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Greener greens: What are the challenges and opportunities around sustainability in golf?

At golfclubs4cash, sustainability in golf is one of the major drivers (if you’ll excuse the pun) of our business. We’re proud that our business model reduces the environmental impact that golf has on the planet. Buying and selling second-hand golf clubs and equipment is one of the most impactful ways that you can lessen your individual impact on the environment.

As Dean Cracknell, Head of Marketing at golfclubs4cash says, “Reusing is more carbon-beneficial than recycling and is a key component of a ‘Circular Economy’. By putting products back into circulation, we extend the product life and reduce the need for future manufacturing. These combine to give us a significant carbon emission saving."

Making golf more sustainable is in everybody’s interests.

But beyond that, there are many ways that golf impacts the planet – and plenty of opportunities for us to improve our ways so that golf can continue to be a sustainable pastime now and into the future. In this article, we’ll explore some of the many challenges faced around sustainability in golf and report on the many solutions that are being considered and implemented.

According to England Golf, the UK has 2200 golf courses across the country, which represents an area of over 1,250km² – equivalent to the area of the Lake District National Park. That’s a lot of land, meaning the opportunities to reduce golf’s impact on the planet are huge. Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which the industry’s leaders are proactively making golf more sustainable.

The main environmental challenges in golf, and some solutions.

There are several key areas where golf has an environmental impact that innovative techniques and approaches are tackling. Let’s break them down.

Water consumption

There’s no getting away from it – golf courses use a tremendous amount of water to keep the greens looking their best. And that’s even despite the amount of rain we’re always complaining about! High levels of water consumption are a big issue for the environment and it’s a major financial concern for golf course managers, too.

To combat this, techniques like xeriscaping are being deployed. This is a method of landscaping that can reduce or even eliminate the need for irrigation completely. It was developed in areas where drought and limited fresh water were a problem, but it’s being adopted more widely now.

Drought-resistant grasses are also being looked into, so that golf courses can be irrigated as efficiently as possible in harmony with nature. And finally, technology is driving more efficient and energy-friendly irrigation systems which means that water can be used much more sparingly. Advanced and automated irrigation systems with built-in sensors can monitor and optimise water usage so that nothing is wasted.

Chemical use

The use of chemicals is much more prevalent than you might initially think when it comes to golf. We all know that chemicals can take a serious toll on the health of the planet (and the health of wildlife, and on our health, too). Pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers are all commonly used to keep golf courses looking their best, but they can do a lot of damage, too, including causing soil and water contamination. Anything that throws the natural order out of balance will have some sort of impact, so reducing chemical use is a very popular topic.

A relatively new system known as integrated pest management (IPM), sometimes also known as integrated pest control, combines chemical and non-chemical practices to help control pests using a lower concentration of chemicals. It also integrates natural pest control methods.

Energy use

Are solar panels becoming a more familiar sight on and around golf courses?

Energy use can be high when it comes to running and maintaining golf courses, so course owners are constantly on the lookout for ways in which they can reduce energy bills. While finances might be the main driver for this, there are environmental benefits to this, too. Reducing energy use leads to a far lower carbon footprint as well as cheaper bills.

Making use of renewable energy such as solar power, wind power and geothermal heat are all sources of green energy that are being adopted where possible. In addition, using energy-efficient maintenance equipment and electric golf carts massively reduces the impact of golf on the environment.

Innovation in golf

There are plenty of other ways in which people and organisations are innovating to come up with more sustainable practices in golf. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Sustainable golf course design

If we knew then what we know now… as we are learning more about our environment and its threats, we are realising that what went before no longer works for a sustainable future. Many golf courses were developed decades ago, when we knew very little about our collective impact on the planet.

These days, we know better. Golf course designers have sustainability front of mind when designing new courses (or redesigning old ones). They’re factoring in specific design elements that minimise environmental impact to build the golf courses of the future.

Wildlife conservation

With the widespread move to a reduction in chemical usage, our wildlife will no doubt benefit. But beyond this, there is plenty more that the golf industry can do to protect the flora and fauna of our golf courses (and beyond).

Golf course managers are introducing initiatives that promote biodiversity, like rewilding dedicated areas of the golf course and allowing the natural habitat to thrive. They’re creating dedicated wildlife habitats so that animals and insects can find their home on the golf course, and not be displaced. There are plenty of successful golf course conversation projects underway, which can only mean good news for our planet.

There are many ways that golf courses can promote and support biodiversity

What can we do individually to reduce golf’s impact on the planet?

It’s great that golf courses and industry experts are prioritising sustainability in golf. But what can we do on an individual level to support these initiatives? There are loads of ways in which we can help, and here are just a few of them:

  • Sign up to be a sustainability contact at your golf club or facility. England Golf is inviting people to be registered as the sustainability lead and you can sign up here.
  • Use second-hand golf clubs and equipment. Buying new is not only expensive but it’s also wasteful. By buying used golf clubs you’re keeping them out of landfill (and they come with a lot less packaging, too).
  • Consider how you travel to and from the golf course. It’s tempting to jump in the car when you’re in a hurry to get to the golf course or driving range, but if at all possible (and you don’t have a huge bag of clubs to carry) then why not cycle or walk instead? It’s great for your health, and you’ll get a chance to clear your head and prepare yourself mentally for your game, too. If you’re carrying too many clubs, consider asking your playing partners if you can set up a lift share scheme so you’re using as few vehicles as possible.
  • Walk the course. Leave the buggy in the car park and walk around the course instead. Breathe in some fresh air and enjoy the exercise, and you’ll be doing your best for the planet too
  • Use reusable. Water bottles are one of the biggest villains when it comes to single-use plastic. Invest in a good-quality reusable water bottle and save money – and the planet!
  • Take part in clean-up days. Your golf course will likely run days where people can volunteer to help them clean up the golf course. Whether it’s reducing litter, clearing overgrowth or just doing a little welfare check on the wildlife habitats, every little helps.
Given all the innovative approaches to more sustainability in golf, we are optimistic about the future impact of our beloved game on the planet. We hope that you’ve found plenty of inspiration in this article on how you can do your bit on an individual level, too.

If you’ve any other ideas about how golf could be more sustainable, we’re all ears – get in touch! And don’t forget to browse our amazing range of planet-friendly and sustainable used drivers, irons, wedges, golf bags and much, much more!

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