Sustainability Golf Week 2023
This week, Wales Golf join our Sustainability partner’s The G.E.O. Foundation’s Sustainable Golf Week. This year’s theme is – Golf- Better with Nature.
DID YOU KNOW?
- 18% (one in six) of our species are at risk of extinction in Wales, including plants and animals such as Fen Orchid, Water Vole and Sand Lizard.
- 20% – Welsh wildlife has decreased on average by 20% since 1994.
- The Uk is currently classified as one the world’s most nature-depleted countries.
- SOURCE: State of Nature 2023 – report on the UK’s current biodiversity
Golf’s relationship with nature is unique among sport, with landscapes, eco-systems, and bio-diversity an essential part of the experience. Accordingly, with the pressing challenges of climate change and ecosystem degradation, preserving and actively reviving nature holds significant importance for both golf and society. Sustainable Golf Week will explore golf’s role in fostering nature, including the safeguarding of nature and prevention of ‘net negative’ impacts, as well as the active restoration and enrichment of our golfing landscapes.
Golf courses across Wales provide a host of different habitats and eco-systems which benefit a wide variety of species. Join us this week as we celebrate some of the work undertaken at Welsh golf clubs to foster nature and contribute to our vision of having low carbon facilities, managing nature-rich landscapes that deliver significant net positive impact for the people and environment.
“Our aspiration is to create a sustainable game that future generations can enjoy and in doing so, we will encourage the entire golfing ecosystem to think and act in a sustainable way as we work to ensure golf is Everyone’s Game, for fun, for sport, for life”
Wales Golf Strategic Plan 2023-2028
Conwy Golf Club and The North Wales Regional Partnership Facility – The Carneddau Putting Green
Thanks to funding provided via Sport Wales, Wales Golf and Conwy Golf Club embarked on an ambitious project to sustainably build an enormous putting green complex covering almost 4,000sq/m and designed by world renowned architect Martin Ebert.
The entire substrate of the green was sourced from other areas of the course and included soils and sand which were mined and screened before being transported to the development site.
In sourcing the material from within areas of the golf course a number of new habitats, favourable to a wide variety of species were created.
Tuesday – Protecting Nature
Vale of Llangollen Golf Club
The golf course at The Vale of Llangollen Golf Club is located in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ONB) and within the designated area of a World Heritage Site (The Froncysyllte Aquaduct). A number of the holes nestle on the banks of the Afon Dyfrdwy (River Dee), a Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI) and also a designated Special Area of Conservation.
N.R.W. and the LIFE Dee River Project.
In 2020, the Club became involved in a project with Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and the LIFE Dee River Project to look at areas of the golf course which were vulnerable to erosion from the river banks. A site Management Plan was created identifying suitable locations which resulted in over 100 Alder whips being planted along the top of the river bank to create bank stability, slowing erosion and enhancing the wildlife corridor. Unfortunately, about 25% of the Alder were lost, however they were replaced with Hazel, which has only further complemented the diversity. The new trees continue to be maintained or replaced as part of the project at no cost to the club.
North Wales Wildlife Trust (N.W.W.T.) and the Upper and Middle Dee Invasive Species Management (U.M.D.I.M) Project.
Further collaboration work was undertaken by the club during the Summer of 2022, which saw the club work alongside N.W.W.T. and the U.M.D.I.M. to tackle two invasive species (Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed) which were present on the club’s estate.
The project funded two club volunteers to obtain their City & Guilds qualification in herbicide spraying using a back-pack sprayer, and herbicide injection to treat the Japanese Knotweed. Five further volunteers were funded to obtain their City & Guilds qualification in the Safe Use of Brush Cutters and Trimmers to kill the Himalayan Balsam. As most of the work was done on the banks of the River Dee, the project also funded four volunteers to take part in a River Safety Training day.
A number of Balsam Bashing sessions have been organised by the club and attended by a number of club members who have assisted the project Additionally, the club also hosted a joint Balsam Bash and Sausage Bap Bar-b-q for VLGC volunteers and NWWT staff.
The project also paid for N.W.W.T.’s contractors to ‘mop-up’ any Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed which our volunteers couldn’t get to. The Club allowed N.W.W.T. to set up a “Hub” for spraying and strimming equipment, and fuel at the green sheds. Managing these invasives allows enhanced native biodiversity and has opened views of the river which had previously been obscured from view.
Thanks to the N.W.W.T.’s UMDIM funding, club members have been provided with Biosecurity packs and information, additionally the club were also in receipt of two boot/shoe cleaners with information points to aid with the control and spread of Invasive Non Native Species. All at no cost to the Club.
Wednesday – Restoring Nature- How golf can further enrich the landscapes it manages
Neath Golf Club – Heather Regeneration Project
When James Braid visited Neath during May 1934 to layout the future course at Gellia, he described the location as a “site that lends itself admirably to the construction of a first-class course. The views from every part of the course are magnificent and extensive, whilst the air is most exhilarating. The fairways only require to be cut to be first class, and the ball will usually be sitting up to be hit.”
Whilst the golf course remains much unchanged from Braid’s vision, the surrounding landscape has matured and evolved much over the course of the past 90 years. One thing which has changed slowly over time is the slow retreat of heather from the site as other species such as ferns and bramble became the dominating species, further aided by fir trees which have matured to great heights. In its formative years, Neath would have been a true Heathland course with large heather beds flanking some of the fairways, providing not only a heaven for late season pollinating insects and invertebrates but providing a visually aesthetically pleasing backdrop for the course.
