Greg’s Greenkeeping Blog August 2021

Greg’s Greenkeeping Blog August 2021

As many of you are well aware already, at Hunley we go to great lengths to offer the best possible facilities for golfers to enjoy, whilst at the same time having a positive impact on the local and wider environment.

This year has been very challenging, but recent success makes it absolutely worth the effort.

GEO

A few years ago we signed up to Oncourse, which is an online resource that helps record and store data, as well as measuring and monitoring the overall management of the club in order to highlight areas of success but also areas for improvement. 

Golf Environment Organisation (GEO) is an independent, not for profit organisation that specifically helps golf clubs to be more sustainable. This is something actively encouraged by the R&A and more information can be seen about Oncourse on their website here –

https://www.randa.org/Sustainability/OnCourse

This year we made a concerted effort to push for certification, which has taken significant commitment from everyone involved at the club.

Minimum standards are required and a rigorous assessment is carried out by independent verifiers to ensure the club is managing it’s facility as responsibly as possible. 

Having now achieved certification, we are delighted and it is really pleasing to receive recognition for all the work that everyone has put in at Hunley.

That said our work is far from done and there is plenty more to do and improvements to be made.

The resulting report has given us a clear picture of where we are and how we can look to focus our efforts going forward.

The full report can be found here, but some of the standout highlights are:

  • We are currently achieving negative carbon emissions, with a carbon balance of – 87 tons, meaning we are storing more carbon than we omit into the atmosphere (equivalent to 44,500 liters of petrol!)
  • 60% of our energy used, comes from renewable sources
  • 11 notable or protected species have been recorded on site
  • Over £6,000 has been raised for charity in the last year

We will continue to dedicate our efforts on sustainable management and plans are currently being formulated for the short, medium and long term. 

Why The Long Grass?

Despite the undoubted improvements made to the course over the last few years, it’s fair to say that the one area of our management still isn’t well understood. The areas of long grass between holes are incredibly important and the reasons for it are to – 

  • Provide definition to the holes
  • Improve playing strategy and reward good play
  • Help reduce unnecessary maintenance on out of play areas, allowing work to focus on key playing surfaces 
  • Reduce harmful carbon emissions 
  • Provide habitat for numerous species, including bees and pollinators 

It’s easy to see the many benefits of the long grass to our course, but equally golf has to be enjoyable and therefore playing zones at Hunley are kept wider than average.

Course set up provides – 

  • Fairways on average are 40 yards wide, with the widest areas being 65 yards and the narrowest being 25 yards.
  • 7-14 yards of semi rough borders all the fairways and means a ball running just off the fairway still favours a clean shot to the green.
  • Fringing rough borders all holes and varies in width depending on hole length and topography, but on average is 15 yards wide.
  • This gives an average of 62 yards of landing area before reaching long grass, which is almost double the average on most courses. 

Despite this, I know some would still prefer all grass to be cut down.

However, even if we wanted to do this, it would only be possible if all other areas of the course were neglected.

Here’s a few reasons why –

  • Our course is 250 acres, 3 times larger than the nearest course to us.
  • We already mow 100 acres of grass for play, still more area than many courses have land in total.
  • Fuel usage would double.
  • Machinery would need to be upgraded and maintenance requirements would increase.
  • Application of products would have to be reduced, such as the treating of Clover.
  • Mowing frequency would reduce on all other areas meaning, greens, tees, fairways would reduce significantly in quality.

These are only some of the things that need to be considered and as you can probably see, we do our best to consider all the factors so we are able to offer the best possible conditions we can for golfers to enjoy.

One thing it does do though, is highlight the fact we offer incredible value for money when it comes to golf membership!

It also gives us great pride in our accomplishments this last year, knowing we were one of very few clubs to reduce membership fees because of lockdown closures during the pandemic.

Changing Mentality

For a long time now it has been a given that grass is there to be cut. We see this on roadsides, town centres and parks all across the country. The biggest question is why? The answer is usually so it looks ‘neat and tidy’, but is that actually the case? There’s no doubt that a well manicured fairway or golf green looks amazing, but is it the same for all areas?

Anyway, that’s a debate for another time but one thing is for certain, there has to be a change in mentality. On that, it has been great to see Redcar & Cleveland council use wildflower mixes on the roundabouts locally and this has to be the way forward.

Climate change is a contentious subject, but one thing we can’t deny is the drastic decline in the natural world.

With population ever increasing and the loss of habitat across the country, be it for housing, agriculture or infrastructure, we have to do everything we can to help mitigate the loss of habitat.

You may have noticed that the areas around the hotel and car parks have been left to grow. You’d be forgiven for thinking it must be a cost saving excercise, but we actually just found ourselves asking, do we need to be mowing that area?

Mown grass is like a desert to nature, especially pollinators. I understand that the area might not look how you’d expect and there is definitely work we can do to improve the way it looks (more on this in the coming weeks), but even just long grass with a limited number of wildflowers can provide home to thousands of bees, moths, spiders, slugs etc. These then attract birds and small mammals and all of a sudden the areas have way more value than they ever did before.

I know it maybe a litttle difficult to get your head around but we believe very strongly that this is the right thing to do.

The area behind the buggy park is regularly visited by a flock of feeding Tree Sparrows

September

The month ahead continues to be very busy with golf and it would be nice if the weather remains on our side to make up for lost time.

Maintenance of the course will remain routine throughout the month, but we aim to release plans for the off season at the end of September.

Finally it would be remiss of me not to mention my team, who have been fantastic throughout. They have responded to the challenges thrown at us with positivity and with a smile on their faces, so particular thanks to them!

I’d like to also thank you all for your continued support.

Greg Fitzmaurice

Course Manager

Why not catch up with Lucy now, on the link below.

https://www.hunleygolf.co.uk/sustainability-with-lucy-august-2021/

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