Marcel Siem: Back to shorter courses and shaping the ball
Marcel, you now live in Mauritius and are an ambassador for Heritage Resorts – why did you choose Mauritius and the location here?
Marcel Siem: The last six or seven years we were always here over Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Then I happened to get closer contact with the people in charge. We got to talking. I wanted a new start for myself and the family anyway and to live golf properly for once, just as you can do in Florida, for example. But since I don’t play on the US PGA Tour, but on the DP World Tour, Mauritius makes sense for me. With the tournaments in Africa and the UAE, it’s also quite doable in terms of travel. The whole thing was then with my roller coaster on the tour in 2022 and the illness and recovery of Laura a surprisingly fast decision, but now everyone in the family are super happy. The people here are extremely positive, the quality of the golf courses is very, very high, the maintenance here on the golf course at Heritage Resort is always top-notch, and the new La Reserve golf course is going to be a bomb as well.
In June 2022, you announced that, in cooperation with your sponsor AQ Green TeC, you would determine and offset your CO₂ emissions as a professional golfer. Does this also apply to 2023?
Marcel Siem: Yes, definitely. I have also tried to motivate other players on the tour, but unfortunately the topic has not yet reached many.
What was the reaction of your colleagues to your announcement?
Marcel Siem: It was a bit difficult for me at the beginning. The sponsor’s imprint is on the back of my shirt, so it is clearly visible. For the first few weeks, people laughed at me because they knew I had been driving Mercedes AMG for two decades. In the meantime, I drive a Mercedes Hybrid, because I noticed that it was still difficult with a pure E-car when driving to the tournaments. I also know that I am not CO₂-neutral during the year now. But I pay for my CO₂ footprint at the end of the year and try to address the issue. I think it’s super important, and I want to be a role model for my kids, too.
Is sustainability an issue for your children at all?
Marcel Siem: Absolutely, they talk about it every day because it’s a huge topic in Mauritius, even at school. Right now, for example, they’re talking about the floating garbage patch between California and Hawaii. For example, they approach me when players use a private plane. Then they already tell me that it just makes a huge difference whether there is one person or 300 on a plane. And then, of course, smoking: When I light up a cigarette on the course, I’m definitely not allowed to drop a butt on the pitch, and I always hear that one cigarette means 14 grams of CO₂. I just have to stop smoking, I actually want to.
As a player, do you recognize that the DP World Tour is addressing the issue of sustainability in professional sports?
Marcel Siem: In some tournaments, the CO₂ emissions are now counted. I am one of the players who participate in the reporting. This also means that Callaway, for example, as my club manufacturer, now has to provide transport data for the clubs. My sponsors are generally a bit annoyed sometimes because they now have to supply all the delivery and production data. But we have to start somewhere. I fill out an online-log each week on my travel and other factors. In general, I think it’s important to first tell the players in the entire professional circuit in a nice way that we now have to take a look at these processes. It is only important that we do not do this with a raised forefinger, because we are now on a world tour.
To what extent has the issue of sustainability already reached the players?
Siem: I would say hardly at all. My outlook on life changed a bit when I went through a hole game-wise a few years ago and was no longer eligible to play on the DP World Tour. That’s when my priorities shifted and completely different things in life became more important to me today. But as a young player, it’s a different story. If you play well, you have no pressure, earn good money and enjoy life. In general, players would certainly have to be made more aware of the issue.
At the Open, for example, there were a number of projects on the subject of sustainability. Do you notice that as a player?
Marcel Siem: No, I don’t think so. Personally, I can only remember a beach cleanup at one or two tournaments this season. This kind of thing should not be done sporadically to produce good images for social media, but continuously. However, I also have to say that motivation always depends heavily on how things are going athletically. When you’re stressed yourself because you’re playing badly, you don’t still think about media actions to reduce plastic bottles. But for that we are 156 players every week. There should actually be a few people every week who take part in an action.
As an ambassador, does the golf pro have opportunities to push the issue in the golf scene?
Marcel Siem: At least via the social media accounts. We would have to make good use of them. I think we can definitely show that golf courses are not constantly treated with pesticides and are full of chemicals. Or that golf courses offer great scenery and are also important for wildlife. Basically, I think the Tour should be a bit more proactive in addressing the issue with the pros, so that they deal with it more. After all, most of us older players have kids. And I think we’re all already thinking: What will happen when my children have children? The forecasts are looking a bit bitter at the moment.
The EU Commission is discussing a complete ban on pesticides on golf courses. Within the golf scene, many officials fear that the quality of the courses will then also decline. How do you see it as a player who wants to play on the best greens possible every week?
Marcel Siem: We’ll see, but I think there’s bound to be someone clever enough to come up with a biological solution. Fortunately, this works very well here at the Heritage Resort. I always go fishing at the ponds, they are clean and the water is good. That’s not always the case: I’ve also been to golf courses where the fish were floating dead on the surface in the pond and you wondered what was in the water.
What does the golf course of the future look like to you? Does it have to be deep green or will browner fairways work as well, like on the links courses?
Marcel Siem: Here on the island, water as a resource is a huge issue. There is also a lot of talk about saving water, especially during the dry periods. The pitches are then also drier and are not constantly watered. I think brown, really hard golf courses are much better anyway. Then it’s bouncy, a little harder to play and you just have to hit it on the dot – like darts. For good iron players, this is always an advantage. When the court is muddy soft, anyone can play. Besides, you should just let nature take its course.
In the long run, there is also the question of whether golf facilities will still be able to afford the resources for the ever-lengthening courses. You also hit the driver over 300 meters, does professional golf only work with such long courses?
Marcel Siem: No. I’m a fan of not necessarily making places longer, wider and more grandiose now. I think it’s oldschool good, for example, with cool trees making the course heavy and ondulated greens. Then it’s not just about length, but much more about what you can do with the ball. I think that’s nicer and better.
What role does the ball play in this?
Marcel Siem: If the courses were shorter and it was much more about shaping the ball again, that would be cool. However, it must also be said that the balls nowadays no longer allow the shaping of the past. I would find it much more awesome if the pitches became tighter again and everything was played in a tighter space. If you can still help nature with it, it’s mega.