Iceland Makes Country-Wide GEO OnCourse™ Pledge: A Great Boost for Sustainable Golf, says Peter Dawson

Visiting Iceland's minister for the environment. From left: Jeremy Slessor, European Tour Group; Edwin Roald, European Institute of Golf Course Architects; Hörður Þorsteinsson, Secretary General of the Icelandic Golf Union; Jón Ásgeir Eyjólfsson, president of the Icelandic Golf Union; Svandís Svavarsdóttir, Icelandic Environment Minister; Jonathan Smith, GEO; Gorazd Nastran, Federation of European Golf Greenkeepers Associations; Dr. Keith Duff, The R&A.

The Golf Union of Iceland recently demonstrated environmental leadership on an unprecedented scale as sixty-two golf clubs, or all affiliated clubs operating a golf course, have pledged to achieve the GEO Certified™ award. Iceland is the first country to establish a nationwide pledge with the Golf Environment Organization – and according to a press release from GEO – participate in the most productive, credible and comprehensive sustainability based certification program in golf.

As readers may well remember, Iceland was hit hard by the credit crunch. However, despite the frozen economy, golf continues to increase in popularity in a country that only has a population of 320 thousand, but an amazing total of almost seventy golf courses. In the two years that have gone by since the bank collapse, the number of club-affiliated golfers has increased by five and two percent respectively.

It is now estimated that more than ten percent of the nation’s population play the game. In the last twenty years, golf has become a true national sport on the exotic volcanic island with a somewhat inappropriate name, embraced by the Gulf Stream originating in the Gulf of Mexico. In Iceland, this phenomenon is termed “Golfstraumurinn” – The Golf Stream.

Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of The R&A, expressed his support of the Icelandic initiative:

“The R&A congratulates the Icelandic Golf Union. This is exactly the kind of environmental leadership that we have been encouraging and is a great boost for sustainable golf.”

This Icelandic initiative was announced at the FEGGA Conference and International Summit of golf course superintendents, held in Iceland on February 24th to the 27th.

The move has been driven by the Icelandic Golf Union – the country’s administrator of the amateur game; member of the European Golf Association and affiliate to The R&A. Full endorsement has also been pledged by the Icelandic Greenkeeper Association.

All affiliate golf clubs within The Golf Union of Iceland operating a golf course have taken the first step towards GEO Certification.

At receptions in Reykjavik, attended by both the Icelandic President, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, and the Minister for Environment, Svandís Svavarsdóttir, the efforts of Icelandic Golf and GEO were recognised. President Grímsson said:

“The Icelandic people are close to, and proud of, the quality of their environment. As a healthy outdoor sport, played by men, women and children from all walks of life, and with such an intimate relationship with our diverse landscapes, we are delighted that golf is using its unique position to reinforce deep rooted Icelandic values – locally and across the global golf community”.

Ms Svavarsdóttir added:

“I must congratulate the people and organisations behind this move – locally in the clubs, nationally amongst the golfing and scientific community, and internationally amongst the partners that have helped to put the excellent GEO programmes together. This is an example of one important sector of business, sport and tourism expressing its willingness to take action for the benefit of society as a whole. We will continue to engage with this initiative and support Icelandic golf in maximising its all-round value to our country, and in particular to our beautiful, clean and inspiring landscapes.”

The sixty-two Icelandic OnCourse™ Profiles at showcase the country’s diverse and dramatic golfing landscapes.

Hörður Þorsteinsson, the General Secretary of the Icelandic Golf Union said:

“This is a significant week for golf in Iceland. It demonstrates that we not only recognise the value that Iceland’s outstanding environment offers to golf, but we also understand the responsibility that golf has, like others in society, to minimise our consumption of resources, to reduce waste and to protect landscapes and ecosystems. We are proud to be champions of sustainability, in Iceland and also in world golf, and are committed to supporting all our member clubs as they do as much as they can for local people and the environment.”

Jonathan Smith, GEO Chief Executive was in Iceland for a five-day programme of sustainable golf activities – including a meeting of GEO’s EMEA Industry Forum, and the International Greenkeeping Summit hosted by the Federation of European Golf Greenkeepers Associations (FEGGA). Speaking at the reception Jonathan said:

“Today’s announcement epitomises all that GEO stands for and all that has been designed into our programmes. We have sought to connect sustainability action locally to globally; join up the collaborative efforts of a unique and diverse sector; create inspiring and easily accessible programmes, that are fully transparent and recognise golf businesses that are delivering credible progress. We commend the IGU and the clubs, and look forward to the promotion of independently verified GEO Certified™ golf the length and breadth of Iceland over the coming weeks, months and years.”

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