Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation took the occasion of the staging of the inaugural Aramco Saudi Ladies International to announce the launch of a comprehensive national golf sustainability strategy that embraces key environmental, economic and social aspects of the sport.
The occasion was also celebrated with the announcement that the Ladies European Tour and its players would be donning green attire for day two of the tournament to lend their support and highlight the significance of Saudi Arabia’s sustainability strategy.
Speaking before the tournament got under way at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, His Excellency Yasir Al-Rumayyan, chairman of Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation, said: “The central tenet of our national golf strategy is sustainability. The ambition is for Golf in Saudi Arabia to be recognised for taking a highly advanced approach to establishing the most socially beneficial, economically productive and environmentally responsible sector possible. This week’s tournament is an example of how the sport can inspire positive social outcomes.”
Aramco was represented by Nabil A. Al Nuaim, Vice President Corporate Affairs, who said the company’s decision to sponsor Saudi Arabia’s first women’s golf tournament reflected its commitment to supporting the empowerment of the country’s female citizens, as well as promoting positive values in the community.
“By sponsoring this event, we are displaying our support and commitment to women’s inclusion through sport,” said Al Nuaim. “The tournament is a historic landmark for the Kingdom and will contribute to changing perceptions and changing lives. We are also promoting our corporate values of excellence, diversity and inclusion. Given the breadth and depth of our national development blueprint, we have the opportunity to champion a new era of sustainable practices in this sport. Our contribution is to provide research and strategical sustainability support. Aramco will also share knowledge and experience in project management, biodiversity protection, water consumption conservation, and other important sustainable activities related to this plan”
The national sustainability programme includes a comprehensive system of verifiable standards and performance indicators within the design, construction and operational phases, that will both guide the sector and substantiate future claims and communications. Existing programmes and tools are complemented with a cutting edge and carefully targeted research and innovation agenda which aims to develop new knowledge and solutions for the more complex issues.
The announcement was supported by several of Saudi Arabia’s leading stakeholders, including Aramco, the tournament title sponsor. A memorandum of understanding was signed between Golf Saudi and Saudi Aramco signifying an intent to pursuing national leadership in environmental and sustainability initiatives.
Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of Diriyah Gate Development Authority, said: “Thank you to His Excellency Yasir O. Al-Rumayyan for his astute leadership, and to Golf Saudi, for their vision to implement their golf strategy in such a sustainable, environmentally responsible way. As we break ground on the Greg Norman Golf Course & Clubhouse in our Wadi Safar development, which has been specifically designed to support the nation’s sustainability agenda, we are delighted to be contributing to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic diversification plans.”
Designed in conjunction with GEO Foundation and the STRI, the sustainability strategy pushes new boundaries by putting in place standards, policies and expectations across the sector’s approach to development and operations, with initiatives also geared towards stimulating many wider social and environmental multipliers.
“Golf Saudi’s strategic planning has rapidly accelerated its position as a leader in golf and sustainability,” commented Jonathan Smith, CEO of the GEO Foundation. “Their foresight, to develop such a comprehensive and robust framework, now provides the clarity and direction for all involved in golf in Saudi Arabia to advance the sport in a way that delivers many positive outcomes, whilst considering closely the critical issues of environmental sustainability encapsulated in The Green Agenda. The underpinning goals around carbon and climate, ecosystem restoration, circular economy and water stewardship are particularly important.”
As an example of how the strategy takes into account golf’s supply chain, Al-Rumayyan also announced that Golf Saudi’s first accredited Amenity Turf and Landscaping Centre has now broken ground at Dirab Golf Club in Riyadh and gave thanks to the partnership with Atlas Turf, who have established a partnership with Golf Saudi in the development and distribution of the most climatically adapted turf species, demonstrating the levels of commitment the Kingdom has already made.
Education, careers development and new capacity building programmes also make up key elements of the strategy. To ensure a sustainable future, a unique educational platform was also announced with Club Managers Association of Europe (CMAE), where a series of bespoke certifications and qualifications are being created, as part of the national strategy to sign-post enterprise at a local level and provide access to opportunities, creating diverse Saudi careers in and through the sport. This was enhanced by the announcement of a Memorandum of Understanding between the National Training Center for Facilities and Hospitality Management (FHM Academy) and Golf Saudi – highlighting the significance education is playing as part of societal transformation linked to golf.
“We have sought to create an educational framework that can accommodate the formulation of a skilled localised workforce, creating the pathway for members of the Saudi community to embark on a range of careers in and around golf, ultimately creating an abundance of new job opportunities,” commented Majed Al-Sorour, Chief Executive Officer of Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation.
In addition, Golf Saudi’s mass participation programme is linked to the social sustainability component and is well under way thanks to the support of the Ministry of Education and partnerships with the Saudi Schools Sports Federation (SSSF) and various educational partners with Tadrees Holding, WAAD Academy and MISK Schools being amongst the early adopters. These collaborations enable the programme to form part of the physical education curriculum in schools with the pilot programme having already achieved confirmed participant levels of close to 18,000 children.
The national transformation has also been embodied by the launch of the Ladies First Club, which will see 1,000 complementary memberships given to encourage participation amongst women in the Kingdom.