WSA Sports Industry Awards 2023 Winner Feature: Wales Golf Playing Our Part project

WSA Sports Industry Awards 2023 Winner Feature: Wales Golf Playing Our Part project

The Best Sustainability Initiative at the Welsh Sports Association (WSA) Sports Industry Awards 2023 was won by Wales Golf for the organisation’s Playing Our Part Project, an initiative focused on encouraging clubs to address a key issue across Welsh communities.

“The Playing Our Part project was important to Wales Golf as it had far-reaching benefits to both the golfing community and to local communities and organisations,” Wales Golf’s Club Development and Sustainability Manager Dilwyn Griffiths told the WSA.

“The project gave significant impetus to golf clubs to address sustainability as a subject and implement a wide range of projects.

“With the energy sector remaining volatile and weather patterns becoming increasingly extreme, sustainability is a subject intertwined with the activities of a modern golf club. Chiefly among the problems facing golf is water; our courses, sports pitches and courts have faced a deluge of water for months on end, resulting in golf course closures, fixture cancellations and increasingly stressed playing surfaces. With such extremes, there is no doubt that, at some point in the near future, things will brighten up to the extent that we will be complaining of water shortages and droughts.

“Having sustainability as such a pivotal subject to the sport enables Wales Golf to work with other Home Unions and the R&A to highlight the challenges faced and seek out solutions to the problems presented to all of us,” Dilwyn stated as he summarised the issue behind the project.

The initiative included a range of interconnected activities which included a partnership with G.E.O. Foundation for Sustainable Golf, the creation of the first draft Wales Golf Sustainability Strategy, and a Club ‘Sustainability Projects’ Grants Programme totalling 27 Projects and £70,000 worth of investment into sustainability activities at golf clubs across Wales.

“The small funding opportunities we were able to provide to successful applicant clubs encouraged our clubs to examine four key topic areas,” Dilwyn explained, “namely fostering nature, conserving resources, taking climate action and working with the local community.

“The clubs that undertook nature-led projects found themselves working alongside local wildlife trusts, local conservation groups, Natural Resources Wales and others which ensured important relationships and partnership work could be implemented now and into the future.”

The success of the project was wide-ranging and well-documented.

One project, undertaken by St Melyd Golf Club in Denbighshire, saw significant un-utilised but regularly maintained areas of the golf course converted into extensive wildflower meadows. Images from the club subsequently appeared on national television weather forecasts, became Instagram hotspots and were even visited to admire the abundance of colour by many local community groups, including local schools, nurseries, scout groups and horticultural enthusiasts.

The meadows were so impressive that they were described as the finest wildflower meadow seen by the RHS Wales in Bloom judges.

Impacting deeper, the meadows were not only a haven for wildlife and pollinators but also played a significant part in reducing emissions as the areas were previously maintained weekly. This has resulted in considerable net savings in fuel and human resources for the club.

“Projects like these were important as they highlighted the meaningful impacts which can be achieved with fairly small-scale projects, often resulting in financial savings,” Dilwyn confirmed.

The results and successes of the Playing Our Part project were not only clear to see, but abundant. As a result, last June saw Wales Golf pick up the WSA Sports Industry Awards 2023 Best Sustainability Initiative.

“It meant more to us as an organisation than one can describe,” Dilwyn told us, “but most importantly it was an award we received on behalf of our clubs, club staff and dedicated volunteers.

“Wales Golf were charged with leading on sustainability matters by the Welsh Government and to receive such an accolade from the WSA confirmed our beliefs that the Playing Our Part project has set the scene and provided examples of the various projects which can be delivered and duplicated across the sector.”

Since last year’s Awards ceremony, Wales Golf’s commitment to sustainability matters has only grown.

“Sustainability is now firmly embedded within and overrides the entire Wales Golf Strategy,” Dilwyn affirmed. “The legacy of the project will see the continued growth of golf clubs also aligning their strategies to encompass sustainable golf and environmental matters.

“As a result of the project, we are seeing more and more clubs having sustainability as an agenda item at management or board level, with more and more consideration given to the topic and any potential impact it may have on future operation.”

The alignment and partnership with the G.E.O. Foundation for Sustainable Golf has also led to a resource called OnCourseWales, designed to drive and highlight some of the work undertaken by Welsh golf clubs.

And Wales Golf also presented at the WSA Sustainability in Sport Conference in November, with Dilwyn himself speaking. A presentation around the Playing Our Part project and golf’s work in driving sustainability on the agenda furthered the sector’s awareness of the diverse work undertaken by Wales Golf on the subject.

“This has resulted in other NGBs reaching out to our organisation for advice, support and guidance,” Dilwyn revealed.

He concluded by commenting that, despite the challenges faced, Wales Golf’s “main aims remain to see low carbon facilities and to manage nature-rich landscapes that deliver significant net positive impact for Welsh people and the environment.”

Check out all you need to know about the WSA Sports Industry Awards 2024, included a full list of nominees, here!

And don’t forget to shout about the event using #WSASIA2024 on socials!

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