Golf business showing many signs of greening up
Golf seems to be suddenly awash in green.
No, not the turf, and most definitely not revenues.
What I’m referring to is a rather rapid and unexpected recognition on the part of just about every major sector within the sport of the benefits of environmental responsibility.
Perhaps I’ve just grown more observant of eco-friendly golf trends since writing my own green Christmas gift guide this past holiday season, but it sure does seem to me that there is a fundamental shift going on within the industry.
Here are a few recent examples:
• The golf course architecture firm of Robert Trent Jones II® has released its Green Proclamation: “ten tenets that have guided the company’s design philosophy and that the firm commits itself to pursuing into the future.” These include principles such as “Protect native flora and fauna” and “Create courses that use less water, pesticides, and fertilizers than traditional courses.”
• Eagle One, the premier manufacturer of recycled plastic lumber, has introduced an extensive line of clubhouse furnishings and tee accessories made of Greenwood DLX™ – a material made from 100% post consumer/post industrial materials and offering the look of exotic tropical hardwood without the maintenance nightmares.
• There’s even a touring pro on the Canadian PGA Tour, Derek Oakey, who has founded a foundation called Fore Green, which promotes the use of environmentally friendly practices and equipment on the golf course and throughout the golf industry. His website (see link above) includes some quite dramatic pictures of courses that follow responsible watering practices compared to others that continue to saturate the turf in all seasons trying to maintain a completely unnatural all-green-all-the-time façade.
If golf is to survive, it’s going to have to not only green up its balance sheets, but also deal with the greening of the economy and the sensibilities of a new, younger generation of golfers. Both of these goals can be addressed by adopting more green practices and technologies. Less water, fewer chemicals, smarter materials that last longer – all of these things will increase profitability.
And importantly, they will also help golf shed its extremely anti-environmental reputation (whether that reputation is deserved or not). As noted by Geoff Shackelford in a recent article, “In nearly every populated area, environmentalists rarely appreciate the greenhouse gas offsetting, wildlife-friendly, parkland settings that generate jobs, revenue and fun.”
Shackelford goes on to stress that the vast potential in golf for “retrofitting designs to increase energy efficiency via improved irrigation systems, nature-respecting design elements, organic maintenance practices and even, someday, solar carts” is not only good for the game, it’s good for – indeed crucial for – the game’s image.
And if you don’t think the game’s image needs to evolve in these changing times, consider this factoid from Steve Mona, head of the World Golf Foundation, whom Shackelford quotes: “After Hurricane Katrina, Congress passed $8 billion in disaster relief tax breaks, but excluded massage parlors, liquor stores, tanning parlors and golf courses.”
I’d say a fundamental change is rather desperately needed, and the greener the better.
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