Sustainability in Golf


The Sustainability in Golf community collaboration has earned the destination the honor of being named the first International Sustainable Golf Destination of the Year, presented by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators. The 2017 award recognizes high performance and commitment across three core areas of sustainability — nature, resources and people. CLICK HERE to learn more.

A Program of

Experience Green

Experience Green hosted the nationally recognized Sustainability in Golf symposiums in 2013 and 2014 that provided education and connected resources to promote sustainable golf practices.  We now shift to evoke action for sustainability at Beaufort County, SC golf facilities through golf’s global eco-label, GEO Certified®. WATER and ENERGY are set as immediate topics for the data driven scorecard for sustainability approach. These align with global, but also local priorities as determined by EG's recent Baseline Sustainability Assessment of Hilton Head Island.

RBC HeritageOur efforts invite engagement of the Beaufort County, SC region, including the RBC Heritage PGA TOUR event.  We are pleased to share success with the 2016 RBC Heritage in generating the first RBC Heritage Sustainability Review. This collaboration facilitated by Experience Green, included the RBC Heritage operations team, RBC, Sea Pines Resort, GEO and i2Recycle.  It is the first of its kind in North America and on the PGA TOUR.


Hilton Head Island Area Receives First International Sustainable Golf Destination Award IAGTO Honors the Hilton Head Island Area Destination for Collaborative Community Effort for Sustainability Mallorca, November 17, 2016 - The International Association of Golf Tour Operators has awarded the Hilton Head Island Area golf community with the first International Sustainable Golf Destination of the Year award.  The award recognizes high performance and commitment across three core areas of sustainability – nature, resources and people.  

A community collaboration for Sustainability in Golf was led by Hilton Head Island based nonprofit organization, Experience Green.  The effort has engaged 15 area golf facilities to date (left column). The initiative builds on the destination’s work for sustainability, offering education, networking and support to facilities committed to advancing sustainable practices through the international eco-label for golf, GEO.  Three of those facilities have become GEO Certified® including the Sea Pines Resort, home to the RBC Heritage PGA TOUR event; only ten facilities in the United States have earned this distinction.  Additionally, the RBC Heritage has joined the initiative in conducting a formal Sustainability Review of the 2016 tournament to work toward attaining a sustainability certification for the RBC Heritage to become a GEO Certified® Tournament in 2017.
Teresa Wade, founder of Experience Green said: “As community collaboration increases, so do the possibilities for golf facilities and the destination.  Facility leaders are having ‘a-ha’ moments when they connect common sense practices to measurable benefits for the community, the environment and profitability of an organization; this is the true value proposition for sustainability.”
“I am certain that Charles Fraser, visionary pioneer and initial developer of Hilton Head Island, would be delighted that the work for sustainability goes on, for local and global impact.”
Two of the three facilities that have become GEO Certified®, Old South Golf Links and The Legends at Parris Island, were designed by Clyde Johnston, local Hilton Head Island architect.

“While we do a lot for sustainability, we needed to find a way to keep score of what we are trying to accomplish. We saw the value of sustainability for our business, and we are working now on new initiatives ahead of applying for recertification in three years. We see every day as an opportunity to improve.” said Scott Adams, General Manager, Old South Golf Link, GEO Certified®

Beyond the pristine ‘green’ of the courses, Hilton Head Island Area facilities are making measurable strides for sustainability.  The Sea Pines Resort progressed its welcome center to be a Zero Waste operation in 2015 and diverted 466 tons of waste from the landfill through recycling, composting, sustainable purchasing practices and more; this is an 80% increase over 90 tons diverted in 2011. 

Successes at other courses include irrigation with reclaimed or surface water, wildflower plantings to support the pollinator population, and efforts to naturalize turf areas for decreased resource consumption.  There is an ongoing increase in reuse of debris and materials, as well as projects that include herb gardens, vermi-culture, expansion of wildlife habitat, integration of electric powered equipment and increased engagement with the local community to grow the game of golf and host fundraising outings for local charities. 

The 2016 RBC Heritage was a carbon neutral event due to powering by 100% renewable energy-sourced electricity, and 20% of waste was diverted from the landfill.  The tournament and all facilities engaged in the community collaboration for sustainability have set goals for continual improvement on the journey to sustainability. 

