A Free Drop For The Environment: Part 3

With the increasing pressure over environmental issues, programmes that help golf facilities keep up with their compliance requirements will be essential tools.

The John Collier Survey’s founder Alistair Collier commented during our telephone interview, “Staying abreast of your compliancy requirements is an iterative process. If you don’t measure key data then you cannot manage effectively”.

He continued by saying, “it is concerning how many golf courses are still not on top of this type of important data. For example not understanding water consumption and its sources, leaves a big hole in the Intel required to manage any facility efficiently”. “However” he continued, “it is not only about the environment as we also encourage clubs to protect their historical heritage and the survey flags areas of broader concern, such as the continuing decline in player numbers.”

It is difficult to do a survey like this justice in the limited space we have available, but it is comprehensive and perhaps most importantly, enables clubs to monitor their performance as part of a routine.

It also pulls no punches and offers valuable insights, both in terms of the current levels of good governance and environmental compliance and in terms of what is going to be required in the future.


Alistair Collier commented: “Going forward, compliance will become essential for golf as the government’s monitoring capacity increases and it is able to focus its attention on the golf industry”.

“Golf needs to be ready for this scrutiny and golf estates have extended challenges and need to see the environmental issues holistically, in terms of the estate and the golf course areas as one entity”.

Both David Christie and Jeff Clause see this holistic approach as a norm in their facilities. However, it underlines Jeff’s mention of ‘balance’ in terms of St Francis Links’ interface with the environment and this balance reflects across the entire range of elements, from the golf course through to the estate’s architectural styles.

Jeff Clause commented: “the survey removes most of the guesswork, which makes planning much easier, enabling our management and board to focus on the areas that need real attention”.

Jeff Clause (centre) and his team at St Francis Links proudly displaying the top award from the John Collier Survey.

Historically, the ‘Augusta effect’ is often cited as the moment at which golf courses moved away from traditional presentation to the manicured, immaculately cross cut facilities we often see today. Undoubtedly, television coverage of professional tournaments created unrealistic expectations among amateur golfers who wanted to see their home course presented in the same way every weekend. Unfortunately, it was misunderstood by many amateurs that the courses being seen, during televised broadcasts, were only in that shape for the week of the tournament and that this appearance had only been achieved by months of preparation geared towards that one week.

It might look great on TV, but as Jeff Clause pointed out ‘playability’ needs to relate to the facility’s target clientele. For many players ‘pro type’ fairways mean that you will struggle to insert a knife blade between the fairway’s surface and the bottom of the ball – this is great for a tour pro, but seriously scary for anyone over a five handicap i.e. the bulk of golfers.

Like it or not the impact of climate change (whatever the reasons behind it) and variable rainfall patterns are become increasingly important issues and environmental compliance will no longer be a ‘nice to do’ or ‘feel good’ activity, but a legal necessity.

When I asked about the origins of the programme Alistair’s comment was: “I saw that there was going to be a gap between what a club did in real terms to what was going to be required at an official level. I believed that the central requirement to bridging the gap would be an easy to follow template, which would allow clubs to monitor and update their own processes in all of the key areas.”

Perhaps the survey’s key attribute is that it enables each participating golf club to assess the status of their environmental compliance and governance performance in minutes.

Using this benchmarking tool, you will be able to benchmark your golf club against a range of key metrics, such as Environmental Management Planning, Biodiversity, Landscape and Cultural Heritage, Water Resource Management, Turf-Grass Management, Waste Management, Energy Management, Education and Working Environment and Communication and Public Awareness.

David Christie reinforces this as he sees one of the survey’s advantages is in enabling him to communicate the status of compliance to his board in a simple and comprehensive manner.

A photo of one of the dams at Eagle Canyon. Part of the original quarry wall is visible in the background.

Traditionally, keeping pace in terms of a golf time sheet requires each tee off time to stay in pace with the group in front of it. The John Collier Survey provides an invaluable tool in helping golf facilities follow the ‘right’ environmental and governance protocols, while making their controls and management processes more efficient in the process and its use can help the golf industry, as a whole, to ‘keep up’ with four-ball in front of it.

GVSA Feature: June 2020 – Part 3 / A free drop for the environment.

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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