Hilton Head Island Area Receives First International Sustainable Golf Destination Award

17 November 2016
Hilton Head Island Area Receives First International Sustainable Golf Destination Award

IAGTO Honors the Hilton Head Island Area Destination for Collaborative Community Effort for Sustainability

For the second year in a row, the Hilton Head Island destination receives recognition from the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO). For 2017 it receives the distinctive honor as the first International Sustainable Golf Destination of the Year, on the heels of being awarded the 2016 North America Golf Destination of the Year. The 2017 award recognizes high performance and commitment across three core areas of sustainability – nature, resources and people. The Hilton Head Island Area’s collective commitment to holistic sustainability through community partnerships and through practical application and continual improvement by individual golf facilities are the core of this collaborative success.

A community collaboration for Sustainability in Golf was led by Hilton Head Island based nonprofit organization, Experience Green. The effort has engaged 15 area golf facilities to date. The initiative builds on the destination’s work for sustainability, offering education, networking and support to facilities committed to advancing sustainable practices through OnCourse®, the international platform for sustainable golf. Three of those facilities have gained golf’s global eco-label, GEO Certified® including the Sea Pines Resort, home to the RBC Heritage PGA TOUR event; only ten facilities in the United States have this distinction. Additionally, the RBC Heritage has joined the initiative in conducting a formal Sustainability Review of the 2016 tournament to work toward the event becoming a GEO Certified® Tournament in 2017.

Teresa Wade, founder of Experience Green said: “As community collaboration increases, so do the possibilities for golf facilities and the destination. Facility leaders are having ‘a-ha’ moments when they connect common sense practices to measurable benefits for the community, the environment and profitability of an organization; this is the true value proposition for sustainability.”

“I am certain that Charles Fraser, visionary pioneer and initial developer of Hilton Head Island, would be delighted that the work for sustainability goes on, for local and global impact.”

“It is gratifying to be acknowledged for this innovative community collaboration that engages all stakeholder groups.”

The Hilton Head Island Area within Beaufort County, S.C. boasts world-class golf courses that cater to both amateur and professional golfers alike, sculpted by some of golf’s most preeminent architects, including Robert Trent Jones, Sr., Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus. Two of the three facilities that have become GEO Certified®, Old South Golf Links and The Legends at Parris Island, were designed by Clyde Johnston, a local Hilton Head Island architect.

“While we do a lot for sustainability, we needed to find a way to keep score of what we are trying to accomplish. We saw the value of sustainability for our business, and we are working now on new initiatives ahead of applying for recertification in three years. We see every day as an opportunity to improve.” said Scott Adams, General Manager, Old South Golf Link, GEO Certified®.

Beyond the pristine ‘green’ of the courses, Hilton Head Island Area facilities are making measurable strides for sustainability. The Sea Pines Resort progressed its welcome center to be a Zero Waste operation in 2015 and diverted 466 tons of waste from the landfill through recycling, composting, sustainable purchasing practices and more; this is an 80% increase over 90 tons diverted in 2011. Successes at other courses include irrigation with reclaimed or surface water, wildflower plantings to support the pollinator population, and efforts to naturalize turf areas for decreased resource consumption. There is an ongoing increase in reuse of debris and materials, as well as projects that include herb gardens, vermi-culture, expansion of wildlife habitat, integration of electric powered equipment and increased engagement with the local community to grow the game of golf and host fundraising outings for local charities. The 2016 RBC Heritage was a carbon neutral event due to powering by 100% renewable energy-sourced electricity, and 20% of waste was diverted from the landfill. The tournament and all facilities engaged in the community collaboration for sustainability have set goals for continual improvement on the journey to sustainability. 

The Hilton Head Island destination was developed on sustainable guidelines and the community is committed to investing in initiatives to advance sustainability. In 2015, a Baseline Sustainability Assessment was completed in accordance with global standards to determine the Island’s carbon footprint and identify key indicators for long term sustainability. In the same year, the Hilton Head Island Green Blueprint was adopted, the destination received the prestigious gold designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community from the League of American Bicyclists, and also the Audubon International Sustainable Planning award. The destination is also an Audubon International Green Community, a Tree City USA community, and boasts one of the most innovative sea turtle protection programs in the world, ensuring the nesting and hatching of endangered loggerhead sea turtles. A Dune Protection Ordinance and Project SAFE (Sewer Access for Everyone) are among many partner programs in the community that address various sustainability issues for continual improvement.


About the IAGTO Sustainability Awards
Each year IAGTO, the global golf tourism industry organization, celebrates the outstanding sustainability achievements of golf facilities, resorts and destinations around the world in partnership with GEO (Golf Environment Organization). Currently in its fifth year, the IAGTO Sustainability Awards are presented at the International Golf Travel Market annual gala dinner.  The awards are open to all IAGTO members and have been designed so that achievements and results from the past 12 months are taken into strongest consideration, and with three key areas of sustainability recognized each year ­ Nature, Resources, and Community. Entries to the awards have grown by almost 35% since they were introduced in 2013. For more information, visit

About Hilton Head Island
Visitors to Hilton Head Island can enjoy a variety of eco-friendly pursuits and activities throughout the destination, which range from nature hikes and kayak tours, to bird watching and marine life study excursion cruises. Hilton Head Island is the classic American resort destination for families, couples, and senior travelers, offering 12 miles of pristine beaches, exceptional golf and tennis, a wealth of art and cultural events, and a variety of shopping, dining, and entertainment for all ages year-round. Association and group business travelers continue to be an important growing sector for the destination. For more information on visiting Hilton Head Island, contact Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce at 800-523-3373 or visit

To learn more about the Hilton Head Island Area’s Sustainability in Golf community collaboration, contact Experience Green or visit www.sustainabilityingolf.org.

Logo, Destination Images and Info Contacts:
Teresa Wade -
teresa@experiencegreen.org - 615.957.0888
Charlie Clark - cclark@hiltonheadisland.org - 843.341.8378
Kelly McKenna - kmckenna@weberandwick.com - 212.445.8380

Jack Reed - Director of Sales
Hilton Head Island Visitors and Convention Bureau
Tel: +1 843 341 8361