Golfer vor blauem Himmel beim Abschlag. Eine CO₂-Berechnung weist auf die Frage des CO₂-Fußabdrucks eines Golfers hin.

CO2 and golf: What is the footprint?

What is the carbon footprint of a normal golfer? And how does that make him compare to other athletes? The mountaineers, for example, the divers or the tennis players?

Anyone who investigates this question discovers: there is a lack of current data in the first place. While there are now numerous studies and reports on the carbon footprint of events, there is hardly any data on normal individual athletes, either in science or from associations or clubs. And this by no means applies only to golfers, but also to those active in numerous other sports.

If you want an assessment on golf, you will find the study The carbon footprint of active sports participants, published in 2018 by Pamela Wicker at the German Sport University in Cologne. Here, the data of 6537 athletes from a total of 20 sports in Germany were collected to calculate their respective individual CO₂ footprint when practising sports. Among them were 113 golfers, who were compared with hikers, surfers, volleyball players, tennis players or, for example, triathletes.

Travel drives up an annual average

Result: In the end, golfers were the group with the highest CO₂ footprint after divers and before surfers. All three sports came to a value of over 2000 kg CO₂ per year, while the average value for individual sports was 1006.5 kg CO₂, and for team and racket sports (tennis and table tennis) 514 kg CO₂. The high scores for the sports of scuba diving, golf and surfing were “mainly caused by travel related to vacations,” according to the study.

The athletes were not only asked about their training and playing habits in their home town but also about their participation in tournaments, day trips and travel. With regard to regular daily play and training, skaters caused the highest CO₂ value, followed by American football players and hikers. Golfers landed in 4th place here with an average value of 565.5 kg CO₂.

10.7 kg CO₂ for one day of golf

Current calculations on the CO₂ footprint of golfers can hardly be found. For Swiss Golf, the Swiss company Umtec 2021 presented a life cycle assessment and eco-efficiency analysis for six golf courses, which also took the individual golfer into account. The Swiss achieved a value of 10.7 kg CO₂ per day, considering 15 km of travel to and from the course. However, the calculations are not comparable with a CO₂ accounting of EU countries according to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, as the calculation takes other components into account.

The German GC Neuhof has also dealt with the issue and determined 2020 values. Here, too, 10.2 kg CO₂ per round of golf was calculated as an average, considering the golfer’s arrival and departure. The result is thus relatively close to that of the Swiss calculation, although the data collection is not identical.

Raising awareness of the CO₂ issue

One thing is sure: The topic of CO₂ calculation is generally still in its infancy in individual sports. Associations in particular, are usually overwhelmed by both the amount of work and the cost involved in calculating the data. For the athlete himself, it is probably also not crucial at the moment to know his exact CO₂ footprint when practising his hobby. Instead, it is a matter of initial classifications of benchmarks and raising awareness of the topic. Only those who address the issue of their personal footprint at all can improve it in the end.