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14D AGO

Marty Dou uses RSM Birdies Fore Love, GEO Foundation to advance sustainable golf at Genesis Scottish Open

5 Min Read

Beyond the Ropes

The GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf advocates for tools for conservation of resources. (Courtesy GEO Foundation)

The GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf advocates for tools for conservation of resources. (Courtesy GEO Foundation)



    Written by Helen Ross @Helen_PGATOUR

    Jonathan Smith likes to characterize the GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf as a “caddie” for the golf industry.

    Smith founded the non-profit 15 years ago to help the game and its constituents become more environmentally conscious. Unique in the world of sports, the GEO Foundation works with partners across the industry, advocating for the conservation of resources and developing tools to measure those efforts, as well as educate the game’s millions of participants and fans.

    “We try and get the industry more excited about sustainability,” says Smith, the executive director of the GEO Foundation. “We do some research and innovation, so we're always looking at what's happening in the science of sustainability, and then we bring that in.”

    The PGA TOUR, DP World Tour, LPGA Tour and LET are among the organizations that partner with the GEO Foundation. Individual players at the professional level are becoming more focused on sustainability, as well.

    The GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf advocates for tools for conservation of resources. (Courtesy GEO Foundation)

    The GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf advocates for tools for conservation of resources. (Courtesy GEO Foundation)

    Take Marty Dou, for example. The 27-year-old from Henan, China, recently made a $50,000 donation to the GEO Foundation, which is based in North Berwick, Scotland, not far from where this week’s Genesis Scottish Open is being played.

    The money will have a far-reaching impact. Dou earned the RSM Birdies Fore Love bonus last fall at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Mississippi, when he had more subpar holes (23) than anyone else in the field.

    “I'm like, that's a really big honor to do something for the community and for me, getting that chance,” Dou says. “It's just really awesome. … It gives (players) motivation to just go out and try to do something good. And I think RSM, having that mind in their company is just something we look up to and something as a player we should do in the future as well.”

    On a grass-roots level, a portion of the funds is going towards the development of a toolkit that will help any golf club in the world – including China – engage with children in local elementary schools on sustainability practices. Smith expects the program to roll out by the end of the year.

    “There's something in the toolkit for the teachers to prepare before they come to the golf course, and there's something for the greenkeeper to help them set up some good activities,” Smith says. “And that's brand new – that's never been done before in the golf industry.

    “So, we're really excited about being able to launch that, and … it'll be launched with obviously acknowledging the support of Marty and RSM Birdies Fore Love and how his contribution to that project came about.”

    In addition, the GEO Foundation calculated Dou’s carbon footprint for 2023 based on the unavoidable emissions in his business travel, as well as that of his caddie and two other members of his team. To counterbalance those emissions, the GEO Foundation invested in the M’tetezi Improved Cookstoves Project in Malawi in southeast Africa.


    The Cookstove Project delivers carbon reduction and a range of other social and environmental benefits in that community. (Courtesy GEO Foundation)

    The Cookstove Project delivers carbon reduction and a range of other social and environmental benefits in that community. (Courtesy GEO Foundation)

    The Cookstove Project delivers carbon reduction and a range of other social and environmental benefits in that community. (Courtesy GEO Foundation)

    The Cookstove Project delivers carbon reduction and a range of other social and environmental benefits in that community. (Courtesy GEO Foundation)


    The Cookstove Project delivers carbon reduction and a range of other social and environmental benefits in that community. It’s approved by the Gold Standard, which is a trusted organization for climate projects and carbon offsets.

    Support from players like Dou prompted Smith to create a program called “Sustainable Golf Champions,” to help them become even stronger advocates for environmental issues.

    “So, there's a three-step process in that pathway,” Smith says. “Offset their unavoidable carbon emissions because they travel to be a professional golfer, so let's address that credibly, and then how can we help them learn more? And then how can we help them champion the cause more strongly?

    “And that's the kind of pathway that Marty is on and a few other professional golfers moving into that community of high-profile athletes. So that's where it kind of gets practical for us is how do we help actually different parts of the industry take those practical steps to become more sustainable in nature, resources, climate and communities.”

    Dou, who will represent China in the Olympics next month, heard about the GEO Foundation through his management company. He’s eager to learn more about sustainability so he can explain the positives of the game to others in his country.

    “The reputation in golf in China has been misunderstood by a lot of media or people that don't really get involved in golf,” Dou says. “They think golf takes a lot of water away (and) people lose their job because there's a big golf course instead of a big mall. I think there's so much more to understand and what a golf course could bring.

    And as a golfer that came from China, I think that's a very big information that I would love to have people get more information on.”

    The GEO Foundation works with golfers and golf courses in more than 65 countries on sustainable activities and facilities. Some are members of the TOUR’s Tournament Players Club network. Others are local municipal courses or country clubs. All are welcome to participate.

    The Genesis Scottish Open is one of about 40 tournaments across the PGA TOUR and DP World Tour that has worked with the GEO Foundation on sustainable practices – everything from promoting train and active travel (cycling and walking) to the venue to using locally produced food and beverage. The Renaissance Club also has been plumbed for water stations around the course and there are solar panels on site, as well.

    It's all part of a multi-pronged effort to advocate and innovate for a greener game.

    “And it's great to see more and more people like Marty Dou hear about it,” Smith says. “They get involved, they walk the walk, they talk the talk to other people. Leadership stimulates more leadership, and that's what we're seeing across the sport of golf at the minute.

    “All of that leads to things like more nature, less carbon emissions, less plastic in the ocean, more community engagement. It's not just the environmental side, it’s the social side as well, more efficient use of water, all of those sort of things that golf looks at.

    “We talk about how golf can foster nature, conserve resources, take climate action and strengthen communities as four pillars of sustainable golf. And that is in effect, (Dou) is playing his part in that, but he's also supporting a wide ripple effect across the industry.”

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