The Club’s Greenkeeping Team began undertaking a Heather Regeneration Project several years ago, when they began by deep raking two areas of the course, this resulted in new heather spores appearing. Whilst the initial growth was sparse, significant nurturing and selective weeding by the team over the subsequent years encouraged the heather spores to flourish.
During 2022 the club were in receipt of support from Wale Golf’s Sustainability Kickstarter Fund, the club were awarded £2,250 to further advance their project. This saw additional areas being prepared and seeded heavily with a specialist Heathland Mix so that more areas of the course could be slowly restored to its original condition. It is the club’s vision to return as much of the course as possible to its natural heathland nature. As part of the clubs ongoing work, the intention is to promote the growth of the new heather beds but also to use the beds as a nursery to harvest further seeds for continued regeneration throughout the wider golf course.
Regenerating and the restoring of the heather at Neath will not only provide a stunning, visual natural habitat and eco-system, over time, once established and under stewardship of the greenkeeping team it will require little to no maintenance thus reducing emissions associated with weekly golf course surrounds management.
Thursday – Promoting nature – how golf can play a major part in demonstrating the value of nature across society
St Melyd Golf Club
The sustainability work undertaken at St Melyd during the past 2 years has hardly gone unnoticed. Their extensive wildflower meadows have become backdrops for weather forecasts, Instagram selfies and have attracted great interest from the local community, who now flock to see the annual display when in full bloom.
The meadows were visited once again this year by The Royal Horticultural Society as they were included in Prestatyn’s Britain in Bloom display. Once again, the judges heaped great praise on what the club have achieved. Jim Goodwin, a Wales in Bloom judge stated that “It’s the best wildflower meadow I’ve seen, its magnificent”.
The wildflower meadows now encompass over 2,500sqm in total, creating a blanket of colour at both extremities of the golf course. As well as the wildflowers, the club have also created over 2 hectares of ecological areas comprised of managed native grass species which has been allowed to run to flower.
One of the wildflower meadows is home to the St Melyd Apiary, a small bee-keeping group made up of club volunteers under the leadership and guidance of experienced bee-keeper and club member Joe Hughes. Val Wickens, Chair of Greens at St Melyd and one of the Melyd Bee-Keepers explained that “The bees are such a delight, its fantastic to know that we are working with and alongside the bees within this small ecosystem we have created at the club”. To date, 4 club members have attended Bee-Keeping courses at Northop College and the team of volunteers are currently feeding up the colony in preparation for the cold weather ahead. One particularly enthusiastic volunteer is 13-year-old junior golfer Emmie Halton. “She not only is a great little golfer, she possesses a lovely sense of calm around the bees, its quite clear that the bees like her” explained Val.
St Melyd Golf Club clearly demonstrate the value of nature across society and certainly within their local community.
Friday – Driving further – looking forward and calls to action
As we all become more aware of the value of nature and biodiversity, telling the story of golf’s role in nurturing and protecting it is a major opportunity for the sport. Our golf courses can contribute to wildlife conservation, species protection and have the potential to play a role in mitigating the effects of climate change.
How golf is beneficial to the natural environment-
- Working with the natural environment to enhance and conserve natural habitats.
- Protecting species and encouraging species diversity.
- Providing connectivity through the landscape to link other green spaces via nature corridors.
- Working with nature conservation bodies such as Local Wildlife Trusts and Natural Resources Wales.
- Conserving natural resources.
- Managing healthy grass species, soil structure and drainage for sustainable course playability.
- Increasing biological controls for pests and diseases.
Opportunities to Maximise Biodiversity on Golf Courses.
Establish your course biodiversity value – Auditing the biodiversity of your course needn’t be costly or time consuming. Working with local conservation groups and involving enthusiastic members can help you better understand the habitats and species on your course.
Reduced mowing of out-of-play areas – Rarely played roughs can be easily identified by a lack of divots. Mowing can be reduced in these areas, along with tee banks, ditches and margins around water bodies, to improve structural and species diversity.
Increase the diversity of woodlands – The structural and species diversity of woodlands and lines of even aged trees can be improved by underplanting with native flowering, nut or berry-bearing shrubs and trees.
Improve diversity of dense scrub – Increase the structural diversity of stands of dense scrub by undertaking rotational coppicing.
Provide roosting and nesting boxes – Bat roost boxes and bird nest boxes are low cost and can be manufactured in-house and installed on buildings and trees.
Provide deadwood – Increase the volume of deadwood in woodlands by piling in out-of play areas and retaining standing deadwood where safe to do so.
Appoint an in-house Biodiversity Champion – Appointing a person to raise awareness of biodiversity internally and externally can have a significant benefit by engaging with golfers and staff, local nature conservation groups and other key stakeholders.
Create a plan – All golf courses should develop their own nature management action plan. This can be done with support from nature conservation groups and independent experts. Plans should complement existing course policies and strategic plans
Interested in the topics discussed in Sustainability week? Join us at the Wales Golf 2023 Roadshow events
23/10/2023 – Machynys Peninsula Golf & Country Club
24/10/2023 – Llanishen Golf Club
26/10/2023 – Conwy Golf Club
We are pleased to announce that we will be joined at our 2023 Roadshow events by Robbie Fitzpatrick (The G.E.O. Foundation) and Paul Wodham, The R&A’s Head of Sustainable Agronomy- Europe.
Topics to be covered during the Roadshow include-
- Wales Golf Sustainability
- Sustainable Golf- Trends and Impacts on Golf Clubs and Courses
- Sustainable Agronomy- The Key Issues facing Golf
- Sustainable Golf Programmes
Register here – https://www.walesgolf.org/workshops-roadshows/