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Greener greens: golf courses connect for nature

By Alex Briggs - 02 October 2023

We were delighted to be part of a seminar focusing on nature recovery on golf courses, including those along the Weald to Waves corridor.

Nature Links, run by the Southwood Foundation and hosted by Lewes Golf Club, brought golf club owners, managers and head greenkeepers together to discuss what clubs in and around the corridor are doing for nature.

This is the first time clubs in the Weald to Waves landscape have been invited to come together to discuss the nature crisis. This event holds significance as golf clubs represent a substantial group of landholders in Sussex, with 66 courses across the two counties.

Golf courses have an important part to play in enabling connectivity and promoting nature education. They have a reputation of having a substantial ecological footprint due to their intensive maintenance practices, such as pesticide use and water consumption.

However, increasingly, golf clubs in the UK are recognising the importance of nature recovery on their courses. Some clubs have dedicated areas for wildlife conservation, including bird sanctuaries, wetlands, and wildflower meadows and Sussex clubs have a new call to action as part of the corridor.

There was a presentation from Pyecombe Golf Club, which has a long track record of nature restoration and has won national Environmental Golf Club of the year award this year.

The measures implemented by the club include:

  • Cutting and bailing the rough once a year

  • Scarification of the rough which encourages wild flowers and orchids to flourish and provides an ideal environment for insects and birds to breed

  • Producing Pyecombe honey from the bee hives on the golf course

  • A woodland management programme with bird boxes in place for swifts, tawny owls and barn owls. Deer and game birds are also common place around the course.

The club has a ground source heat pump which reduces heating bills by 40% and to date has produced a massive 82,000kg of CO2 savings. A further recent project saw solar heating panels fitted to the clubhouse.

Previous year’s winners have introduced skylark protection areas, roped-off zones to give seasonal spaces to the ground-nesting bird and drilled boreholes or created rainwater reservoirs to meet their irrigation needs, as well as growing more drought-tolerant types of grass.

Talks from Buglife and RSPB experts highlighted the significant difference golf clubs can make for pollinators and larger species recovery. Well-managed golf courses can focus on habitat creation in non-play areas, offering a sanctuary for wildlife to thrive without disrupting the sport. This dual-purpose approach, which simultaneously benefits both nature and golf enthusiasts, underscores the harmonious coexistence between golf courses and biodiversity.

Looking ahead, we are committed to building upon this initiative and organising similar events that engage with other sport, equestrian and greenspace groups. By continuing to bridge the gap between leisure, sport and nature conservation, we aim to create a win-win situation where natural habitats are created and sustained and more people have access to high quality green spaces along the corridor.

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