Visit to learn more about this initiative.  Stay tuned for forthcoming highlights on successes at the participating facilities listed to the left.  This honor is on the heels of Hilton Head Island winning the 2016 North America Golf Destination of the Year.
About Hilton Head Island Sustainability Success
The Hilton Head Island destination was developed on sustainable guidelines and the community is committed to investing in initiatives to advance sustainability.  In 2015, a Baseline Sustainability Assessment was completed in accordance with global standards to determine the Island’s carbon footprint and identify key indicators for long term sustainability.  In the same year, the Hilton Head Island Green Blueprint was adopted, the destination received the prestigious gold designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community from the League of American Bicyclists, and also the Audubon International Sustainable Planning award.  The destination is also an Audubon International Green Community, a Tree City USA community, and boasts one of the most innovative sea turtle protection programs in the world, ensuring the nesting and hatching of endangered loggerhead sea turtles.  A Dune Protection Ordinance and Project SAFE (Sewer Access for Everyone) are among many partner programs in the community that address various sustainability issues for continual improvement.
About the IAGTO Sustainability Awards
Each year IAGTO, the global golf tourism industry organization, celebrates the outstanding sustainability achievements of golf facilities, resorts and destinations around the world in partnership with the Golf Environment Organization (GEO). Currently in its fourth year, the IAGTO Sustainability Awards are presented at the International Golf Travel Market annual gala dinner.  The awards are open to all IAGTO members and have been designed so that achievements and results from the past 12 months are taken into strongest consideration, and with three key areas of sustainability recognized each year ­ Nature, Resources, and Community. Entries to the awards have grown by almost 35% since they were introduced in 2013. For more information, visit

For more info, contact Teresa Wade at

in the media

The Legends GC at Parris Island (S.C.) Earns Environmental Certification
The facility is the first military golf course worldwide to earn the certification through the Golf Environment Organization, which recognizes facilities for their commitment to the protection of nature, efficient use of resources and providing positive community value.
September 28, 2016

Legends at Parris Island receives Golf Environment Organization Certification
The course is also part of a wider sustainability in golf initiative in the Hilton Head Island area, joining 14 other local golf clubs working together on a collective sustainability in golf initiative.
September 27, 2016

Heritage Works to Improve Sustainability
The Heritage Classic Foundation has committed to taking steps to make the annual RBC Heritage PGA TOUR event more sustainable. It has set the goal to earn golf’s eco-label, GEO Certified in 2017.
September 23, 2016

Golf is Getting Greener (and we’re not talking about the grass)
Golf courses can have an impact on our natural environment. However, we are seeing more golf facilities embracing the economic, environmental and social benefits of responsible golf course operations. green@RBC,
September 2016

Beyond the Fairway Beyond the Ropes
The 2016 RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing and host venue GEO Certified© Sea Pines Resort shows their commitment to the environment and local community.
April 14, 2016

Old South Golf Links Celebrates Sustainable Golf Recognition
Old South Golf Links, Hilton Head Island, celebrates gaining golf's global eco-label, GEO Certified©
March 29, 2016

Sustainable Golf Destinations Award Launched
Hilton Head and The Algarve are Distinguished in the launch of a New Sustainable Golf Destinations Award Ahead of the 2016 IAGTO Golf Tourism Awards
January 26, 2016

Sea Pines Resort Achieves International Sustainability Award
The Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island, has been recognized for its sustainability efforts by gaining golf's global eco-label, GEO Certified©
November 2, 2015

Golf Courses Lauded in 2016 IAGTO Sustainability Awards
October 8, 2015

2016 IAGTO Sustainability Award Winners Announced
October 8, 2015

Who are these people? Teresa Wade, Founder of Experience Green
Superintendent Magazine
November 19, 2014

Golf Environmental Experts Meet in South Carolina
October 22, 2014

Zero Waste Workshop Added to Sustainability in Golf Event
Golfdom Magazine
September 11, 2014

Zero Waste Workshop Added to Sustainability in Golf Event
Superintendent Magazine
September 11, 2014