Significant industry milestone in sustainable golf development

21 Sep 2021

Significant industry milestone in sustainable golf development

Second edition of the international voluntary sustainability standard for golf developments demonstrates golf’s continuing proactive leadership and progress in the construction industry.

Developed through close collaboration, both within and outside the golf industry, the release of this latest edition of the Sustainable Golf Development Standard represents another major step forward in golf’s journey to becoming a leader in sustainable sport, land use and development. 

Available to all new developments from September 2021, this simplified new edition raises the bar on sustainability expectations and focuses on the most relevant issues and challenges in the current climate. Renewed emphasis is placed on areas such as increased transparency, carbon impacts, flexible construction timelines, circular economy and the impacts of agronomic decision-making. 


Facilitated by GEO Foundation (GEO), six months of open public consultation and dedicated work by the international expert working group for sustainable golf development has led to the release of the second edition of this credible, accessible and relevant voluntary standard for any golf development. The milestone document provides a tighter framework, which can guide the process of delivering any new golf developments and renovations, from site selection through to opening day - delivering positive social and environmental value throughout. 

Sam Thomas, Director of Golf Development for GEO, the international organization dedicated to helping advance sustainability in and through golf said: “The process of working with public comments and the international expert group’s knowledge was a great insight into what we’ve seen change in the sustainability space over the past five years. There were invaluable inputs shared into the ways in which everyone felt that golf developments, done in the right way, can continue to make real positive contributions to their environment, climate and community. Going forward, we are excited to adopt this 2nd edition of the standard at all new golf development sites seeking to gain GEO Certified Development status and, over the next five years, see how we can all push on to deliver even greater positive impacts.”


The seven members of the International Expert Working Group, which helped shape this latest edition, included representatives from the Society of Australian Golf Course Architects; American Society of Golf Course Architects; The European Institutes of Golf Course Architects; Golf course builders – through Landscapes Unlimited; Australian National University, Former European Commission representatives and Wetlands International.  

Richard Holland, Director, Operations and Network Development, Wetlands International commented: “Congratulations to all involved in this significant milestone for the golf development industry. The 2nd edition builds on the solid foundations of the original standard and raises the bar for new sustainable golf developments. These voluntary standards can also provide valuable guidance for policymakers and regulators in their responsibilities to deliver the best possible outcomes for the environment and local communities.” 

The revision of the standard was carried out in line with ISEAL Alliance’s Code of Good Practice for Standard Setting. GEO has been part of the ISEAL Alliance since 2015 and the rigour and credibility of that code are central to the revision of the voluntary sustainability standard. These same codes of good practice are followed by other well-known sustainability bodies including Fairtrade, The Rainforest Alliance and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Tom Mackenzie, Director at Mackenzie & Ebert and Past President of European Institute of Golf Course Architects stated: “It is great to see the release of the 2nd edition of this standard. It now better represents the current sustainability issues we face as designers and I was very pleased to be able to represent the European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA) on the expert working group. Along with EIGCA’s Raising the Standard of Sustainable Golf Course Design educational programme, which was created with GEO, this renewed sustainability standard represents another meaningful point of connection with GEO for our members.”  

The document and further explanation can be viewed here along with information on the OnCourse Developments programme, which provides practical support to assist all types of golf developments and the GEO Certified Developments mark, which provides credible recognition to new projects.

Additional Quotes 

Quotes from members of the International Expert Working Group can be found below for use in regional publications. Further information on the Expert Working Group can be found here

“It was a pleasure again to be able to represent the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) on the International Sustainable Golf Development Working Group. The inputs and conversations with other group members were really interesting, and I believe have led to a new edition of the voluntary standard that is very relevant and representative of the fast-moving sustainability industry and associated challenges.”

Jason A. Straka, ASGCA, Principal, Fry/Straka Global Golf Course Design (Representing the American Society of Golf Course Architects)

“It is great to see the process [of revising the 2016 standard] bringing forward new and important sustainability issues facing the industry today. All members of the expert working group contributed to putting this 2nd edition together and we look forward to hopefully seeing more of our clients and others adopting these standards in their work - and congratulations on GEO’s vision and leadership in helping produce this important work.”

Ross Perrett, Managing Director, Perrett Webb Ltd (Representing a Society of Australian Golf Course Architects Task Force)

“The continual improvement of voluntary standards such as these is crucial to being able to retain a credible position, as an industry, on sustainability. This latest edition has been made stronger and very practical so that there can be no reason not to use this as a tool to have a significant positive impact with your next golf development.”

Robert Donkers, former Coordinator for Urban Environment Policy, DG Environment for the European Commission

Join the conversation

Sign up for the sustainable golf newsletter
Point of Impact