VisitScotland, the national body for the development and promotion of tourism in Scotland, has added a significant boost to golf’s sustainability efforts by partnering with the GEO Foundation.

The GEO Foundation is an international not-for-profit body founded 16 years ago to help inspire, support, and reward credible sustainability action and to strengthen and promote golf's social and environmental value.

The move comes just six months after Scotland hosted COP26, the UN’s climate change conference, which saw the launch of the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism. During COP26, VisitScotland also supported GEO Foundation’s ‘Driving Net Zero’, a special event to spotlight and discuss golf and climate action.

The partnership sees VisitScotland become the first national tourism body to become a strategic partner of the GEO Foundation to support their mission to accelerate sustainability in and through golf. It also establishes connection and alignment between VisitScotland’s responsible tourism goals and the sustainability activities being carried out through this year’s leading golf tournaments in Scotland – The 150th Open, the AIG Women’s Open, the Genesis Scottish Open, the Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open, The Senior Open Championship and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

There will also be a focus on boosting direct support for Scottish golf clubs, including the provision of OnCourse Scotland, a national version of the international programme for sustainable club and course management. Club engagement will be delivered in collaboration with Scottish Golf, helping bring significant awareness-raising to the effort to involve more Scottish clubs in actions that can help strengthen efficiency and sustainability.

Scotland's Culture Minister Neil Gray said: “I commend VisitScotland for their strategic partnership with the GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf – a first for Scotland. The partnership aligns with the Scottish Government’s long-term priority to become a Net Zero Nation by enhancing our climate resilience in a just and fair way.

“The agreement also builds on the momentum of COP26 ahead of an exceptional summer of golf events, headlined by The 150th Open at St Andrews. I’m confident that the GEO Foundation’s expertise will not only deliver clear benefits to these events and clubs across Scotland, but also encourage other around the world to take climate action.”

Malcolm Roughead, CEO of VisitScotland championed the announcement. “Given that golf represents such a large part of our tourism sector, we want to align with our overall approach to responsible tourism and help golf facilities and high-profile tournaments on their journey.

"We are delighted to collaborate with GEO Foundation, dedicated as they are to advancing sustainable golf from their headquarters in North Berwick, and also with our national governing body Scottish Golf who share our commitment to build sustainability into the long-term popularity and resilience of the sport.”

Jonathan Smith, Executive Director of GEO Foundation added: “We are extremely proud to carry the support of VisitScotland across the non-profit work we do to inspire, guide and promote sustainability in and through golf. It is a great fit in terms of our international advocacy and programmes, and support for golf in Scotland.

“We are particularly excited about how the collaboration will help connect sustainable tourism and sustainable golf; support the leadership of leading events; and how together with Scottish Golf we can guide and reward clubs across the country.”

Karin Sharp, Chief Operating Officer of Scottish Golf noted that the initiative will help advance their long-standing commitment to promoting sustainable golf. "As part of our strategic review, clubs across the country have told us sustainability is important to them, and that they’d welcome more guidance, direction and recognition. We are excited to work with VisitScotland and GEO Foundation to further develop and provide that,” he said.