Alex James (Frilford Heath Golf Club), Edward Ainsworth (Avro GC) and Adi Porter (Greetham Valley GC), travelled with STRI ecology and environment specialists, Bob Taylor and Sophie Vukelic, to visit some of the most environmentally conscious golf clubs in Portugal.
Host Alexandra Almeida, of the Portuguese Golf Federation, organised visits to golf courses, so that the winners could gain a further understanding of the role that biodiversity plays in European golf course management.
Environmental Golf Course of the Year 2017 winner representative, Alex James, said: “When I was told that I’d be going on the GEA winners trip to Portugal, it was described as a once in a lifetime experience. Sometimes phrases like that are thrown around without any substance to back it up… well this time that phrase doesn’t even come close to describing just how amazing it was. It was more than a once in a lifetime trip, it was life changing!”
Almeida arranged visits to Espiche Golf Club with Greenkeeper Paulo Coelho, San Lorenzo Golf Course with Greenkeeper Carlos Santos, Monte Rei Golf Course with João Goulão and Luis Pinto, and Onyria Palmares Golf Resort with Joel Nunes, who has recently been elected as President of the Portuguese Greenkeepers Association.
Edward Ainsworth, Conservation Greenkeeper of the Year tweeted: “A very exciting moment for me, seeing and capturing on camera my first Swallowtail butterfly @EspicheGolfSA last week with @golfenvawards.”
The greenkeeping teams led the winners on an educational tour of the facilities, to highlight their sustainable initiatives. Alex James, said: “I was guilty of thinking that the GEA awards are mainly about bird boxes and bug hotels, but it is so much more than that! Yes, these things are important to promote wildlife and help the environment, but so is turning off heaters, using energy saving bulbs, moving irrigation water in the most efficient way, and recycling waste. All of these things help the environment, and we should all take a look at what we do and ask ourselves how we can do it better. We have a collective responsibility to be the best that we can possibly be.”
On his return, Adi Porter said: “This trip has been so inspirational and I will be taking so much back to my own club to help us do more to become more sustainable. I have learnt that it only takes small changes to make a massive difference!”
STRI’s Sophie Vukelic, said: “Yet again, the winners trip was a delight for all involved. This year’s winners continued to be enraptured by the knowledge shared by their Portuguese counterparts at some of Europe’s most environmentally sound golf clubs. We all shared ideas for creating a more sustainable business, from water-saving techniques to nature conservation initiatives and visitor experience. Indeed, the trip highlighted more than ever the need to understand that ‘sustainability’ incorporates so much more than bird boxes and wildflowers.”
STRI would like to thank the sponsors of the GEA 2017 for their continued support, Ransomes Jacobson, Farmura, Syngenta, Tillers Turf and Wiedenmann.
STRI recently announced that The R&A has agreed to become lead partner of the Golf Environment Awards. Entry for the 2018 awards is now open. For more information on the GEA, or to submit your entry, visit https://golfenvironmentawards.com.