What are your deepest reasons for making the ecological transition of golf a major focus of this assignment?
Pascal Grizzot: First, this is nothing new for the Federation. The history of the first commission for the environment dates back to 1986. Today, environmental transformation is one of the priorities of all citizens. This has limitations, but I see opportunities as opportunities, such as a sharp reduction in the use of phytosanitary products by 2025. This leads us to consider alternative solutions. In ‘environmental transformation’, there is ‘transition’. The Labbé law will come into full effect in 2025, so there are only three years left, which is a lot but also very few. This allows us to implement these changes as part of a transition process, which is what I wanted in my state.
Sylvian Villadere: Our desire is to accelerate the environmental transformation that already exists. This acceleration is underway, with three priorities: continuing our approach to biodiversity, rational water management, a third, very urgent axis on sustainable conservation of cycles, and research needed to meet the challenges of the Labbé Act.
Sylvian Villaudiere, ffgolf vice president in charge of environmental transformation.
What developments have accompanied these changes in terms of allocated resources and partnerships?
PG: Historically, ffgolf has a partnership with the National Museum of Natural History for all issues related to biodiversity. With him we created the Biodiversity Golf Program posters. We have also signed an agreement with the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB), and another with water agencies, which provide financial support for golf courses that implement measures to reduce water use. Soon we will also have an agreement with the National Forestry Office (ONF), because many of the courses are located in forest areas, and the law also requires us to have a logical management in this area.
against: The means we give ourselves are very important, in relation to the public authorities, both in France and internationally, for example with R&A and the Golf Course 2030 programme. Our consortium aims to continue its leadership in these issues of environmental transformation. We also work with other consortia on common issues, particularly research into new species of herbs and new technologies for land conservation. We have also developed, within the Federation, significant internal resources. This topic interests absolutely everyone, whether you are a professional in the sector or a gamer. We can all act one way or another. In fact, we have dedicated a lot of resources to networking and training, to operate with reliability and power.
How do these mediums and these partnerships translate tangibly for golfers and golfers on a daily basis?
PG: The Golf for Biodiversity Program and its various brands allow clubs to better inventory and protect their biodiversity. Water agencies, for their part, aim to support all private investments that make it possible to reduce the use of resources. For example, when a club decides to do €700,000 work on its irrigation system, it is very easy to prove that the new system consumes less. And from that moment on, agencies support up to 20 or 30% of the total investment, which is a lot for the club.
against: For example, in 2021, ffgolf, with the help of its teams and experts to compile the files, received nearly 1 million euros in subsidies for all investments, which is very important to renovate the systems and reduce the impact on water resources.
On the issue of water, is there also a need for communication efforts aimed at players who will have to change their expectations regarding new challenges?
Pascal Grizot, Head of ffgolf.
PG: Sure, ffgolf has a strong leverage with its website and social networks, but the clubs also have to connect with their members, because it’s a more direct means of access. We have the opportunity to practice our sport in the middle of nature and we have a responsibility towards it. You have to let it evolve with the seasons. The British, for example, get it perfectly, when we see the British Open cycles in certain years. This is something that needs to change, but with an explanation of the reasons.
against: Especially that sometimes it is also virtuous compared to our other subjects. When a plot of land is irrigated less, it gives its soil and plants more strength to resist diseases and fungi. In addition, we save money and earn in financial performance. So everyone is better off there.
Course maintenance is changing, particularly due to Labbé’s law. Where are we and what will the solutions be in the near future?
PG: For us, Labe’s law is really an opportunity. I am absolutely convinced that we can better maintain golf courses in a more sustainable way. Certainly, the use of fewer phytosanitary products involves a change of methods, particularly with regard to mechanical processes, which promote rooting. For years, we’ve reduced these processes, because they’re expensive, take hours of work, and phytosanitary products have solved problems. The fact is that we must return to the reasonable maintenance of cycles, which means the implementation of these operations. Thanks to the collaboration that we are leading with Senator Labe, if we can demonstrate that despite all our efforts, there are still diseases that we can only cure with plant products, we will certainly have the right (even if it is not guaranteed) to continue using it. But the usage will obviously be stricter, and our goal is not to ask for any exceptions.
against: We have a great opportunity in our golf industry, that we are among the top experts in sports turf maintenance. This experience is well recognized in other sectors. We saw it again recently, when we were partners in the 48 Hours of Professional Sport Turf. These experts work on four main types of cranes: road construction, turf selection, soil fertilization and biostimulation, and finally aids and forecasting, particularly with regard to weather. At the consortium, we intend to push this research even further, to give our experts the best tools.
With regard to the issue of biodiversity protection, what stage is the labeling program at?
against: This certification was launched in 2019, and we now have 72 certified golf courses in less than three years, which is great. This represents over 10% of our clubs, with Bronze and Silver designations. We also have a lot of orders, about forty. This is the goal of the entire club, which must participate in this classification work. There is clearly, within this objective, a connection to allow members to collaborate. There are very tangible ways to do this: actions to support gardening, biodiversity discovery days, in the company of associations that conduct inventories… We have so much imagination in the clubs, that everyone can discover their own way of discovering and helping biodiversity continue on our golf courses. .