Dear Alumni, Dear Alumni,
In the height of summer, when France was facing a severe drought, I sent you a message regarding watering our golf courses. This letter was intended to respond to the unjust and sometimes violent attacks against our sport by certain politicians. So that you can form your own opinion, your own convictions on this obvious and obviously sensitive topic, I have thus given you the real figures of water consumption in our clubs. I also brought to your attention the strict rules governing watering courses in the event of a major crisis.
While some of our lands have suffered terribly from water shortages, forcing extreme solutions, golf course managers have risen to the occasion. They acted as responsible and supportive actors. It is an undeniable fact. When necessary, everywhere in France they sought to keep only the greens, i.e. 1 to 2% of the total area of the golf course. The remaining 98% suffer greatly from water shortages.
Because it was necessary, some of them completely stopped watering. Affected 71 of our golf courses. If some of those asked for exemptions from governors, emphasizing the framework agreement signed with the Ministries of Environmental Transformation and Agriculture that allows greens to be protected, those who fall into areas of high tension naturally abstained. The French media took advantage of this emerging controversy and invited us all. Of course we responded to them individually and transparently with supporting scientific and technical data. ffgolf did not reject the discussion and did not withdraw into himself. She didn’t because she had no reason to.
If golf still has to make progress and must accelerate its environmental transformation, there is nothing to be ashamed of or hide. In two decades, golf courses have already reduced their water consumption by 40%, often resulting in very large investments. The industry is on the move. On our website and social networks, we regularly highlight our golf course commitments in this and many other aspects. I am particularly thinking about biodiversity conservation and restoration where golf courses play a recognized role, particularly the experts from the National Museum of Natural History and the National Biodiversity Bureau with whom we are actively collaborating.
Golf did not hide
Golf is also not hidden because it is good for the planet, as it is for many French people. It is better that our critics take notice.
Do they know that golf courses are fences against excessive urbanization, as is particularly the case in various particularly dense demographic areas? no.
Do they know that golf courses help fight soil synthesis? no.
Do they know that golf courses are fire barriers, as this has been proven many times in various places in recent times? no.
Do they know that golf course lawns are carbon capture sinks, just as the forests and vegetation that border them in most cases? no.
Do they still know that golf areas are cold islands in case of a heat wave? no.
They don’t know anything about this.
Because they are ignoring or pretending to ignore that golf is not a sport for the discerning. It even became, in France, in 2021, the fourth sport in terms of the number of licensees after football, tennis and horse riding. And it is the combination of this double ignorance that leads them to utter irresponsible words that are extremely harmful to our sport. By ignoring this fact, our critics hastened to the wrong characters to launch their attacks. Our reported water consumption was 36.5 times higher than the actual national average, a deliberate reference to an old parliamentary report, as contrasted with two recent, new, professional reports.
Ignorance is painful. It hurts our managers who employ a total of 15,000 employees every day and try to make their business thrive like any French company and ensure their survival when they have to deal with adverse elements. It hurts a sector that did not wait for the summer of 2022 to accelerate its environmental transformation.
That is why I call on politicians and all those who target us to exercise restraint and moderation. To analyze, rather than blame. They also face problems that require answers. Christophe Picchu, Minister of the Ecological Transition and Regional Cohesion of France, recently noted that one billion cubic meters of drinking water is lost every year due to leaks in the old networks of our municipalities.
After all, it’s not because we think these attacks are unfair that the golf course has no more to do in terms of water management. Climate change, resource scarcity and the potential for tighter legal regulation are forcing us to do more. Our managers are fully aware of this. Rest assured that, with the impetus and with the support of the Federation, they will be able to meet this formidable challenge.
solutions, over and over again
Solutions exist. Some are on hand. I’m thinking in particular of:
- Establishment of rainwater reserves: Retaining ponds and watersheds…
- Renovation of irrigation systems: Elimination of leaks, selective and economical irrigation system, and adoption of new technologies.
- Use herbs that consume less water Resist water stress and disease.
- Use all effective means To reduce evaporation on water bodies.
These are not the only solutions. There are others but they don’t just depend on us. Changes in legislation are necessary in many cases. I am primarily thinking of using treated wastewater for irrigation. What is happening in some of our neighbors should inspire us. The case of Spain interests me. It rains much less there than it does in France. However, the impact of drought is less thanks to recycling in particular. In our neighbours, 14% of wastewater is treated compared to less than 1% in France. Agriculture and their golf courses are not short on water.
There is no danger. If I have made ecological transition one of the three pillars of the project I lead, with members of the French Golf Steering Committee, it is because this question is critical to the future of golf. Jerome Paris, former ffgolf vice president, made this clear in the early 2000s when he engaged the French Golf Federation in this dynamic. Urgency, we know it. The stakes, we know. We are already taking action and will continue our efforts.
Be confident of our full commitment. With the federation teams, we work tirelessly to make our arguments in favor of developing our environmentally compliant sport. Our determination is unwavering. I am also counting on all of you to stand behind and support your clubs in this environmental transformation, where we must all be represented. To this end, we will have to change our outlook and our practices, to preserve our common interest, the planet.
Pascal Grizot, Head of ffgolf