A Free Drop for the Environment: Part 1


St Francis Links - Eastern Cape, South Africa


The eternal optimists among us are always quick to trot out their favourite phrases; ‘every cloud has a silver lining’, or that ‘it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good’ at the first signs of trouble.

Given the reactions to the pandemic, they might be accused of clutching at straws to find any benefit in the ‘mess’ that has ensued since the first signs of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan – in what now feels to be a lifetime ago.

The more cynical among us would argue that the only beneficiaries have been a few billionaires who got even richer, or the black marketers, dealing in booze and cigarettes, making small fortunes over the past few months.

However, there is one genuine good news story - the environment.

This embattled area of global concern, received a massively beneficial free drop (to use a golfing term) away from humankind’s normally pollutive habits during the lockdown.

Within one month of the lockdown in India, people reported being able to see the Himalayas for the first time in over 30 years, C02 emissions levels dropped radically everywhere as the normal volumes of airplane and vehicular activity plummeted and turtles were seen on beaches during the daytime, taking advantage of the sudden absence of people.

The Himalayas reappear on the horizon as the pollution levels drop during the recent lockdown in India

Unfortunately, it cannot last. We would be naïve to think that as a species (or virus as one environmentalist labelled mankind, which is more than a little ironic given present circumstances) we are going to change our habits any time soon. In these uncertain times, if you want a sure bet, one would be that it will be business as usual before very long and the issues of our impact of the environment and climate change will need to be hauled back forcibly onto the debating table.

Why is there any debate?

Perhaps the answer to this is that so many people have become polarised in their approach to the environmental issues and potential solutions. This is not dissimilar to the reactions to COVID-19, in which one group’s reaction is to shut us all indoors until a vaccine is found, while another wants us to carry on as normal and let the virus do its worst.

The middle ground view might be more practical, if we want to see sustainable progress made. Mother Earth also has her own cycles, which science still does not fully understand. And so while we are contributing to our own environmental demise, one has that sneaking suspicion that when she is ready, and rather like a large dog, the earth will give itself a good shake, spiralling mankind off out into oblivion and not worthy of even a footnote in cosmic history.

On June 5th it was World Environment Day.

This year’s theme is on biodiversity, which given the numbers of species facing extinction (estimated to be over 1 million) is a further wake-up call for those who are still unconvinced that there are any real issues.

The fact is that few human activities have a desirable impact on our surroundings, while in sporting terms; golf always receives a particularly bad rap for its supposed negative environmental impact.

Given the positive developments in the golf business in almost every area of turf maintenance and from golf clubs to golf estates and residential estates to golf resorts this is sad. Sad, but unsurprising, given the game’s perennial inability to share its own good news stories effectively.

In numerous past articles and columns, I have referenced a diverse range of initiatives taken by golf clubs and estates that are having a positive environmental impact. I have used the examples of such initiatives at Dainfern, St Francis Links and Pecanwood and the site rehabilitation at Ebotse and Eagle Canyon and I run into the serious danger of becoming a ‘bore’ on this particular topic.

The fact that the ‘team ethic’ is not in the golfing DNA, makes it difficult for the golf business to talk about itself collectively. Fortunately, initiatives such as the John Collier Annual Survey act as a shop widow, to allow us to see who is doing what and where in environmental terms within golf. Perhaps more importantly, the survey’s structure enables those using the tools provided to keep track of their own activities. In this functionality, there is another benefit in the growing understanding that being environmentally aware can be very beneficial to the bottom line, in terms of improved cost saving efficiencies.

The platform provided by the survey is not only essential for those actively involved managing a golf course, but also in its acting as a spur (pour encourager les autres) to get others to make the environment a key part of their day to day processes. This is key, because this will not only help the environment, but because it also makes good business sense.


John Cockayne – Mobile +27 (0) 73 896 7931 / Email cathco@mweb.co.za

The contents, ideas and concepts expressed in this document are the sole property and copyright of the author and may not be copied, used, communicated to any third party in any way or manner and or activated without the express written approval of John Cockayne.

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