Rémy Dorbeau began his career in turf management in 1990. He has played golf for 30 years. He worked on the Lancôme Trophy course renovation during 4 years at Saint Nom la Bretèche Golf Club, building USGA Recommendation greens and bunkers. He was then Assistant Course Manager at Saint Germain Golf Club for 4 years. In 2001, he became Course Manager at Chantilly and was then appointed Club Secretary in 2009.
Founded in 1909, Chantilly is an essential part of the history of golf in France; for more than a century, the Club has maintained an unmatched tradition of quality in a natural setting. Many championships have taken place at Chantilly, including 10 French Open Championships.
Rémy Dorbeau is Secretary of AGREF (French Golf Course Manager’s Association), a Board Member of the Ecoumène Turfgrass Institute and of ITS, and also a member of the Environmental Committee of the French Golf Federation (FFG).
“I wish a return to fundamentals in every respect.
Introducing the concept of sustainability into any golf course related decision will enable club members to have a long term view of their Club. Choosing the right blend of turfgrass species, for the right environment, and maintaining them under the right cultural management approach, is key to providing environmentally compatible golf courses. Our work should enhance the work of nature rather than interfering with it.
Golf should be played on firm surfaces in conditions provided by nature and weather. This is sometimes far from a golfers wishes, but nature is not about uniformity or perfection. Many golfers would like to play on soft, uniform, surfaces all year round but that is a mistake. Commercial pressures often lead to over fertilisation, overwatering and too frequent application of pesticides; all of which will result in poor quality playing surfaces after a few years.
I have seen many magnificent courses that were disfigured by their management’s desire to keep them green all year round. Those who made the decisions had not been told that their attempts would often result in worm casts, white grubs and diseases, also requiring heavier aeration programmes. The management of golf courses needs to be more professional. It involves many different skills. Any decision providing a long term benefit requires communication and a favorable political environment. Course managers should also be golfers in order for them to be able to better define work priorities and to avoid mistakes which sometimes occur if agronomy ignores golf.
Irrigating a golf course during water restrictions will no longer be accepted by government, regulators and people living close to golf courses. Water has become a precious commodity. Golfers must understand that a ‘green’ golf course doesn’t always mean a ‘good’ golf course.
Chantilly hosts the French Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship (Coupe Murat) every year. This year, players discovered a yellow-brown course at the end of May because we don’t irrigate fairways and we had only had 5 mm of rain between mid-February and early June. Some people thought that ‘the course was burnt’. However, the players all agreed that the course was excellent in spite of the color of the ground being yellow rather than green.
Members of Chantilly Golf Club understand that they must adapt their game to changing course conditions around the year; for several months, fast running and dry fairways require a different strategy from the tee and for different approach shots to be played into the green. This is what makes golf an interesting sport.
An agreement was signed between the French government and the FFG in 2006, regarding the use of water, which I believe was unique in the world. In 2006, because of water shortages, the French government had wanted to ban the irrigation of golf courses, including greens. Using Chantilly as an example for the very selective use of water, the FFG was able to convince the government that greens could still be appropriately irrigated under severe water restrictions.
AGREF and its Turfgrass Institute (Ecoumène Golf & Environnement) promote all best management practices for golf courses in France. We are organising, in conjunction with the FFG, a network of sports ground turf managers, entirely based on voluntary contributions, who will collect data about the development of turfgrass pests throughout France. This data will help to determine the most effective cultural management practices for dealing with pests and diseases, while also providing an important source of information which can be used by regulators.
We hope that research will provide us with a biological product that will effectively reduce, or hopefully replace entirely, the use of chemicals on golf courses. French health and safety regulations concerning the use of chemicals are very strict and provide adequate protection for the environment, golfers and people using these materials.
We do our best to promote the recycling of water and we think that golf courses can be a good place for recycled water to be effectively utilised. This kind of initiative should also help with the social acceptance of golf courses in popular tourism areas.
The public perception of golf in France is still often restricted to elderly people in golf carts, on areas of very green grass, surrounded by houses. The reality is truly different.
Information needs to be given to the public and authorities on how nature and golf can successfully work together through the application of sustainable management principles. Course managers are very well placed to assist with this process of education because they must love nature in order to do their job.
France will host the Ryder Cup in 2018 and I hope that this event will be a fantastic occasion to showcase and promote sustainable golf.”
A full case study on Golf de Chantilly is available here.
Chantilly's approach to management is focused on surface performance rather than aesthetic presentation.
The courses will therefore vary naturally with the seasons.
Chantilly's courses span classic and challenging golfing terrain ...
... which blends seamlessly into the wider natural landscape.