Game Changers: The 'Sustainable Golf Champions'

18 Jun 2024

GEO Sustainable Golf Foundation has identified 10 ‘Sustainable Golf Champions’ for 2024, individuals who have gone above and beyond in their measurable day-to-day actions. Each of these golf course architects has taken leadership steps to raise awareness of important global issues, while working hard to find effective, sustainable solutions for course sites and their immediate environments.

The 2024 honourees include:

Starting in 2021, The GEO Foundation has similarly recognized professional players, club and course managers for their conscious efforts to practice and promote sustainability through golf. In June 2024, the Champions collective has been extended to single out individuals involved in the design, construction and renovation of golf courses around the world.

“This inaugural group of Champions are the leaders in their field who have put their heads above the parapet and pushed sustainability-led thought and focus into their recent work – delivering measurable positive impacts as a result,” said Sam Thomas, Developments Director for GEO Sustainable Golf Foundation. “Our 2024 Champions are honestly the tip of the iceberg. There are literally thousands of people in this industry who continually champion sustainability in their work. We know this because today, the Foundation is working actively and directly with hundreds of them, on more than 40 different sustainability projects around the world. We could just as easily have saluted all the site managers, irrigation designers, clients, advisors, shapers and many more for so admirably playing their part.

“However, incrementally, we think it very important to recognize all of this good work, to applaud it and build awareness of these projects taking place around them.”

Champion Andy Haggar, a lead golf course architect with Faldo Design, could not agree more.

“Extremely honoured and, to be honest, I feel slightly awkward because I’m just one small part of a bigger team of people responsible for all the good work that goes into the projects, which include all the elements of sustainability,” Haggar said. “On behalf of all those people, I’m happy to be championing this kind of direction in the wider industry.” 

Working closely alongside dozens of golf bodies and wider stakeholders, the GEO Foundation provides a comprehensive framework for golf facilities and associations seeking to initiate or upgrade their sustainability systems. The Foundation works in the same way with new developments and renovations; with tours and tournaments, even professional players. According to Tyler Annan, Developments Project Manager at GEO Sustainable Golf Foundation, prominent aspects of the program include the Sustainable Golf Pledge; the suite of OnCourse® online programmes and tools; annual Sustainable Golf Scorecards and carbon foot-printing measures; the Sustainable Golf Leaderboard and Highlights hub; and the internationally accredited and independently verified GEO Certified® label.

Thomas added that by celebrating individuals, The Foundation and indeed the entire golf community can better understand how these programs are today put into action — how sustainability is practiced and measured, on the ground, through golf.

“This first group of Champions have either achieved GEO Certified® Development for one of their projects or have been the lead designer on more than 1 of our current 40+ projects that have started the journey,” Thomas explained. “They’ve pushed their projects to prove their commitment to sustainability — and that is not as easy as it sounds sometimes. Going forward we will broaden the Sustainable Golf Champion status to others involved in the construction of golf courses but for now, we are very happy to be celebrating this inaugural Class of 2024.”

On the website, each 2024 Champion has their say on what sustainability means to them, in the specific context of real-world projects. News of his own recognition frankly took Martin Ebert, a partner with Mackenzie & Ebert Golf Course Architects, by surprise.

“It was very welcome news but unexpected in that I think that it is only natural for us to operate in as sustainable a way as possible,” Ebert said. “I firmly believe that it will make a difference to our existing clients and may influence potential clients to choose us as a result of this recognition.”

The respective architect associations noted their joy at seeing some of their members being recognised for their hard work. The ASGCA congratulated each of the individuals being recognized for their work. “We are especially proud to see Bruce, Mike and Cynthia highlighted for their commitment to sustainability,” ASGCA President Mike Benkusky said. “ASGCA is proud of our long-term affiliation with GEO Foundation and promises to continue the decades-long commitment our members have made to serve golfers, club owners and managers by caring for the land and our natural resources.”. Casper Grauballe, President of the EIGCA echoed these sentiments – ‘As President of EIGCA, I am proud that GEO has recognised four members as "Sustainable Golf Champions". Sustainability and environmental stewardship are key considerations within golf course design and this recognition highlights EIGCA's commitment to sustainability and the expertise of leaders in this field amongst our membership.’.

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