About the relationship between 'Golf & Environment'...

Reading duration
8 min.
Related domains
Nature, Forest, Countryside, Outdoors, Space, Wealth, Europe, Land, Hectare
Author
Amy Van Eygen

The origin of golf courses

The origins of the golf courses are inextricably linked to nature: it was shepherds in Scotland who were the first to use 'bunkers'. In the Highlands the 'bunkers' were the places where the sheep grazed and rested because they were out of the wind. Because of this the grass disappeared and the ground became sandy. The shepherds, who then struck a stone with a limited number of blows, actually played golf with naturally shaped bunkers.

The maintenance of the golf course

A golfer needs space! For the construction of an 18-hole golf course you need an average of 60 hectares! The playing field is actually divided into 3 equal parts: 1/3 is landscape, 1/3 is playing field and 1/3 is transition zone. So, an average of 40 hectares is available for nature!

"Golf is one of the few sports in the world that has included nature conservation measures in its sports regulations" - Marc Verneirt

In order to maintain these 60 hectares, environmentally friendly and sustainable maintenance is required. In the 70s and 80s, the maintenance of golf courses was depicted as environmentally unfriendly. This was due to the lax maintenance and excessive use of pesticides and fertilizer. "Lawn is the green concrete" is a typical statement by journalist Dirk Draulans, who used it to highlight golf. Marc Verneirt, Secretary General at Golf Flanders and biologist by training, disputes this statement: According to him, golf is one of the few sports in the world that has included nature conservation measures in its sports regulations. They try in many ways to contribute to the good relationship between golf and the environment. "Variation in an open green space is important for biodiversity and numerous plant and animal species: variation in light and air, corridors, densely vegetated zones and open zones. For example, forest edges in which birds can fly and nest safely", says Marc Verneirt.

The Green Deal and greenkeepers

There has been an environmental programme in Flanders for years. After Golf Flanders created its own environmental label 'Golf & Environment they now work together with Golf Environment Organsiation. A European program with a guidance trajectory and the GEO label as ultimate goal. At this moment there is a Green Deal Sport in the making for Flanders. Within the Green Deal several sports actors and governments will sign ambitious targets where on the one hand the use of pesticides will be strongly reduced and on the other hand there will be a learning network about soil, water and alternative techniques to realize the ambitions. In the maintenance we should not underestimate the responsibility of the greenkeepers! An 18-hole course needs a maintenance team of eight greenkeepers. These people do more than mow the grass on the golf course. They are people who are constantly in training to prepare and maintain the golf courses for the new golf season. The greenkeepers know where and when water is needed and make sure that as little water as possible is wasted. They have to identify and preferably prevent any disease in the grass. A greenkeeper is clearly indispensable in a good relationship between golf and the environment! A splendid example of a golf club that strives for an optimal relationship between golf and the environment is the Damme Golf & Country Club in Belgium.

Insect hotel

Along hole 3 of the President's Nine there is a local beekeeper who places his hives in an out of bounds zone under a barn owned by Damme Golf & Country Club. On a golf course there are out of bounds zones. Here the bees and other insects can take their course in different green structures, such as small bushes, rougher corners and ponds.

Fescue grass

On both the President's Nine and the Championship Course they try to work as much as possible with native grasses. These grasses are mowed two to three times a year and the grass are removed in order to grind the soil. This allows insects and small animals to find their habitat in a safe environment, but also to mate and breed. Here Damme Golf can offer a home to many different species of animals and plants, which can be of great importance for the preservation of biodiversity. In addition, Damme Golf can make an important contribution to the connection between different nature areas and ecosystems. There are also real nature areas where maintenance is carried out by the people of Regional Scenery Houtland (Mr. Pauwel Bogaert).

Deforestation

According to the Forest Management Plan drawn up in consultation with Het Regional Scenery Houtland (Mr. Pauwel Bogaert), exotic trees are systematically felled. This on the one hand in order to offer the indigenous trees as much space as possible. On the other hand, this ensures better wind circulation and together with the extra sunlight, this ensures better, more natural growth.

IPM

Integrated Pest Management or IPM is a planned approach to keep damage caused by diseases, pests and weeds below a certain level by means of an integrated approach with the least possible damage to humans, animals, nature and the environment. The focus is on prevention through the use of resistant grasses and the creation of optimal growing conditions by means of culture-technical maintenance. Monitoring the turf, damage causes and damage development is important in order to be able to take measures and learn from them at an early stage. Selective and very cautious use of chemical pesticides fits, as a last resort, within the principles of IPM.

Machinery

Partly through a meticulously thought-out purchase & lease plan, Damme Golf & Country Club tries to modernise our machinery every year. With this we always work with the most modern machines. These not only ensure a more efficient green use but also silence. This is important again for the fauna & flora.

Irrigation system

In the first instance, it remains important to deal sparsely with water. Using an irrigation system with a high degree of efficiency is therefore a necessity and represents a direct reduction on your water bill on the one hand, but also on the new investment in storage on the other, and on top of that, water is expensive: not only for your budget, but also for the environment.