Working for the Golf Course

Senior figures representing national governing bodies from across Europe gathered in St Andrews this week to debate the future of golf course management.

The Working for the Golf Course conference saw 25 of Europe’s federations take part in an interactive debate on the sustainability of golf in changing environment and economic conditions.

Hosted by The R&A, and supported by facilitators from the University of St Andrews, topics covered during the two-day event included playing and economic performance, environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

Discussions at the university’s historic Upper College Hall concentrated on specific issues such as certification, EU legislation, greenkeeper training and the role of The R&A.

Steve Isaac, Director – Golf Course Management, said: “We have enjoyed a very productive couple of days and have been given a rare insight into the wide range of challenges faced by golf courses across Europe.

“It has also been an opportunity to discover the common issues that are shared by golf courses no matter where they are situated. It has been good to see federations make the most of being able to sit down face-to-face to learn more about each other’s successes and failures.

“I am confident we will see the work undertaken this week carried forward and that much progress will be made in the years ahead.”

All of the continent’s major federations were represented and ranged, geographically, from Iceland to Malta and from Ireland to Russia. Speakers included The R&A's Executive Director - Working for Golf Duncan Weir (pictured) and James Elles, Conservative MEP for South East England, who encouraged those representing the game to engage in the European and national political process.

Dr Rehema White, Sustainable Development Programme Director at the University of St Andrews, said: “I think the conference has gone really well. It is all very well us sitting in a university developing theoretical ideas about sustainability in the golf sector but you really need to engage with people in practice and at grassroots level to see how your ideas can be put into practice more effectively.”

It is hoped that the conference will lead to improved dialogue between national governing bodies. Victor Motchalov, General Secretary of the Russian Golf Association, said a number of potential joint working arrangements had been identified during the event, including the idea of a greenkeeping school for the federations in northern Europe who share the common issue of long, cold winters.

He added: “It was very useful and interesting to share some common thoughts on how to improve the sustainability of the golf course and not just about the turf but in general about the economic issues, the environment and the satisfaction of club members.

“I hope The R&A will continue with this work long into the future. We are at the very beginning of our development and most of the countries here are well developed and now I have a better understanding of how we can avoid potential mistakes in the future.”