First sustainability conference of the EGA

How do European golf associations deal with the issue of sustainability? The responsible delegates dealt with this topic at the first Sustainability Day of the European Golf Association (EGA) in May. At the conference in Amsterdam, the focus was on best practice examples as well as particularly critical current issues such as the use of pesticides, water shortages or the promotion of biodiversity.

Marc Biber, who took part for the German Golf Association as head of the environmental and course maintenance department , drew an overall positive conclusion from the discussion with his colleagues. “For me, the consequences of climate change and increasing regulatory pressure are the biggest challenges of the next few years,” he said. “Therefore, it is important for golf courses to become less dependent on groundwater and chemical resources. In concrete terms, this means expanding the storage capacity for the use of rainwater and surface water, but also keeping an eye on the sustainable drainage capacity of the square. We also have to strengthen the natural defenses of the functional surfaces by paying attention to skilful load management and regular mechanical care, especially on the greens.”

Competitive pressure extremely high

In principle, the regulations on the use of plant protection products are becoming stricter in all European countries. Countries such as Portugal, Spain or Austria are under particularly high competitive pressure because the proportion of tourists on golf courses is comparatively high here, and in the case of Portugal and Spain it is even dominant.

This often automatically results in conflicts between the desired top quality of the golf course and the increasing difficulty of delivering it due to the tightened regulations. The question of the extent to which specifications are deliberately circumvented in order to deliver first-class fairways and greens is always raised. The greater the competitive pressure, the greater the temptation to hope for no control by the authorities and to quickly resort to spraying agents or to pump water without permission.

In Germany, according to Biber, one hardly has to struggle with this problem anymore, because through the “continuous work of the DGV advisory team since 2003” the knowledge about possible confrontations with the authorities at the clubs is now very large. In view of the fact that golf often still has the image of wasting water and splashing toxic substances, the Germany-wide consensus on compliance with the regulations of the authorities should hardly be underestimated.

After the positive start of the sustainability conference, the European Golf Association wants to arrange for experts from the professional associations to meet more often in the future in order to improve the exchange.