By Kent Gray
Just in case you haven’t heard already, Saudi Arabia has gone all-in on golf.
The Kingdom announced an ambitious “sustainability strategy” on the eve of the trailblazing Aramco Saudi Ladies International which took starter’s orders on Thursday morning.
Designed to embed the royal and ancient game in the national conscience, job creation, skill-building (in course design, construction/maintenance and operations) and education initiatives underline the strategy’s key environmental, economic and social cornerstones.
It is the latest in a wave of development, participation, elite performance, tourism and event investments by Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation. The $1 Saudi Ladies International presented by the Public Investment Fund is the first leg of historic LET double-header at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club and comes as Golf Saudi prepare to host a third edition of their European Tour men’s event in February.
The tournaments are the global shop window to a deep dive domestic investment.
“The central tenet of our national golf strategy is sustainability,” said His Excellency Yasir O. Al-Rumayyan, Chairman of Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation
“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.”
The announcement was supported by several of Saudi Arabia’s leading stakeholders, including Saudi Aramco, the men’s and women’s tournament title sponsor. A memorandum of understanding was signed between Golf Saudi and Aramco signifying an intent to pursue national leadership in environmental and sustainability initiatives.
Golf Saudi’s first accredited Amenity Turf and Landscaping Centre has now broken ground at Dirab Golf Club in Riyadh. Atlas Turf, which has established a partnership with Golf Saudi to develop and distribute the most climatically adapted turf species, demonstrated the levels of commitment the Kingdom has already made, Al-Rumayyan said.
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. This will be enhanced by the announcement of a Memorandum of Understanding between the National Training Centre for Facilities and Hospitality Management (FHM Academy) and Golf Saudi – highlighting the significance education is playing as part of societal transformation linked to golf.
Said Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation: “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.”
Golf Saudi’s mass participation programme, linked to the social sustainability component of the new strategy, 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; Tadrees Holding, WAAD Academy and MISK Schools are amongst the early adopters.
Nearly 18,000 children have already been put through a pilot programme while this week sees the launch of Golf Saudi’s “Ladies First” club which will see 1000 complimentary memberships given to encourage participation amongst women in the Kingdom.
“This initiative typifies the transformation in Saudi Arabia right now,” said Al-Sorour. “Thanks to the Vision of His Royal Highness, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence we are taking major steps in the game of golf and demonstrating the power of the game and its ability to support positive change at every level.”
The new strategy will be acknowledged with LET players set don green attire in the second round of the Aramco Saudi Ladies International on Friday.
They Said it…
Nabil A. Al Nuaim, Aramco Vice President Corporate Affairs
“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”
Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of Diriyah Gate Development Authority
“Thank you to His Excellency Yasir O. Al-Rumayyan, Chairman Saudi Golf Federation, 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 ultra-luxury 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.”
Jonathan Smith, CEO of the GEO Foundation
“Golf Saudi’s strategic planning has rapidly accelerated its position as a leader in golf and sustainability. 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.”
More from the 2020 Aramco Saudi Ladies International
• Georgia fires course record 65 as not one, but two Halls head Saudi leaderboard
• Anne van Dam and Anna Nordqvist join Golf Saudi stable
• Global broadcast of LET doubleheader “chance to show the world Saudi is…transforming through” golf
• Hull and Hall ready to kick on in the Kingdom
• Ladies First: Why Saudi’s LET double-header is more than just historic week of pro golf
• Charley Hull: Is that all you’ve got, 2020?