Golf, Business and The Environment

Tudor Rickards, Susan Moger, and Leigh Wharton

Golf means big business. Around the world, from Dubai to Scotland to Singapore there is great competition to hold top tournaments as part of a regional development leisure strategy. But new golf courses also pose environmental challenges calling for innovative solutions.

In Scotland, the ancient home of golf, an initiative by Donald Trump met with protests for several years, although his proposals always promised to bring much-needed employment to a region in Aberdeenshire facing a decline in its fishing and North Sea Oil business. A BBC report noted:

Aedan Smith, head of planning and development at RSPB Scotland, [Royal Society for Protection of Birds] commented
“RSPB Scotland is surprised and extremely disappointed at this decision, which we believe is wrong both for Aberdeenshire and for Scotland. The development will cause the destruction of a dune system, with its precious wildlife, on a site which is protected by law and should continue to be available for future generations to enjoy.”

Trump lands in a bunker

Two years later [August 2010] the plans were still being contested bitterly. The Independent reported:

The billionaire Donald Trump last week clashed with protesters opposed to his controversial plans to build the “world’s greatest golf course” near Aberdeen. Quarry worker Michael Forbes, who is refusing to sell his property which adjoins the £750m scheme, claims Mr Trump’s workers unlawfully annexed his land. The clash is the latest skirmish in an increasingly bitter battle to prevent Mr Trump from developing the site. More than 7,000 local people have signed up to join the “bunker”, co-owners of an acre of land sold by Mr Forbes [a local land-owner] to disrupt the US tycoon’s plans. The philanthropist and co-founder of the Body Shop (Gordon Roddick) and Green MP Caroline Lucas are the latest to join the campaign.

Meanwhile at The Mull of Kintyre..

Meanwhile, in an equally beautiful part of Scotland, another venture was claiming to support economic regeneration. A multi-million pound luxury golf resort is set to boost a wider regeneration of Argyll and Bute, one of the most beautiful but poorest parts of the Scottish Highlands. The Machrihanish Dunes Golf Club is near the southern end of the Mull of Kintyre, made famous in a song by Sir Paul McCartney, the former Beatle who has a farmhouse on the peninsula. The course, which opened last year, lies beside the old Machrihanish Golf Club, which was built in the 1870s and regularly features as one of the world’s top-100 venues. Massachusetts-based Southworth Developments, the private company owned by David Southworth, a US property developer, took a controlling stake at the time. To date [Aug 2010] opposition seems far less than was received by the Trump project.

Golf and Environmental Responsibility

Recent visits to Dubai and Singapore have revealed similar recognition of the potential for golf to support plans for economic development. But the environmental debates do not go away. Letters in The Straits Times for example discussed the demands placed on precious water supplies. owever, the leisure industry has become sophisticated in acknowledging its environmental responsibilities. Singapore hosted an international conference in 2008

In his opening remarks, Col (Ret) Peter Teo, general manager of Singapore Golf Association, supported the need for courses to be environmentally and socially responsible. He suggested that Singapore could take the lead in golf excellence. Such a positioning, which would require multi-shareholder involvement by the clubs, government agencies, NGOs and the private sector, would show that Singapore cares deeply about nature conservation and that every stakeholder can participate.

Business, Leisure and the Environment

Business, leisure, and the environmental considerations have become intimately mixed. Students of leadership may find it instructive to consider what principles of leadership help in the evaluation of such global issues.

One Response to Golf, Business and The Environment

  1. Shahnaz says:

    Hi Tudor,

    Thank you for supporting this website and shring ideas. I really enjoy reading your articles and understanding the leadership concepts.

    Just one thing I would like mention it here is regarding the name of places. The “Golf” is NOT the name of a place in the world…that golf has been called “Persian Golf” since 2500 years ago. I know you are academic and you can easily go to the British schools’ library or British Public library to confirm that. If you find what I am saying is correct, please fix your article accordingly. We are responsible of what we post on the internet.


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