Alain Prat waiting for a French Tiger Woods

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Alain Prat waiting for a French Tiger Woods

During the various surveys that we conducted throughout this year, the environmental theme seems to be the most difficult to manage. And yet, it will be necessary to comply in the near future with the new regulations which Golf Planète has echoed on several occasions, in particular by evoking the Labbé law which will come into force in January 2025 and will prohibit the use of products pesticides in public green spaces.

It is no longer time to challenge such and such a measure that seems too radical to us: it is imperative to adapt first and change the model fairly quickly.
Most French golf courses, to varying degrees, have understood this and have already started their own technological and ecological revolution.

The problem has become even more acute for golf projects which, in addition to this revolution, will have to overcome all kinds of difficulties.
We asked the architect Alain Prat, vice-president of the European Association of Golf Architects, to give us an inventory of the obstacle course that stands in front of any new project.

Kafkaesque is the word! Should we laugh or cry? Another architect, Michel Niedbala, also gives us his point of view, broadens the debate to tourist golf courses and deplores too much French reluctance in the face of fierce competition from other golfing countries in Europe.

File prepared by Denis and Roland Machenaud By Alain Prat, former vice-president of the European Association of Golf Course Architects "With a sluggish market today, the order books of golf architect agencies are almost empty.

We count on the fingers of the hand the number of projects that see or will see the light of day in the short term. These are essentially public order golf courses. We can be quite pessimistic about the development of new courses which now, feasibility studies prior to the opening of golf to the public, take 8 to 10 years, whereas only 3 to 5 years were necessary 10 years ago.

A real obstacle course must begin with the administrations that issue the authorizations, the laws piling up like a mille-feuille from year to year. Knowing that a project will be studied in 2022, it will therefore only be operational, if it succeeds (one project out of 5 is abandoned for lack of authorisation), in 2032...

Each Regional Administrative Department has its own " appreciation” vis-à-vis golf, sometimes subjective, sometimes victim of pressure from powerful associations for the defense of the environment. However, golf courses very often constitute a veritable conservatory for the life and development of fauna and flora or natural spaces, using for the vast majority of courses a raw water resource for their irrigation, i.e.

say unsuitable for consumption (water needs are now reduced to a minimum thanks to the use of computer management for watering and new grasses that consume little water, which will not prevent, in the long term, that watering is reduced as in the past, or prohibited on the fairways of many golf courses, which is not necessarily a bad thing).

At the same time, the majority of golf courses are moving towards the maintenance of lawns and plants, according to national conventions, towards zero use of phytosanitary products by the gradual reduction of inputs, which are nevertheless approved by the EEC.

We are therefore far from the extensive crops of maize for example, which consume excessive water and inputs (phyto, pesticides and others). Also, most golf course maintenance vehicles will gradually reduce their pollution rate through the use of electrical machines.

The current policy in golf courses is therefore in line with the environmental guidelines of the EEC by encouraging eco-responsible practices for the preservation of biodiversity and sustainable development both very upstream in the design of the golf course and downstream in the routine maintenance of the facilities.

course under the responsibility of the course stewards". "Once the preliminary studies have been carried out, 2 years minimum, the authorizations obtained, 4 to 5 years, are added the duration of the construction site of 2 years at best to which is added 1 year of maturation of the lawns before opening to the public.

10 years passed before the golfer could hit his first ball! There is therefore a risk, in the medium term, that the development and therefore the number of golf courses in France will no longer match demand. We would almost wish that we did not have in France the emergence of a talent such as Tiger Woods who would explode the increase in the number of golf players".