Last month, I had the chance to report about 5 Burhill Golf & Leisure venues who were recertified by the Golf Environment Organization (GEO). Recently, I made an interview with Howard Craft, the general manager of Wycombe Heights Golf Centre (a Burhill Golf & Leisure venue) that I would like to share with you now:
What motived Burhill Golf & Leisure and particularly Wycombe Heights Golf Centre to become GEO Certified®?
We at BGL see GEO certification as an industry standard, similar to how we perceive GolfMark, we therefore passionately believe that we should be leading the industry by example in our environmental performance. Employees throughout the company, at every level, understand the importance of GEO certification and we are all dedicated to doing our best for the environment. As a result, BGL is the first multi-site operator in the world to have all of its sites GEO certified; an achievement of which we are immensely proud.
I think it’s great that we are a commercial operation that is sustainable and profitable, meaning we can keep re-investing into the business and driving it forward.
What have you learned from the certification process? What would you do differently?
We pride ourselves on being a professional operator and we have robust controls in place for all sections of our business, however, during the process of gaining the certification, we found that there were further efficiencies that could be improved within our operation. This may have been as simple as changing the configuration of the waste bins, but it helped us to continue developing and growing in the right direction.
I wouldn’t say that BGL would necessarily do anything differently if we began the process again as it’s a continual journey and we’re evolving constantly. The key factor is that sustainability forms a part of decision making within the business and therefore influences people’s thoughts and behaviours.
If we hadn’t gone through the certification process, we would still be doing some of the good things we’re currently doing, but with GEO in mind, we’re currently doing a lot more and have plans to develop further in the future.
What is the impact of investment in sustainability on customer experience?
Burhill Golf & Leisure are very proud of being GEO certified. We display our certification on signage around the course, that way our customers know that we care and that we’re doing our best for the environment. I look closely at the hotel industry and how they convey the environmental reforms to their customers and how we can translate that to our venues. This is the next stage for our customer experience; how we can get them more involved in helping the environment.
How do you measure the performance of the changes in community engagement, resource usage etc.?
We create objectives around our environmental projects which are audited internally, specifically looking at how we’re performing in terms of resource usage and engaging our customers with sustainability practices. BGL believe in reinvesting in their venues; as out on the courses we’ve been putting up bird boxes, planting wildflower meadows and practicing woodland management.
Our clubhouses now benefit from LED lighting, motion sensors and timers to ensure we’re being as efficient as possible. The visitors and members can see all of these elements and the positive impact that the projects are having to their experiences at our clubs.
How do you educate and involve your employees about the changes?
Staff engagement is without a doubt our number one priority as a business and sustainability forms part of this engagement. We can only improve our sustainability if all members of staff are behind it. We try to keep staff up-to-date on these important opportunities through regular meetings and communications, including social media and WhatsApp.
All members of staff are encouraged to propose initiatives and ideas about how we can operate our businesses more sustainability. The seven company values that BGL operates by includes sustainability, so it really does transcend right through the company.
What kind of sustainability trends do you see in the golf industry?
I believe that the biggest changes are in the golf maintenance sector. Certain pesticides are going to be unavailable on the market in the next few years, therefore the golf industry is going to have to adapt and explore more sustainable alternatives. The two pesticides that will certainly no longer be available deal specifically with worm casts and fungus on the playing surfaces. We’re therefore already starting to look into other options now to ensure that the condition of our courses is preserved to the high standard expected from our players.
This is also an opportunity to educate our customers about the difficulties faced when maintaining our courses. They may notice a slightly higher percentage of disease on the course over the autumn and winter months, but we’re eager to explain that this will not be detrimental to their game and is instead helping to preserve the environment by using fewer chemicals.
What kind of technology solutions (e.g. GreenSight, OnGolf USA) do you use to achieve sustainable golf operations?
We are fortunate that within BGL we have a Head Office team that monitors a lot of our operations very closely for efficiency and sustainability. I think in the future, however, that technology will undoubtedly play a more significant part.
That being said, I have been working with an organization called OPAL to look at a system of more accurately mapping incidents of pests or diseases out on the courses, allowing us to be more precise in our purchasing and application of pesticides.
Technology is already helping us to improve our newly installed irrigation systems. Our Course Managers can now operate their entire systems through a mobile app, helping to streamline the process and conserve as much water as possible. Water is already becoming a scarce resource for golf courses and therefore Burhill Golf &hassure have been working hard to become entirely self-sufficient by creating reservoirs and liaising with the Environmental Agency.
What are you doing in your golf club to achieve sustainability? Let me know it in the comments below!