STRI ecologist, Rowan Rumball, looks back on his first year with the Golf Environment Awards and discusses the 2019 finalists.
Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity of assessing the entries to the 2019 Golf Environment Awards (GEA), and as part of this, to undertake daily visits to a multitude of golf clubs working hard to deliver sustainability and best practice management.
It has been a privilege to visit each of the golf courses that applied to be a part of the 2019 Awards, and to work alongside Bob Taylor, whose outstanding knowledge of golf course ecology has continued to inspire me throughout my first GEA experience.
The effort of individuals and teams at our golf courses in the pursuit of ecological and environmental excellence can not be underestimated. It is this dedication that has made selection of the finalists such a hard task to undertake, as everyone involved deserves to be acknowledged.
Here’s a little bit more info about our GEA finalists. There are still a handful of tickets available to attend the awards ceremony on 23 Jan at the Crown Hotel, Harrogate. Contact us if you want to snap them up.
Environmental Golf Course of the Year
The rain did not stop the beautiful purple of this heather coming through. This has been achieved through continuous removal of nutrients from the soil via cutting and collecting. See how the grass is not dominating the heather, but is rather wispy and thin. This will lead to a beautiful area of out of play rough that does not require much maintenance and is fantastic for wildlife year round.
The new polytunnel at Ipswich has been employed to great effect helping spread both Ling and Bell heather, species that are in severe decline in the UK. Different methods of propagation has been attempted with the results being recorded. We are looking forward to learning about the most successful methods which can be used to spread heather even further.
Minchinhampton has the interesting task of trying to maintain a golf course on land that is still grazed by cattle. While this presents certain complications such as having to have a budget to clean cow dung from greens and tees, it has resulted in fantastic diverse grasslands that looks great all year around.
Warrington Golf Club has a great overall coverage of environmental and ecological improvements across the site. The course, maintenance buildings and club house, are all using methods that are helping keep the site sustainable and it is able to run with almost zero carbon output. In addition to this, by taking care of the course, the environment has paid them back with some gorgeous habitats, such are the long rough on these bunkers.
St Andrews Links is a pioneer when it comes to habitat regeneration, with some amazing sand scraps being worked into their various courses. Not only that, they also have a great heather re-establishment program and track record for protecting the environment. They have massively reduced their inputs into the environment with reedbeds and solar panel projects.
Conservation Greenkeeper of the Year
Montrose has a beautiful course, but have taken it one step further by inviting young children through the Links Park Community Trust to discuss golf, the environment and building up to 250 insect hotels at a single time. The best way to encourage improvement in our natural spaces is to inspire others to improve their personal spaces.
Freshwater protected species are particularly vulnerable to pollution and other disturbance, with nowhere to go, small accidents can destroy a whole population. Notts Golf Club has kindly volunteered to become an ARK site for White-clawed Crayfish, meaning that if a population is threatened nearby the population can be transferred to Notts Golf Club safely. This is a great example of how a course can help the surrounding environment even outside of its boarders
Mark Broughton – Aldeburgh Golf Club (see Environmental Golf Course of Year)
Neil Sherman – Ipswich Golf Club (see Environmental Golf Course of Year)
Outstanding Environmental Project of the Year
Wylihof is our first international finalists and with good reason. They have some of the most amazing wildflower fields I have ever seen using traditional autumn cutting methods to maintain a fantastic diversity. In addition, they innovated on top of three existing ecological enhancements optimising space and effort by combining them into one structure. It is this forward thinking we need more of in ecological conservation.
Often a big hill to get over for golf clubs trying to improve the nature on their course, is to deal with dense nutrient rich grass swards that can take advantage of the available nutrients better than the other flowering species. To remove these nutrients takes years of cutting and collecting the clippings. Cotswold Hills is experimenting with parasites of grass, Yellow rattle and Red bartsia, to get more diverse naturally colourful grasslands comparatively quickly.
Hallamshire Golf Club has renovated an old covered up culvert into a new stunning ecological feature running through the course. Care has been given to making sure that the course has no input into the water way keeping the waters clean in respect to the EU Water Framework Directive 2000. This project shows how ecological remediation can also be beautiful.
Woking Golf Club have started growing their own heather turf which will then be transplanted onto different areas of the course. Historically, very few heathland courses have had quite as much success in reinstating the natural heather across the course as Woking Golf Club.
Banchory has a small area to play with, being sandwiched between Banchory town and River Dee, but they make excellent use of the land given to them. This is a great example of using ecological enhancement placement well, with the insect hotel on the boarder of a beautiful wildflower area. The tree line as well has great structural diversity to it with young and old trees sharing the space.
The picture is of a beautiful Devils-bit scabious found during the visit to Wigan Golf Club. There were many beautiful areas of wildflowers which often contained rare orchids. Wigan was also the site of a dedicated attempt at trying to help recover Willow tit populations, these birds burrow into soft wood to create nests so special bird boxes were created to facilitate this.
Corhampton Golf Club are taking full advantage of the naturally alkaline chalk soils they have around their course to create new and species rich flower meadows. These grasslands will and help increase in population a wide range of invertebrates to the area that are normally considered rare. The picture shows the start of removing the top nutrient rich soil to reach the bare chalk below before covering with a think layer of topsoil and allowing to recolonise naturally
Wylihof Golf Club (see Outstanding Environmental Project of the Year)