Michael Braidwood, General Manager of the Education City Golf Club, speaks about how sustainability is at the core of the Qatar Foundation entity.

The Education City Golf Club opened its doors in 2019, and since then has received high acclaim for the quality of its courses, as well as the groundbreaking technology employed at its driving range, teaching facility, and hosted golfing events. However, one unheralded attribute is an unwavering commitment to sustainability.

Right from the onset, we have been committed to sustainability, ensuring that – as a key pillar – it is, in all its forms, weaved into every aspect of the organization.

In the early development stages, we worked with the Golf Environment Organization (GEO) to ensure each component of the development complied with this entity’s regulations. Not only that, but signing up to the GEO provided a focus for our sustainability journey, which – in turn – posed a challenge to our course architect José María Olazábal and the development team as they set out to create a golf course that complied with the standards.

Some of the physical sustainability elements that were incorporated into the building phase included preserving the existing landscape and historical features, with the course architect striving to ensure that the natural wadis remained a key feature of the course. Indeed, during the early routing plan an ancient wadi wall and water well were uncovered, and – once discovered – became key features of the course. The natural wadis are part of the golf course strategy and come into play on no fewer than eight of the 18 holes.

Another important focus was maintaining as many native plants species as possible on the course – in fact, many of the plants at the ECGC are indigenous to the area. During construction, an offer came from those building the Qatar orbital highway to take the Acacia trees that were being displaced to make way for the highway. More than 100 large trees were transplanted with a 95 percent survival rate. Some of these trees were more than 50 years old and now stand proud on the golf course.

We have also incorporated an innovative layering system that ensures great water stewardship. In golf course construction, the soil profile is key for the long-term sustainability of the grass. The most important grass is on the putting greens, and to ensure the healthiest greens, a gravel layer and drainage system creates a ‘perched’ water table. At ECGC this was not only done on the greens, but the whole course. This feature means that irrigation water stays in the ground for longer, ensuring that plant can feed from it for longer. This has resulted in around 20 percent less water consumption.

Additionally, the selection of a grass variety that can perform well year-round, needs less water and fertilizers, and is tolerant to sodium is very important. The decision to use paspalum TE grass ensures that we can irrigate with wastewater provided by the government. And it is salt tolerant, so can handle the brackish water. It also thrives in the hot summer temperatures, but manages to keep going in the cooler winter months, which saves us over seeding with winter grasses such as rye.

We strive to embrace sustainability in all its forms – social, human, economical, and environmental. And at the ECGC, we have created a suite of golf course products that engages the entire golf community and welcomes newcomers. Golf is not an easy game to learn and traditionally has a high percentage of people dropping out; therefore, the facility was purpose built to ensure the journey of learning golf was sustainable. And the learning journey we have created is excellent – from a world-class teaching facility called the Centre of Excellence, to the driving range which features the latest technology, to the 6-hole, 9-hole, and 18-hole courses.

Our team has also introduced a number of activities for the whole community, including a golf program for schools, which sees teachers trained to deliver basic golf instruction during PE classes, and ECGC’s ‘Play to Par’ progressive junior program that allows children the chance to achieve positive levels of attainment out on the golf course.

And we have been working to reduce single-use plastic waste by supplying refillable water flasks; incorporating electronic scoring to instead of paper score cards; and introducing a number of non-golfing community activities, such as running, walking, yoga, and bird watching clubs.

But this is only the start. We have many exciting plans for the upcoming year, and are looking forward to continuing our sustainability drive at the Education City Golf Club.