“The main problem in the golf world is that we don’t shout loud enough”
Does a golf facility need a sustainability manager? What are his responsibilities and what difference can he make? Golf Sustainable talked to Craig Boath, the first sustainability manager at Carnoustie Golf Links , about the definition of his job. In an exclusive interview, the so-called Head of Sustainability at the renowned Scottish golf facility talks about the tasks of the most recently created position, about challenges and potentials in sustainability at golf facilities in general as well as about special projects and initiatives at his club and gives tips for sustainability actions for golf facilities.
Carnoustie has been committed to sustainability for years. Why does it need its own manager for that?
Craig Boath: Carnoustie Golf Links has an ambition to become a leader in sustainability in golf. That is why this new and exciting task was born. Golf courses are a haven for wildlife, especially here at Carnoustie where the landscape of the links provides a range of natural habitats. We know we can make a difference by doing our part to protect and improve the natural world – around us and beyond in our community. We plan to make bold and audacious commitments to become carbon neutral through best practices. In the hope that our journey will serve as a springboard for others to follow.
What goals have you set for your new area of responsibility as head of sustainability at Carnoustie Golf Links?
CB: First of all, we want to find out where we stand as a company in terms of sustainability. We will do this in collaboration with other key stakeholders and advisors, and then prioritize our next steps. We are very excited to explore new technologies, become adaptable, and innovate from within. Our goal is to become Carbon Net Zero (Co2-neutral; editor’s note). We believe this is achievable.
What are the main problems and potentials you currently see in the field of golf and sustainability in general, and what could be possible solutions?
CB: I think the main problem in the golf world is that we don’t shout loud enough or highlight all the good practices that we do. Golf courses around the world are committed to sustainability and biodiversity, but this is not widely known by the public. As we know, much more can be done. But I think if the industry works together more and shares our success stories, we can all make a difference together.
What role do the current issues of climate change and energy play in this case?
CB: Carnoustie has three 18-hole links courses and we are right on the coast. That can be a challenge. There is the obvious problem of coastal erosion, which over time could affect the sites here. This would have a significant impact, not only on business, but also on the wildlife and plants that exist on the links. We want to do everything we can to prevent this.
How will the “Carbon Net Zero” goal be achieved at Carnoustie Golf Links?
CB: We are already very good at reducing, reusing and recycling on and off the golf course. For example, only four percent of our waste currently ends up in landfills; the rest is recycled. We cannot say exactly how we will achieve our Carbon Net Zero target until we have conducted a full review of our current situation.
What is the reason for the replacement of the current irrigation system currently being reinstalled at Carnoustie Golf Links?
CB: The existing system does not meet the requirements of a modern championship course – especially in terms of water efficiency and control. We want to ensure that water is targeted where it is needed and minimize excess water in areas where it is not needed.
What specific advantages will this system bring?
CB: The new system will give us the ability to apply water evenly, which will favor finer, more resistant grasses. This is an important step in our sustainability journey as we look to conserve water and energy and promote native grass species for a links course. Water quality is also critical to golf course health, and our new system will use deeper wells that will deliver much better water quality. In turn, we expect a reduction in iron content, which was a constant problem in the previous water supply. Our water withdrawal permit was amended under SEPA oversight and in collaboration with consulting hydrologists.
What is the importance of the Carnoustie Golf Links Community Benefits Program in terms of sustainability?
CB: The Carnoustie Golf Links Community Benefits program was originally launched in 2014 and has since donated more than £310,000 to the local community. As part of our commitment to the community, it also provides tens of thousands of pounds worth of in-kind assets through various community outreach programs. Carnoustie Links also offers free lessons to more than 300 junior golfers each week, including our advanced and high performance programs to help those who want to reach their full potential. We also operate our Girls Golf Hub, which is designed to teach girls life and career skills through the sport of golf.
What is the idea behind the Carnoustie Golf Links environmental guide?
CB: The Carnoustie Golf Links Environmental Guide was produced in collaboration with the R&A and STRI to highlight the ecology and biodiversity of the golf courses. The guide tells stories about the flora, fauna and wildlife found on and around the golf courses. It includes some games and activities for children that help them learn about the biodiversity of golf courses in a fun way. The brochures were distributed to all local schools and include a checklist for those trying to discover all the different plants and animals.
What sustainability tip do you have for golf clubs that don’t have as many employees in this area as Carnoustie Golf Links?
CB: There are many things organizations of all sizes can do to begin their journey toward sustainability. There are often ways to reduce fuel consumption by reducing maintenance areas around the golf course. Even simple things like making play areas wild and purchasing locally whenever possible can have a significant impact on CO₂ emissions. Separating trash into cardboard/paper, plastic and metal can also be a good start to reducing the amount of materials going to landfills. Sometimes a small change can make a big difference, and if you make the changes gradually, good habits can form.
The interview was conducted by Robert M. Frank