Having a keen interest in golf, he is a modest golfer (his own description) and after the promulgation of the Environmental Management Act and the related acts, which followed, he saw the need for a programme to help golf clubs formalise their approach to integrating best governance and environmental practices into their management processes.
The result was the formation of the John Collier Survey, which is now in its 14th year.
The participating courses (195 in this year’s survey) use the programme’s tools, for the assessments that form the basis of the annual survey and awards as well as to track their own overall progress year on year.
The survey is voluntary and free of charge. The only requirement being that someone is tasked at each golf club, or golf estate, with tracking the key data required and using it to populate the fields of information.
The good news is that understanding the data makes forecasting more accurate and budgeting easier.
A course which knows the types of water sources are available i.e. recycled, borehole, municipal (for the dwindling number of clubs still forced to use this option), harvested, etc. is able to forward plan to improve areas of its operations, such as harvesting run off rainwater, much more effectively.
The programme also encourages facilities to ‘see’ beyond their own immediate boundaries. As an example Eagle Canyon, which signed up with the Collier Survey in 2019, is in an upper catchment area of the Jukskei River. The estate needs to monitor what impact its water use has on the aquifer in its area and the effect of outflows into the Jukskei.
David Christie the golf GM at the golf estate commented; “We were in the process of reviewing our environmental protocols and I recommended to my board that we use the John Collier Survey for a number of reasons. From a personal perspective, the two most important considerations were that the structure is very comprehensive and easy to use with no grey areas. Price was not really a key consideration, but that said, if you can use a programme, which is as comprehensive as this and also at no charge, then so much the better”.
“From your own involvement in the estate’s pre-opening phases, you will recall that we had a comprehensive rainwater harvesting system in place. What we have done since the opening is to improve the water quality in dams by circulating the water from the bottom dam to the top dam with piping and pumps, while a number of fountains and aerators further enhance the water quality”.
“We also have the water quality checked regularly, by an independent company, to ensure that if there is any seepage, at least the quality of the water, escaping down into the Jukskei, is high”.
In a previous feature in Business Day, Morné Botha’s (Pecanwood Country Club GM) comment about getting used to “doing more with less”, carries particular resonances with turf grass maintenance.
St Francis Links is the recipient of the John Collier Survey’s top award for 2020. Jeff Clause the estate’s GM said – “We have been subscribing to that ethic and doing more with less since the financial crash of 2008/2009”.
He continued: “Where the Collier Survey is so good for us, is in helping us to keep track of what we do”.
“As you know, at St Francis Links we have been about balance since the very outset. We have improved what we do, especially in ecologically sensitive areas and we now have more species and protected Red Data areas than we did at the opening of the estate. We have also ring-fenced an area as a reserve, with walking trails, of 100 hectares on the estate.
My board is fully supportive of what my team has set out to do in decreasing our carbon footprint, while increasing the bio-diversity is central to our future planning and management protocols”.
“I love your comments, both now and in the past, about it all making good business sense, because that is exactly what it does”.
“Over the lockdown period, we have been looking at various sectors within our maintenance programmes. As an example, we reviewed our mowing schedules, which include six cut types. Now instead of mowing the approach areas every second day, we are doing this twice a week. We mow the fairways twice a week instead of four times, while our rough cut as and when required. This reduces our times and material costs and the course remains very playable.
What is key is that having a little more grass around, makes the layout more ‘friendly’ for our core market. Our target market is not Rory McIlroy, but rather ‘Rory Bloggs’ who plays off a 16 handicap. All of this has been achieved without any real compromise to the overall aesthetic appeal.”