Conservation

The threat to golf:

The commercial revolution in professional golf with the rise of television money has encouraged the development of courses with fertilised fairways and over-watered greens. Quite understandably this threatens to create in the mind of the public that golf is un-ecological in its use of water, fertilisers and pesticides.

FineGolf’s  support for the ‘running’ game of golf in contrast to ‘target-golf’ is fundamentally conservationist and in collaboration with John Nicholson Associates, UK’s leading environmental or habitat consultant, has written a series of conservationist articles, covering;  gorse, friend or foe?  downlands, and trees (with heather to come) to go alongside clear recommendations of environmental policy change by the government’s bodies on ‘sea defence’   and GEO’s ignoring of the weed/fine grasses dichotomy, which brings into question its conservationism.

Water is a scarce resource, fine grasses conserve it.

Following the droughts in the mid 90s, even many Fine courses decided to install fairway watering systems and Jim Arthur was not against this as they do usefully give greenkeepers more flexibility even if it is seldom used.

Green unfortunately became the buzz word:

It did though seem that lush target golf was carrying all before it in the 1990s and the credo “if it isn’t green, it must be dead” pervading golf at many levels. If ‘weed’ annual meadow grass (Poa annua) with its shallow roots goes brown then it is likely to be dead, but perennial fescue/browntop bent grasses with deep roots often go brown in a dry summer but can survive droughts and come back green with the first rain. Read the article of what happened at heathland de Pan GC and also the ‘Green illusion’ article by Norbert ‘the turf fox’ Lischka.

An American visitor to Royal Dornoch asked for his green fee to be returned because with the fairways, not being green during a dry spell, he struggled to hit his ball well off the tight turf and felt they must be in bad repair!

FineGolf’s ambition

..is to rebalance this dangerous philosophy and give confidence to golfers to support natural greenkeeping at their local clubs.

Well-managed golf courses cannot be accused of being polluters.  Traditional, austere greenkeeping minimises the need for watering and ensures that no pollution occurs from excessive fertiliser and pesticide use. It also lowers costs.

The rise in conservation consciousness should help this re-balancing but sometimes the ‘Global warming alarmists’ promote ignorant attitudes with – for example, all trees being seen as sacrosanct.

FineGolf  encourages clubs to have a clear conservationist policy publicised on its website as Royal Ashdown Forest has done.

Open heathland and downland ecology is worth fighting for:

The biggest conservation headache on heathland and downland is the invasion of scrub and seedling trees which, if not cleared (as they used to be by sheep grazing), transform the appearance and nature of the course from an open, dry environment to woodland. The roots and shade of trees particularly near greens, creates an environment in favour of ‘weed’ grasses which helps them to out-compete the indigenous natural perennial ‘fine’ grasses that are best for golf.  Read   John Nicholson’s   article on Downlands.

This encroachment can takes place over a long time and, therefore, people live with it and many of our heathland and downland courses are now heavily wooded.  The visionary clubs know that they have to continuously work at heathland regeneration if they are to help keep the ecological balance and stop the heathland features degenerating into woodland and parkland.

Gorse and buckthorn are two other invasive plants that also need control. READ John Nicholson’s article on gorse.

Heather is killed by being fertilised: The deciduous leaves of oaks and silver birch in the autumn blow under the heather, mulch down and fertilise.  It is a phenomenon that the Surrey and Berkshire heathland courses are trying to counteract.  Ignorant tree huggers can do much harm to the ecological balance.

The work being done at two of our finest heathland courses, Hankley Common and Walton Heath, with the regeneration of the heath and the removal of hundreds of trees, leads the way.

They have achieved this progressive policy by involving local conservation groups and communicating coherently with their memberships.

Reader Comments

On March 27th, 2009 Chris Mitchell said:

Spot on. The tree huggers need to be educated. Trees are only a short term storage for carbon anyway. When the leaves fall they return any CO2 back to the atmosphere as well as when the tree dies it gives back any CO2. Carbon neutral.
Birds and other wild life do not live in woods, they live on the edge of woods, using the open land around them to find food and the woodland edge for shelter. Very few major species live in a wood (about 5) whereas over 250 species live in a heathland enviroment.

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