James Kon & Jake Ten
To make golf more environmentally friendly and in recognition of golf courses in the Asia-Pacific region in transforming environmentally sustainable golf facilities and community to encourage development, the Government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam through the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources has sponsored the inaugural Custodians of the Environment Award.
The award, which was presented to TAT Filipinas Golf Club, will become an annual feature of the Asia-Pacific Golf Summit (APGS).
The announcement of the launch of the Custodians of the Environment Award was made by Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Yahya bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar, the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources yesterday in a keynote address at the opening of the Asia-Pacific Golf Summit, at The Empire Hotel & Country Club.
The minister presented the award last night as he hosted a dinner at the Royal Berkshire Hall of the Royal Brunei Polo and Riding Club to welcome all the professional golf players, invited speakers and guests who were attending the APGS.
The minister said, "Golf is not only a sport but can also be a responsible partner in the protection and sustainability of the environment.
"I raise this matter because to develop a golf course requires vast areas of land that would invariably need to be cleared of natural vegetation and habitat. This cleared land needs to be graded and planted with what are often non-native grasses, trees and shrubs. The creation of perfect fairways and greens takes a lot of water, fertiliser, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides."
While these are valid concerns, he said, "We also recognise the importance of golf and its role in promoting tourism. The revenue earned through golf tourism runs into billions of dollars and this is expected to increase in the years to come."
The minister then posed the question whether the positive revenue gains balance out against the negative effects of golf course development?
"What I would like to see is a more pragmatic and sustainable approach towards golf course development. There must be a better way to address the challenge.
"One of the ways of moving forward is for golf course designers, owners and operators to become more aware of environmental issues. The industry gatekeepers need to promote more responsible environmental stewardship and innovative and green ways of building and maintaining golf courses," he said.
The minister then proposed a number of policies which among others requires golf course designers, owners and operators to incorporate environmentally sustainable practices in the golf industry which include protection and preservation of natural features, choosing varieties of grass that require less water and are best adapted to the local climate, planting indigenous trees and shrubs, designing for as little water runoff from the property as possible, using reclaimed water for irrigation, using soil amendments such as composted water which reduce water consumption and improve soil fertility and protection of sensitive habitats during construction and others.
As the country is committed to the principle of environmentally sustainable development, the minister said, "I am proud to announce that the Government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam through the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources will be the sponsor of the inaugural Custodian of the Environment Citation which will become an annual feature of the summit."
He added, "It is a small contribution but a giant step to make golf a more environmentally friendly sport. It will position environmental concern as a fore-thought, not an after-thought and continue in our thoughts in constructing and managing golf courses in this region. It will hope to attract more players particularly the more ethnically inclined players and more corporate supporters, particularly those that are concerned about their corporate social responsibility."
Also present at the event was I Gde Pitana, Deputy Minister for Tourism and Creative Economy Resources Development, Republic of Indonesia and Ronald Dodson, Chairman of the International Sustainability Council.
During his speech, Mr Dodson said that the way forward was for golf course architects, owners and operators to become more sensitive towards the environment.
It was suggested that that sort of responsibility should fall upon the industry gatekeepers, who need to promote more responsible environmental stewardship and innovative and green ways of building and maintaining golf courses.
By definition, a sustainable golf facility is sited, designed and constructed in ways that enhance the local community and reduce or eliminate its impact on natural resources and is managed in a way such that a balance between optimum playing conditions for golfers and good stewardship of the environment is found.
The TAT Filipinas Golf Club was founded in 1962 and was designed by Seiichi Inoue, one of Japan's leading golf course architects. Under the helm of Edna Selloriquez Pana, the corporate counsel of the TAT Group of companies, TAT Filipinas Golf and Country Club started the transformation of the club into a sustainable golf course, not only with a clear mission to serve its members, but also an awareness of its role in the community and environment.