Mention “green” and “golf” in the same breath, and the first thing that usually comes to mind is the green putting surface. What probably doesn’t come to mind is a “green” business model — because golf has never been considered a particularly green or sustainable business.
Large swaths of land have to be cleared away just to build a golf course, which often means razing trees and disrupting waterways. The machinery required to clear the land emits large amounts of greenhouse gases. As the Green Matters website noted, once a course is built, the grass requires a lot of water, machinery, and pesticides to remain in pristine condition.
However, the golf industry has made strides in recent years to operate more sustainably. About 13% of U.S. golf courses now use recycled water to maintain the grass, the Green Business Bureau reported. More courses also use grass types that require less water and eco-friendly mowing equipment. Another positive trend is the use of organic rather than chemical fertilizers.
Photo Courtesy Discovery Land Company
These practices are being adopted by all kinds of golf facilities, from inexpensive public courses to pricey resorts. Among the leaders in the latter category is Discovery Land Company (DLC), a Scottsdale, AZ-based real estate developer whose upscale golf and resort communities put a high priority on sustainability.
According to its LinkedIn profile, DLC specializes in “luxury residential private club communities and resorts” in the U.S. and internationally.
The company was founded in 1994 by its chairman, entrepreneur Michael S. Meldman, with a single project. It’s now a major player in the high-end resort residential niche, with 18 projects in its portfolio.
The company’s commitment to eco-friendly development is evident in the fact that it has a sustainability director — Hunter Meldman, son of the company’s founder.
“Sustainability has never been more important to us and to our homeowners, and we’re focusing more and more on living as environmentally friendly as possible,” Hunter told “The New York Times” in a 2022 interview.
Photo Courtesy Discovery Land Company
As the New York Times reported, DLC’s green living initiatives include using renewable energy sources, minimizing its use of plastics, recycling wastewater, composting, and setting aside land for conservation.
The company’s move toward sustainability is part of a larger trend in which more golf course developers and managers are paying attention to their environmental impact, according to Christine Kane, CEO of Audubon International, a nonprofit whose Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program evaluates and certifies green golf communities. As of 2022, more than 1,000 golf courses in 29 countries were fully certified, and many were part of larger residential communities.
“The interest in owning a green golf property and living in a golf community where sustainability is on top of mind is at an all-time high,” Kane told “The New York Times.”
DLC’s sustainability initiatives often begin with conversations between Hunter, people who manage the company’s properties, and local team leaders.
Many of these conversations have resulted in “incredible” innovations, Hunter said in an interview with the Find Your Paradise website.
As an example, he pointed to the Costa Terra Golf & Ocean Club in Comporta, Portugal, which acquired 250 olive trees to make its own olive oil. Another DLC project, Baker’s Bay Golf & Ocean Club in the Bahamas, has restored and managed wetlands adjacent to the marina area.
Photo Courtesy Costa Terra Club
“[This] helps protect local wildlife and their habitats, including turtle nesting beaches, white crown pigeon foraging areas, and neo-tropical migratory bird habitats,” Hunter told Find Your Paradise.
DLC has also implemented farm-to-table initiatives in some of its communities, including the Silo Ridge Field Club in New York’s Hudson Valley.
Photo Courtesy Silo Ridge Field Club
“The farm makes enough produce to give the excess back to the local town,” Hunter said.
DLC continues to partner with other organizations on innovative sustainability programs. In March 2023, the company announced an arrangement with Austin, TX-based Rainfall Tech to deploy the latter company’s ground-based ionization rainfall generation technology at select DLC properties around the world.
According to a press release, the tech is powered by wind and solar arrays and has shown an ability to enhance rainfall by 16% to 18% in third-party trials. “We have been impressed with Rainwater Tech’s business model, especially its expected short deployment lead time and anticipated ability to operate off the grid,” Michael said in a statement. “We look forward to the potential of expanding our partnership with Rainwater Tech in the coming years in support of Discovery’s sustainable development plans worldwide.”