How to make the golf course climate-neutral?

The reports are known from the German Bundesliga: “TSG Hoffenheim will be climate-neutral” was already on the club’s website in mid-August 2019. The club FC PlayFair set up a sustainability ranking in 2021, after VFL Wolfsburg is currently the German sustainability champion. Werder Bremen and FSV Mainz 05 also landed in the top group. Climate neutrality is an important issue for soccer clubs – after all, the 36 clubs of the 1st and 2. Bundesliga in Germany since December 14, 2021 to comply with certain sustainability criteria – or they will no longer receive a license.

In many respects, the golf scene, including its tournament and team operations, is far removed from the structures of professional football. Nevertheless, the topic of climate neutrality will occupy golf courses in the future – not only because it contributes to a positive image, but possibly also because members, sponsors or even local and state governments demand it.

But how does a golf course become climate-neutral? How much does it cost and how complex is the process?

Janosch Menger, responsible for marketing and communication at myclimate Germany, points out a few key points that are crucial for golf courses. “Basically, a golf club or golf course can be viewed like a company when it comes to determining the carbon footprint. That means you take stock and determine what energy is used at which point and to what extent.”

Check of energy data and mobility

On the one hand, the buildings with their heated surfaces, electrical devices or their heating and air conditioning systems play a role. The same applies to the maintenance of the square: How much energy do pump systems require, how are mowers and machines operated? How much petrol and diesel is used? “Ultimately, it’s about determining the complete consumption data for the entire system and converting it into CO₂ equivalents,” sums up Menger.

Another factor is the issue of personnel: because the journeys and business trips of the employees are also taken into account in the calculation. Just like the trips made by the club teams, which can add up to German Bundesliga teams. However, the golfer himself plays no role in the calculation of the golf club or the golf course.

What does the inventory cost?

The complete determination of the emissions can be done in two ways. myclimate, for example, provides an automated emissions calculator especially for companies on the website, and also offers personal and individual advice for companies, including Calculation of the CO₂ footprint using software, plausibility check and, if desired, compensation via high-quality climate protection projects. At the end a report is created. According to Menger, the costs for this are in the lowest four-digit range that are incurred annually, since the inventory is usually taken every year. Of course, they can vary depending on the provider.

At the end of the deliberations there is a number: VFL Wolfsburg, for example, emitted 9,460.915 tons of CO₂ in the 2019/2020 season, 9.98 percent less than in 2017/2018. Once the total amount of CO₂ emissions has been determined, it is possible to first check where emissions can be avoided and saved. The remaining residual emissions can then be offset via certified climate protection projects.

Leveling surfaces do not compensate

The bad news for golf courses: The large compensation areas of a golf course play no part in the compensation. “The crediting is only possible via certified climate protection projects according to quality standards such as the Gold Standard. Project development is a very time-consuming and complex process,” explains Menger. In Germany there are only a few compensation projects available at the moment anyway, mostly peatland projects. In Switzerland, the selection is a good deal larger.

22 euros per ton of emissions

Once the emissions have been calculated and the compensation project selected, the payment comes. For example, myclimate charges 22 euros per tonne. However, this is not a fixed price: for companies with high emissions, prices can also deviate downwards. In general, neither in Germany nor in other European countries is there a uniform price per tonne for offsetting CO₂. After the compensation, you receive a corresponding certificate as a climate-neutral company, which is generally valid for twelve months.

Golf Sustainable deals with topics related to CO₂ emissions and climate neutrality as part of the new series “Golf – climate neutral”. We chose the non-profit climate protection organization myclimate, with headquarters in Reutlingen and Zurich, as our discussion partner because it is non-profit, one of the most renowned providers on the European market and is recommended by the Federal Environment Agency.