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Published on : Thursday, February 4, 2016
Nestled amongst the rolling hills of Mount Liamuiga in St Kitts, Irie Fields may not seem remarkable at first glance, it has fairways and greens just like thousands of golf courses across the world, but look closer and you see that this new golf course, set open mid-2016, is a game changer for international golf course development.
Irie Fields is the first golf course to attain the GEO Certified® – Developments status, setting new standards for golf course developments that recognized the opportunity to contribute more positive social and environmental impacts across the design, planning and construction of the course. Not only that but Irie Fields is also hailed as the only fully organically maintained, edible golf course in the world.
Created by golf course architecture firm European Golf Design (EGD) in partnership with Welsh golfing legend, Ian Woosnam, Irie Fields golf course is part of Belle Mont Farm on Kittitian Hill, a sustainable luxury development on the island of St Kitts in the Caribbean. The course firmly upholds Founder Val Kempadoo’s belief that sustainability is one of the fundamental factors to a successful business.
“From the very start I knew I wanted Irie Fields golf course to blend the unique culture of the island with a sustainable ethos to create something that was truly Kittitian, for the local community and visiting tourists alike.” said Kempadoo, “From selecting the location to siting the bunkers, the environment, the community and resource efficiencies have come first. While we had the vision, central to implementing it has been the support of EGD and guidance from GEO and I am confident that by working together we have created something which will bring true benefit to the people and nature of the island and a real, enjoyable Kittitian experience for our visitors for generations to come.”
This dedication to providing social value was seen throughout the project and one of the highlights of the development being the strong commitment to local employment and local supply chains. More than 95% of staff involved in the construction of the course originated from St Kitts itself and more than 97% of bulk golf course construction materials were sourced from the Island.
An edible landscapes policy has seen over 25 hectares of edible crops cultivated across the site, including mango, avocado, banana, guava, pineapple and passion fruit, bringing truly multi-purpose productivity to out of play areas, and the use of zero chemicals throughout construction has delivered major pollution prevention benefits and a healthier environment to play in. Resource efficient practices were also embedded into the design and construction of the course, minimizing water consumption of the course and the scale of earth works required during construction.
Gary Johnston, Designer at European Golf Design, who led the project, said “sustainability was integral in everything we did at Irie Fields, from the moment we picked up our pencils through to seeding the last hole”. Very much a team effort, this project was led by Kempadoo’s vision for a truly sustainable tourism development championed by Johnston and the team at EGD, and supported by GEO (the Golf Environment Organization). Johnston continued, “We are incredibly proud to have been part of this project. We have already recommended the GEO Developments programme to other developers and we hope that Irie Fields is just the first of many golf courses that we are involved with that will gain the GEO Certified® Development mark.”
GEO is a not-for profit organization dedicated to supporting sustainability across the international golf industry. Irie Fields have been working with GEO since early 2011 and have played a leading role in shaping the processes, documentation and voluntary standard for GEO’s new sustainable golf development program. Originally named the GEO Legacy program, GEO not only provides guidance and support on the benefits and practical implementation of sustainable operations for golf developments though the program OnCourse® Developments, they also administer the independently verified GEO Certified® Developments Mark.
Jonathan Smith, CEO at GEO said “This is an exciting time for sustainable golf and Irie Field’s achievement in becoming the first development to gain the GEO Certified® Developments mark is something which not only the club and its architects can be proud of but the industry as a whole. Golf is stepping up and taking its responsibility and its opportunities seriously, and we are honored to work with so many individuals and organizations that show real leadership in the field of sustainable golf.”