GEO conservationist?

Is GEO conservationist?


Golf Environment Organisation, started in Scotland some ten years ago, with an office in North Berwick, that gives accreditation to golf courses which it considers are being run on ‘sustainable’ principles, is spreading world-wide.

Some fine GB&I courses are signing up in the hope it will give golf a public relations boost against the Green Activists (some call them Watermelons – politically green on the outside and socialist red in the middle) who tend to see golf as a toff’s sport and so attack it on the pretext of using too much water and chemicals. Their arguments are flawed and they are unaware or ignore that

many of the most elite clubs, at least in GB&I, are the ones whose courses have fine grasses and use little water or chemicals!



Anyway back to GEO, who had an active stand next to the greenkeeper’s trade body BIGGA at the greenkeeper’s trade show BTME and I was invited to meet Todd Jerome, one of their key executives to whom I posed the question:

FineGolf is strongly conservationist, ie in favour of low input natural greenkeeping and fine grasses rather than chemical greenkeeping and weed grasses. If GEO is also conservationist, how can a high input maintenance course, (like Celtic Manor for example) be invited through the GEO ‘OnCourse’ programme with the expectation of being certified as ‘sustainable’?”

Rather than being defensive and they say they like what FineGolf is trying to do, to their credit they recognise this quandary, ie that though a course may be improving its ‘sustainability’ credentials as defined by them in certain ways and forward movement is what GEO is trying to achieve, it nevertheless would be good to be able to identify more clearly some measurement of differentiation between, put simply, high and low input courses.

The simple FineGolf concept of differentiation, at least for cool climate fine/weed grass greenkeeping, that might be worth trying is: ‘Running-golf’ in contrast to ‘target-golf’!

GEO, I was assured by Paul Worster (one of BIGGA’s officers) will “bring transparency and evidence to the efforts within golf as well as spreading Best Practice” and Todd said that GEO is investing in an upgrade of its IT systems to allow a more complex grading so clubs can see how their selection of grasses and maintenance practices can effect their sustainable performance. This suggests that perhaps FineGolf should at least continue to talk to them.

GEO calls itself a non-profit company and is now sponsored by the great and good of golf. It took sometime to convince The R&A to become a sponsor but they seem to be now fully on board and have recommended that all the Open Championship venue clubs go through the certifying process (which costs some £10,000 after all the STRI measurements programmes and GEO certification consultants have been paid by the club).

FineGolf  appreciates their quandary, particularly as they expand their services into warmer climate areas,  as even within the FineGolf stable of the finest 200 GB&I courses there are those that continue to be high in Poa annua weed grass (some around London) and while FineGolf promotes ‘running-golf’ in contrast to ‘target-golf’, there are more factors than just grass species that comes into giving the ‘joy-to-be-alive’ FineGolf  feeling.

So is GEO conservationist? It is trying to be as far as FineGolf can see but like so many organisations on the edge of ‘environmentalism’, it is tied up in the ‘sustainable’ movement that has been hi-jacked by the Green Activists who understand the power of capturing the meaning of words.