Co2 neutrality is an enormous project for golf courses

How do you actually become climate neutral? The question is moving more and more companies worldwide, who are increasingly documenting and communicating their efforts to protect the climate. To date, only the major producers and suppliers in golf have made bigger efforts – with the shoe manufacturers Adidas and Puma or the clothing manufacturer Peak Performance. But climate neutrality is also an issue with large fertilizer and pesticide manufacturers such as Syngenta.

Sentosa Golf Club wants to be a pioneer in climate neutrality

When it came to golf courses, Sentosa Golf Club, one of the pioneers in terms of sustainability, caused quite a stir by announcing that it was going to be carbon neutral this year. Reason enough for Golf Sustainable to ask Climate Partner – one of the major European providers of solutions in climate protection – to what extent golf courses have particularly good starting conditions to become climate-neutral due to their large extensive areas.

No certified climate protection projects in Germany

However, the answer was sobering: “It is not possible to offset the CO2 consumption with high-quality areas on the site,” sums up Sebastian Dietl from Climate Partner for courses in Germany. To do this, a golf course would first have to be able to have its high-quality areas recognized as a certified climate protection project. Climate Partner, which has already helped more than 3000 companies to achieve climate neutrality, puts it this way: “Basically, climate protection projects are projects that help others in this world to lead a more dignified life. Because these projects also demonstrably save greenhouse gas emissions, they protect the climate.” And: In Germany there are currently no certified climate protection projects at all, because the federal government would have to install a process for avoiding and reducing emissions. This does not exist yet.

Extensive areas on the golf course are not taken into account

For a golf course with the ambitious goal of becoming climate-neutral, this means that you have to take stock of your emissions with a certified climate partner and can then try to reduce your emissions with your own projects. Since this is never possible down to zero, it will offset the remaining emissions in monetary terms via an international climate protection project.

All in all, a complex process that only particularly committed systems should face. There are still no contenders in the German-speaking area, internationally Sentosa Golf Club has reported as the first facility. The first-class 36-hole club in Singapore, which has already hosted numerous international world-class tournaments, is working with the British GEO Foundation to develop concepts for saving resources.

Every employee weeds 15 weeds every day

Since the Sentosa Golf Club is considered to be a wealthy golf club with wealthy owners, sponsors and members, the question arises whether the club offsets its CO2 emissions by purchasing CO2 certificates. Andrew Johnston, the facility’s General Manager and Director of Agronomy, explained the project to Golf Sustainable in more detail:

How much CO2 does the Sentosa Golf Club actually have to save in order to become climate neutral?

Johnston: The club recently completed its first carbon audit which showed us where we currently stand with our carbon footprint. The audit has allowed us to examine our business in depth and identify the different areas that we need to focus on. Now we’re starting to create a master plan that includes a complete strategy on how to reduce our overall carbon footprint to zero. Over the next 12 months, we hope to offset our remaining 4,009 tonnes CO2 of estimated annual residual emissions through certified carbon offsets to regional forestry or blue carbon projects.

Is there an overview of which areas of the golf club consume the most CO2? The greenkeeping machines, the operation of the clubhouse or another aspect?

Johnston: In general, there are many areas of a golf club that require an overall strategy to reduce carbon emissions. Every golf club in the world has to use electricity to recharge the golf carts after each day of play. Every club also needs energy for the clubhouse, kitchen and various other facilities that are in operation for most of the year. At Sentosa we run the pumping station on the golf courses every day and being in the tropics the air conditioning in the clubhouse is on every day. So we need an overall strategy to reduce the carbon footprint.

Sentosa Golf Club has already started measures to reduce waste or use solar energy in recent years. By what percentage have CO2 emissions been reduced?

Johnston: Unfortunately, all of these wonderful initiatives that we’ve worked on over the last ten years haven’t been measured – so we don’t have the full picture on carbon reduction, but we do know what resources we’ve saved. For example, we have banned all single-use plastic bottles from our golf courses and installed water stations instead. So far we have been able to save around 300,000 plastic water bottles.

Other initiatives such as converting our irrigation system to a single head control irrigation system have enabled us to reduce our water resources by up to 40%, while introducing carbon products into our greenkeeping program has reduced our fertilizer applications by 50% and pesticide applications by up to 95% % reduced. By purchasing GPS sprayers we are now able to target spray specific areas of the golf course reducing waste and use of product by up to 30%.

What measures can reduce CO2 emissions in the future?

Johnston: We plan to transition our energy use from traditional energy sources to clean energy. Installing two bio-fermenters will also help tremendously as they were not included in the original carbon footprint.

The biogas plants will enable us to reduce the food and horticultural waste that we currently send to landfill; one of the world’s biggest problems with methane emissions. Through the use of the fermenters, we hope to grind up to 40kg of food waste per day and a tonne of horticultural waste per month into fertilizer that can be reused on our golf courses. This will help us achieve an estimated cost saving of up to 30% on monthly waste disposal over a one year period.

The whole process sounds quite complicated…

Johnston: We would like to encourage all clubs around the world to go through the process of preparing a carbon audit. Once this survey is complete, it will become much clearer how a club can make a difference and reduce its overall carbon footprint.

Which areas of the club are the easiest to change?

There is no simple answer to this question. We are a service operation, so it is our job to provide a 5 star experience, and everything we provide to our members and guests is important.

However, all of our employees are also fully committed to our sustainability agenda. For example, each team member pulls 15 weeds a day to maintain the club’s environment naturally without the use of machines. Being sustainable and eco-friendly has actually become a way of life at the club.

What is the percentage the club must trigger via paid carbon offsets?

Andrew Johnston: Our current program is to offer every golfer at the club a zero-carbon round of golf. We intend to do this by committing one dollar per golfer from every round of golf played towards the purchase of our certified carbon offsets. As we reduce our overall carbon footprint at the same time, our goal is to reduce the monetary compensation $1 to fifty cents. And in the end, of course, we hope to get away from it.