Saudi Arabia unveils national golf strategy, as inaugural ladies tournament tees-off
KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY: Yasir O. Al-Rumayyan, chairman of Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation on Wednesday kicked off the inaugural Aramco Saudi Ladies International, presented by the Public Investment Fund, a historic occasion for the Kingdom.
The tournament launch was accompanied by an announcement that Saudi Arabia has also created a comprehensive national golf sustainability strategy that embraces an innovative culture and ambitious outlook across key environmental, economic and social aspects of the sport.
“The central tenet of our national golf strategy is sustainability. The ambition is for Golf in Saudi Arabia to be recognized 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,” commented Al-Rumayyan.
Saudi Aramco, the chief sponsor, was represented by Nabil A. Al-Nuaim, vice president of corporate affairs, who said the company’s decision to sponsor Saudi Arabia’s first women’s golf tournament reflected its commitment to supporting the empowerment of the country’s female citizens, as well as promoting positive values in the community.
“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.”
The sustainability program includes a comprehensive system of verifiable standards and performance indicators within the design, construction and operational phases, that will both guide the sector and substantiate future claims and communications.
The announcement was supported by several of Saudi Arabia’s leading stakeholders, including Saudi Aramco. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Golf Saudi and Saudi Aramco signaling an intent to pursue environmental and sustainability initiatives.
Golf Saudi continues to explore strategies to support country-wide interest in the game.
Designed in conjunction with GEO Foundation, the international sustainable golf non-profit, and leading soil science consulting group, STRI, the sustainability strategy pushes new boundaries by putting in place standards, policies and expectations across the sector’s approach to development.
“Golf Saudi’s strategic planning has rapidly accelerated its position as a leader in golf and sustainability,” commented Jonathan Smith, CEO of GEO Foundation. “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. The underpinning goals around carbon and climate, ecosystem restoration, circular economy and water stewardship are particularly important.”
Al-Rumayyan also announced that Golf Saudi’s first accredited Amenity Turf and Landscaping Center had broken ground at Dirab Golf Club in Riyadh, and gave thanks to the partnership with Atlas Turf.
Education, careers development and new capacity building programs also make up key elements of the strategy. To ensure a sustainable future, a unique educational platform was also announced with the Club Managers Association of Europe, where a series of bespoke certifications and qualifications are being created, as part of the national strategy to create jobs.
This was enhanced by the announcement of an MoU between the National Training Center for Facilities and Hospitality Management and Golf Saudi.
“We have sought to create an educational framework that can accommodate the formulation of a skilled localized 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,” commented Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation.
In addition, Golf Saudi’s mass participation program is underway thanks to support from the Ministry of Education, and partnerships with the Saudi Schools Sports Federation and various educational partners including Tadrees Holding, WAAD Academy and MISK Schools. These collaborations enable the program to form part of the physical education curriculum in schools with the pilot program having already reached close to 18,000 children.
The national transformation has also been embodied by the launch of the Ladies First Club, which will see 1,000 complimentary memberships given to encourage participation among women in the Kingdom.
“This initiative typifies the transformation of Saudi Arabia right now,” continued Al-Sorour. “Thanks to the vision of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 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.”
Key elements of the sustainability strategy are live on GolfSaudi.com, alongside a wealth of other Golf Saudi initiatives, including development, participation, elite performance, tourism and events. The occasion was also celebrated with the announcement that the Ladies European Tour and its players would be donning green attire for day two of the tournament, to lend their support and highlight the significance of Saudi Arabia’s sustainability strategy.