Sweden has one of the highest numbers of golf courses per capita in Europe. Sweden has 450 golf courses covering a total of 30,000 hectares, and new golf courses are beeing planned. The Swedish Golf Union, SGF, has 575,000 members for whom golf provides an opportunity to enjoy fresh air, exercise and recreation. Every season, about 35,000 rounds of golf are played on each course. But how does all this affect the environment?
In recent years, the golf playing community has made major positive environmental changes. In its environmental audit, the Swedish Golf Union states that a sustainable approach to the environment is one of the most important tools in ensuring that the sport gains acceptance in the community, which will allow it to develop further. The Union has linked the golfing communitys environmental issues to Sweden’s 16 environmental quality targets.
Interest in the environment exists on the golf course as well
Golf can have both a positive and negative impact on the environment. The negative effects include carbon dioxide emissions generated by people travelling to and from the golf course, the use of fertiliser containing nitrogen and phosphorus causing eutrophication in nearby watercourses, pesticides leaching into watercourses and the ground water, high energy consumption and the generation of significant quantities of waste.
But these environmental problems can be reduced, provided that they are noted and incorporated into the planning process. The Nordic golf unions are ensuring that new knowledge is produced through research, and that this knowledge is used in the planning and maintenance of golf courses. The location and design of golf courses has an impact on the environment, and conflicts of interest may arise between the owners and those representing countryside and cultural values, residential development and open-air recreation. If environmental sustainability is considered at the planning stage, the negative impact can be reduced. Many areas of a course, e.g. water courses and woodland areas, can house a varied flora and fauna, and this can be encouraged further. Greens, tees and fairways can also become areas of great biodiversity through responsible management.
Reduced negative impact with environmental management systems and environmental diplomas
Both the individual golf clubs and the Swedish Golf Union have realised the importance of a systematic approach to the environment, and are encouraging clubs to adopt some form of environ- mental management system. In a first step towards adopting a certificated environmental management system, a golf club can apply for an environmental diploma, after fulfilling a number
of requirements. At present, around 25 percent of the clubs meet these criteria. Many clubs have discovered that adopting an active approach to the environment goes hand in hand with financial benefit and a beneficial reputation. Clubs which want to take their environmental commitment a stage further can introduce an environmental management system which meets the requirements of ISO 14001 or other system.
This article was first published in Advantage Environment printed in February 2008