BGL Golf: Marrying financial and environmental sustainability

Guy Riggott, Chief Operating Officer at BGL Golf, which owns and operates a portfolio of 10 golf clubs in the UK, outlines the measures the company is taking to be more sustainable.

What does the word ‘sustainability’ mean to you when talking about golf club operations? 

For us, financial sustainability and environmental sustainability are intrinsically linked – no business means no golf course. By quantifying the resources we use, we’re able to benchmark our total emissions. If we are efficient with those resources, and we continue the transition towards renewable energy, we’ll actually be able to reduce our operational costs too. Identifying and understanding our CO2 usage allows us to create a carbon balance sheet in similar fashion to a typical financial balance sheet.
A huge part of ‘sustainability’ is respecting and enhancing the natural environment. There are numerous ways that we try to do this across our golf sites, including optimising ‘in-play’ areas to reduce unnecessary maintenance tasks. There are also exercises such as woodland planting projects which attract grants and help increase carbon sequestration. Our greenkeepers are all using less chemicals on the golf courses due to new regulations which promotes the use of more environmentally friendly, fundamental greenkeeping techniques. Another big one is trying to capture and store surface water to aid our water supply to the course when it’s required.

What are the main challenges facing BGL when it comes to sustainability?

The main challenge is adapting to climate changes and the impacts those have on our golf courses. Longer, hotter, drier periods in addition to heavier, more intense rainfall cause a raft of issues for our greenkeeping teams.

Does BGL have a sustainability programme in place and what practical measures have been taken to be more sustainable as a business?

We’re proud to say that all 10 of our golf sites have received full GEO Certification, and we were the first multi-course operator in the world to achieve this status. We’re also currently rolling out a programme focusing on energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities across our entire site portfolio.
Emissions and sequestration balance sheets now form a key part of each site’s annual facility report, helping us to create a flightpath to net zero. Then there’s also land management – we’re constantly looking for ways to plant trees and hedgerows where appropriate, and we’re communicating and highlighting these efforts with both our customers and stakeholders.

“We’re proud to say that all 10 of our golf sites have received full GEO Certification”

Guy Riggott, Chief Operating Officer at BGL Golf

How are you able to measure progress in reaching your sustainability goals?

We’ve started to measure our performance by creating a range of metrics which highlight our heating and electrical consumption for each site and across the group, in absolute and intensity terms. We can monitor these metrics as regularly as every half-hour with the smart meters that we’ve installed at each site.

Has implementing sustainability practices added value to your business and if so in what ways?

I would say so, yes. Of course, as a business that is a leader in its field, we want to be seen as paving the way for sustainability within this industry. But there are other measures of ‘value’ too, and we’ve definitely noticed that in terms of our energy efficiency and also our adaption to the climate, which is important for protecting our business’ future sustainability.

What would you like to see the wider golf industry do to make golf more sustainable?

I think it’s important that we take the pressure off General Managers and Course Managers here. We have a 12-month season, fungicides and insecticides are not available in the UK and player expectation is for perfection. As we go along this journey towards greater sustainability, we have to inform and educate golfers that their courses will look more natural rather than manufactured. It’s just the way it has to be.
Golf courses also offer huge natural capital value. They benefit the community, the air, water, and wildlife if managed correctly. Each of these categories represents a unique opportunity to implement a strategy to support the environment and become more sustainable.
Finally, a lot of sustainability focus is actually on ecology, and how animals and plants react to the environment around them. It’s important that we also look at the built environment when discussing sustainable practices.
Overall, we believe all golf club owners/operators should be engaging the services of environmental specialists to assist them and the industry in achieving the net zero status ahead of the government’s current timeline.

By GCMA Content Team

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