to optimise the water usage and getting an optimal turf mat quality. The new technical building will be finished by end of this year so from then on water for the maintenance will be partly coming from the captured rainwater.


Electricity is obtained from the mains network (EDF), which is for 14,4 % coming from sustainable sources (rest is mainly nuclear in France).
Heating (and cooling) is done by a heat pump (which consumes electricity).
Building is cleverly designed, so that a lot of light is entering the building but in a way that no additional shading devices are required.
No photovoltaic or sun-boiler are installed (not economically investment on the tight club-budget at the moment).
Petrol and diesel are used for the maintenance vehicles.
Low energy lamps have been installed, and some timed devices were present. Internal policy has been introduced of 'out of the office = lights out).
Heating is turned off in the afternoon before all people are leaving to reduce energy consumption.

Energy consumption is rather stable over the years. Electricity consumption is about 270 000kWh per year of which about 15% or 39 000 kWh is coming from a renewable source. Consumption of petrol for the vehicles is stable around 2 000 l per year. Additionally there is a yearly usage of 200 liters of hydraulic oil for the maintenance of the vehicles used on the golf course.
No direct solar or wind energy is yet used due to the high investment costs of such installations.

An air to air heat exchanger has been installed 5 years ago to combine heating and cooling in one installation and save on energy costs.

Installation is put on night regime some time before the club house is closed.
When new mowers are needed, modern mowers from a local supplier are purchased to reduce direct (fuel) and indirect (service distance) energy consumption. The maintenance in-house keeps them in good condition so that consumption and reliability are optimal

Supply Chain

As Golf de la Sainte Baume is part of the Open Golf organisation, they have the advantage of using preferred suppliers to reduce price, however they can use also local suppliers, which they favour the most. This helps to promote the golf club locally (everybody knows each other) as part of the local economy.

They are in favor of environmentally certified suppliers and selected FSC wood to cover the new maintenance building.

They buy mainly locally as this reduces stocks and is easier when they need support. About 50% of their suppliers comes from within 10 km of the club, only supplies for the course is coming from a larger radius (<100 km).
The kitchen is outsourced but also they try to work with local products and suppliers.

The course uses strong and drought tolerant varieties (e.g.bent) or varieties very resistant to wear (e.g. ryegrass on the tees).
They add fertilizers and some pesticides (mainly herbicides) which they purchase locally based on the advise of a local agronomist. As such they can also rely on the knowledge of the supplier and the agronomist to help them when problems occur.

The grass clippings are left on the fairway. The clippings from the greens and tees are dumped in the roughs. They would like to compost these, but currently no adequate method or system has been determined for implementation.
Currently the shared investment is studied for a wood chipper. This would allow them to reuse the cut wood as ground coverage and so help to prevent the soil to dry out rapidly and to prevent weeds from growing in certain areas.

Pollution Control

Only small quantities of products like pesticides are kept on the premises as most products are supplied when needed, whereas the local supplier also advises about the best suitable products (see above).
Most recyclable waste is recycled via the municipal selective waste collection and waste water is treated on site of municipality.

No data on water quality were yet present.
Water in the ponds and creeks is full of life, but the club should monitor this long term by ensuring good water quality.
The water storage pond has a large population of carps, and so vegetation is destroyed and water is not very clear. This might have an influence on the maintenance of the sprinklers, and is not reflecting a very natural ecological balance in this pond.

The open toilets on the course are emptied by an external company when needed.
Drainage system on the golf is directed to the creeks that pass the site and as such products used (fertilizers/herbicides) can be filtered by vegetation before reaching any open water systems. Correct application minimizes this risk and as water carries fish and other organisms the effect seems negligible.
Currently waste water from the clubhouse is via a septic tank connected to the public sewer system. The new maintenance facility has a precipitation and hydrocarbon separation tank before it is further treated in a small waste water treatment station. So in the near future risks of pollution will be limited when the new technical building comes into usage.

As limited quantities are stored on site and products are used according the guidelines by certified persons only (green keeper and his assistant), there is only a limited risk for accidents.

Adsorbing materials (including liquid active carbon) are on hand on locations were dangerous materials (pesticides, fuels) are handled in case something would happen.
Safety data sheets of all chemoicals used are kept in a central register.

Absorbing materials (including liquid active carbon) are on hand on locations were dangerous materials (pesticides, fuels) are handled in case something would happen.
Safety data sheets of all chemicals used are kept in a central register.


The golf tries to link very well with the local neighbourhood. The golf course is however not open for non-golfers except for the restaurant. However the club does take several initiatives to be neighbour friendly by offering specific possibilities for golf initiation lessons, for newly weds and local schools.
Further they cooperate with several local businesses and offer possibilities for local craftsmen to present products in the clubhouse. The golf club distributes news letters to its golfers and communicates the actions trough the local media.

Staff (full time and part time) are regularly informed and trained to work safely and have attention for the environment.

Was established in the decision and process to GEO certification, but no formal structure is given to such a group. Depending on the theme different people are added to the group.

The golf club tries to link with the local community as neighbours are offered free initiation lessons. The course is available for newly weds to take photo's. Regular articles are distributed to the local press about the club and their sustainability activities.
There is cooperation with local suppliers, and possibility for local businesses to promote their products in the clubhouse. Also every year there are two days for the local schools and at these occasions the practice range is closed (two days).

Attention is given to the landscape and historical value of the site.
The golf course is integrated in a large nature project from the area with the idea to better integrate the course by planting only native shrubs, trees and maximising the roughs.
There is an old road (perhaps Roman?) that is kept in its current state and is not used for daily passage of the golfers as to protect this site.

Most communications are done informally.
Checking with employees revealed indeed that management is open for suggestions from the employees and that information is mostly communicated directly (informal).

There is a newsletter (digital) for the members and a second one for the regular players. The decision, process and activities to GEO certification were mentioned in these.
Possibly these items could also made available to the general public by posting these items on the club website.

Documentation Reviewed


Golf de la Sainte Baume is working according the voluntary industry standards that GEO introduced for a sustainably managed golf club. With its lean staff most communication is done informally internally and with the companies that support them (agronomist, pesticides, fertilizers...) see above.
Water consumption can be monitored more objectively by measuring the pumped water from the pond that is filled with the supplied alpine water.
In general there is a high environmental concern, and the club is mainly directed to local community, and as such is well integrated.
As such the club is a good ambassador within the Open Golf organisation to advocate sustainability within the organisation, as when management is this way oriented the effort to achieve GEO Certified is not a big burden

Certification Highlights

The evaluation whether mechanical treatment of the turfmat would not be sufficient before chemicals are introduced, combined with the good relation with local specialised suppliers results often in the avoidance of the necessity of treatment with pesticides. When this is not the case, the most suitable products can be selected as a last resort so that environmental impact is minimal.
The environmentally friendly design of the new technical building with integrated waste water treatment is impressive and will minimise pollution risks.
The integration of GEO goals by supporting initiative of Parc Naturel régional de la Sainte-Baume (more native species, more rough zones...)