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Environmental Institute for Golf aims For Sustainable Industry


With a focus on continual improvement, Golf Course Superintendents Association of America Chief Executive Officer Mark J. Woodward, CGCS, announced that the association's philanthropic organization will create and lead a program that will provide the golf industry with a sustainable approach to golf facility management. The program will be distributed under the title of "Golf's Drive Toward Sustainability."

Woodward noted that sustainability in golf is about ensuring profitable operations while making decisions that are in the long-term interest of the environment and communities. The aim is to continue to make improvement through professionally managing and conserving resources and inputs, and reducing waste, while providing playing conditions that satisfy today's golfers and will appeal to tomorrow's golfers. Woodward indicated the three most pressing issues facing golf facilities today are water conservation, water quality protection and energy conservation. The program's tools and resources will concentrate on these areas.

Backed by the golf industry through the support of the World Golf Foundation, "Golf's Drive Toward Sustainability" builds upon the success the industry has enjoyed and provides resources to improve performance in the future. The objective is to facilitate collaboration among associations and organizations to build a toolbox of resources that will be available to facilities to strive toward sustainability.

"All too often critics and supporters want to paint a black or white picture," Woodward said. "Nothing is an absolute. Backed by research, education and technological advances, golf has demonstrated it can be compatible with the environment. But we also know improvements can be made. The debate should not be about where we are or where we are not, but on whether there is a concerted effort for improvement. Golf's Drive Toward Sustainability represents that effort."

Woodward, who also chairs the WGF's Golf 20/20 Environmental Committee, indicated that GCSAA and The Institute have been focused on sustainable management for several years. That concentration began with the GCSAA Golf Course Environmental Profile, which is a series of surveys that provide data on property features, management practices and inputs. Funded by The Institute through a grant from The Toro Giving Program, the Profile provides a baseline of information for the industry. The surveys will be repeated in the future to document changes in performance over time.

In addition, GCSAA has already established new competencies for golf course superintendents that include a strong element of environmental management. These new competencies will be addressed through the association's education program. Going forward, a menu of resources will be developed for the entire golf facility to use to demonstrate continuous improvement. The cornerstone will be a comprehensive list of best management practices (BMPs) that will prompt the creation of new tools and support existing programs. Those BMPs will be developed, reviewed, refined and communicated throughout the year.

WGF chief executive officer Steve Mona applauded the direction of the program and congratulated those associations and organizations who have committed to it. "This program and its wide support base are vital to the continued health of the golf industry," Mona said. "Golf is not unlike any other industry in that government, the media, special interest groups and the general public are casting a more critical eye. This program will validate where we are making progress and identify what actions are needed."

Woodward noted the strength of the program is its systematic approach. "We sought and achieved widespread support to keep this from being seen as a program for only the golf course. Second, the profile project gave us a body of data that was previously non-existent. We then established competencies for superintendents with an environmental focus and have developed education to support them. Next, we will roll out the BMPs later this year that will allow all components of golf facilities to demonstrate and document progress. This all sets the stage for the golf industry to better advocate and position itself as one that is committed to continuous improvement."

For more information about "Golf's Drive Toward Sustainability," visit www.eifg.org/sustainability.