A Leader among Leaders in Sustainable Golf

Monday 23 January 2012

In a little under twenty years, a stretch of agricultural land to the north of Copenhagen has undergone a remarkable transformation. Hørsholm Golf, a leading light for accessible and sustainable golf in Denmark, is now achieving international recognition as a pioneer of low-resource golf course management.

“At a global level, golf courses managed with such low inputs are in fact quite rare,” said Jonathan Smith, Chief Executive of the Golf Environment Organization, “Every golf club can make a meaningful difference, but the achievements at Hørsholm Golf are exceptional. Their success highlights what can be achieved with an integrated approach to turfgrass management and a strong programme of ecological, energy and waste initiatives. It’s no stretch to say that as a GEO Certified facility, Hørsholm Golf is a leader among leaders.”

The club’s drive to secure the GEO Certified ecolabel began in 2011 when they enrolled in the GEO OnCourse programme, a package of online tools and guidance that support golf clubs in understanding, expressing and continually improving their social and environmental performance.

“Our strong focus on sustainability is rooted in the genuine desire to act responsibly in relation to the environment,” said Anders Sorensen, Director of Golf at Hørsholm, “In fact, we identified several areas where striving towards a more sustainable product has contributed to greater overall profitability.

“From 2008 to 2010 we did not apply any pesticides to the golf course, and while this is an initiative of particular note, it is just one of multiple measures that are reducing costs and reinforcing our reputation for presenting a well conditioned golf course in a highly sustainable way. Most importantly, it has already proved advantageous in attracting new members, sponsors and other customers.”

Hørsholm Golf ClubIn 2006 the club made a decision to transition the grass species on their putting greens to red fescue [festuca rubra] – a stress tolerant indigenous species – with the ultimate goal of phasing out pesticide use. Seven years later the validity of the decision is borne out by increased profitability and the year-round quality of the golf course at Hørsholm.

Read Hørsholm’s GEO Certified Report here: http://www.golfenvironment.org/clubs/hoersholmgolf

Accredited Verifier Ole Riger-Kusk, GEOSA, conducted the on-site evaluation of Hørsholm and was impressed by the pioneering work of the management team:

“Given the location of this golf course and its transformation from intensive agricultural land, the elimination of pesticide use for multiple years, and the heavy reductions in water and fertilizer application are remarkable. The amount of energy, water and fuel consumed in the production, distribution and use of pesticides and fertilizers is very high, thus reducing the wider environmental impact from managing Hørsholm even further.

“The management team is working on several new initiatives to ensure the environmental load is reduced even further from the already extremely low level.”

Ole’s Verifier Report can be read here: http://www.golfenvironment.org/clubs/hoersholmgolf/verifiers-report

Pesticide use is an emotive issue and one that has governments around the world drafting ever tighter legislation. The Danish Government has made the strongest moves in Europe and the expectations placed on golf courses are constantly increasing. In 2012, its expected that a new Danish law, the first of its kind in Europe, will demand the phasing out of pesticides altogether.

“Hørsholm Golf Club is an excellent example for Denmark, showing how playing quality can be maintained with an extremely low reliance on pesticides. Hopefully it may inspire other clubs to follow the same sustainable path,” said Torben Kastrup Petersen, Director of Golf Courses at the Danish Golf Union (DGU), “We congratulate Hørsholm Golf on achieving the GEO Certified ecolabel.”

But the work is not over for the management team at Hørsholm. They have further environmental goals to reach.

“As part of the certification process we created a three-year action plan that sets new sustainability goals for our management,” says Anders Sorensen, “Among other things we aim to reduce energy consumption in the clubhouse by 30% before we are recertified in 2014. This will requires a joint effort, but fortunately our sustainability goals are supported from the boardroom level through to our members and customers.”

GEO Technical Commission member and turfgrass expert Henry Bechelet puts the achievements of Hørsholm Golf into global context:

“The climatic conditions in Denmark are conducive to maintaining turfgrass with no or minimal reliance on pesticides. The management team at Hørsholm deserves a great deal of credit for having the vision and commitment to undertake this transition.

“But the opportunity to manage turf in this way does not hold true at a global level. Areas that have extremes of heat and cool, or simply have year-round tropical conditions, are likely to struggle to match this achievement. That said, all golf clubs can strive to minimize pesticide use by focussing on plant health, and if you do that, you never know just how far you can get.”


The original statement relating to the certification of Horsholm (published on 23rd January 2012) has been amended in light of subsequent information. Originally, GEO reported that the club was managing the golf course without the use of any pesticides. This statement was made based on data formally submitted to GEO in the club's application, and on information relayed to the accredited verifier during his site visit in autumn 2011.

Since the distribution of the initial press release, we have been made aware that the Club applied a single herbicide treatment, using legally approved products, to fairways and semi-rough during the latter part of 2011, after the verification site visit.

While the Club’s GEO Certified status remains intact (it is based on the full years performance data for 2008, 2009 and 2010), GEO would like to clarify that the club's management of the course is not 'pesticide free' as previously stated.

In spite of this, Horsholm's achievements remain notable. A single herbicide application in four years, accompanied by no fungicide or insecticide use, remains testament to their desire to use the absolute minimum of plant protection products, and only ever as a last resort.

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