By Alistair Collier | The Business of Golf Magazine

When the John Collier Survey started researching environmental compliance and good governance some 20 years ago, we assumed that the best source for information would be the clubs’ greenkeepers and superintendents. At that time, the participation rate was 9.6 % of clubs in South Africa, and there was a compliance level of 30%.

Some nine years later, after a discussion with Mr. Dale Hayes and others, it was suggested that the Survey should also target club managers, general managers, and directors of golf.
During this time, the club participation gradually increased to 40%, while the compliance level fluctuated between 28% and 30%. Recently, participation and compliance levels have tended to plateau out, which has prompted the question, why would this be the case? We looked at Survey results submitted by South Africa’s current TOP CLUB, Blair

Atholl Golf and Equestrian Club and host to the 113th South African Open, and Special Mention Club, Elements Private Golf Reserve, as well as the gold, silver and bronze compliance level clubs. What became clear is that we have missed an important stakeholder within golf, in women golfers, and women in golf management. What our research indicates is that many of the gold and silver compliance level golf clubs have strong women involvement in club management, and in particular environmental compliance, and where this is the case, these clubs reflect positive environmental compliance levels.

However, it is a moot point that golf is a male dominated sport, in respect of numbers of players, as well as in terms of management and management committees, and where International research still often characterises men as dominant and controlling, while the female identity is described as emotional and caring. International research, into sport environment sustainability, has been studying the issue of environmentally friendly behaviour by members at sports clubs.

The first important finding is that in order to be environmentally compliant, sports clubs depend on their members’ willingness to behave in environmentally friendly ways, which reinforces the issue of peer pressure. In this context, one has to ask, whether members and management are prepared to be held accountable, when environmental compliance issues need attention?

The current research indicates there is room for improvement in this area. The second factor, of what would appear to be lowering compliance levels, is the issue of male dominance within golf clubs, and the influence by a male club environment, which, it is believed, has shaped women’s attitudes negatively in terms of their environmental behavior. In an effort to adjust to this male club environment, it is thought possible that women club members have responded, by adjusting their attitudes towards environmental compliance.

The concern with this is that while the role of gender has been widely discussed in environmental research, and it is generally agreed that women tend to act more in a more environmentally friendly manner than men, this inevitably raises question, given the lower that the required levels of environmental compliance, whether women’s views on in this key area of club life are being ignored, shouted down, or drowned out? In terms of engagement with our stakeholders, we certainly need to raise our game, however in the interim, the 2023 John Collier Survey period is rapidly drawing to a close, and following previous calls to participate, we once again encourage all clubs in South Africa to participate in the

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email or visit the John Collier Golf website at