Golfbaan Landgoed Bergvliet
Executive summary (English & local language)
The Landgoed Bergvliet golf course lies between the Brabant towns of Breda and Oosterhout, and the origins of the country estate hark back all the way to the Middle Ages. The 150-acre estate is privately owned by a family and comprises a pavilion, a 16th-century coach house, and an 18-hole golf course. There are advanced plans to build villas and wellness facilities on the grounds. All these components are administered by a foundation that operates the golf course and connected facilities. The golf association, was founded in 2002 by the first members who realised the construction of the course together with the owners. In 2007, landscape architects Gerard Jol and Michiel van der Vaart succeeded in integrating the course in the small-scale agrarian landscape surrounding the hamlet of Ter Aalst. The course itself feels like a free, open landscape within the framework of the wooded areas (to the south) and the strips of forest on the Mark Canal embankment (to the north). These woods are part of the National Ecological Network, which has resulted in the golf course being encircled by very high-quality nature zones.
The small team concerned with GEO consists of the manager, the owner’s son (a greenkeeper), the head greenkeeper and an IT/Electrical engineering expert. The team is supported by a range of professionals. Management considers sustainability a matter of fact. The management, the hospitality services and the estate owners are in daily contact with one another, and there is a lot of productive contact with the members. The owners and the association support and encourage GEO.
Golfbaan Landgoed Bergvliet ligt tussen de Brabantse steden Breda en Oosterhout. De oorsprong van het landgoed voert terug naar de middeleeuwen. Het 60 ha grote landgoed is familiebezit en bestaat uit een paviljoen, een koetshuis uit de zestiende eeuw en een18 holes golfbaan. Er zijn vergevorderde plannen voor de realisatie van villa’s en welness op het landgoed. Alle onderdelen zijn ondergebracht in een stichting die de baan en overige voorzieningen exploiteert. De golfvereniging is in 2002 opgericht door de eerste leden die via participatie samen met de eigenaren de aanleg van de baan mogelijk hebben gemaakt. Landschapsarchitecten Gerard Jol en Michiel van der Vaart wisten in 2007 de golfbaan goed te integreren in het kleinschalig agrarische landschap rond de buurtschap Ter Aalst. De baan zelf ervaar je als een vrij open landschap binnen besloten kaders die bestaan uit bosgebied (zuid) en bosstroken op de dijk van het Markkanaal (noord). Deze bossen zijn onderdeel van de EHS (natuurnetwerk Nederland), waardoor de golfbaan in zijn geheel door hoogwaardige natuur omgeven wordt.
Het kleine team dat zich bezig houdt zich bezig met GEO bestaat uit de manager, de zoon van de eigenaar (tevens greenkeeper ), de hoofdgreenkeeper en een deskundige ICT/Electra. Het team wordt door professionals ondersteund. Duurzaamheid wordt vanzelfsprekend gevonden. Er is dagelijks contact met de horeca en de eigenaren van het landgoed. Er is een goedlopend en geregeld contact met de vereniging. GEO wordt door de eigenaren en vereniging gedragen en gestimuleerd.
The golf course lies in the sand-soil landscape of the Brabant region, beautifully framed by the tree wall along the canal, the Munnikenhof Line (18th-century fortifications), low inland dunes studded with trees, and a former sand extraction pit. All these landscape elements have a designated nature reserve status and are home to a tremendous variety of fauna and flora. The soil consists of sand and a large part has been greatly enriched through centuries of fertilisation (mollisol). Groundwater lies at varying depths, which is another great biodiversity booster.
Bergvliet has a very clear vision for its own identity, which is linked to the characteristic features of the historical landscape that was still functional and recognisable a century ago. In a sense, golf players stroll through the entire history of the Brabant landscape, finding wilderness, farmland, and country estate fields.
A field biologist surveyed the most important species groups in 2013, although there is still little known about the composition of the breeding bird population. The area’s biodiversity will be assessed again in 2017; a prelude toward the triennial monitoring proposed in the course management plan. The nesting boxes that were installed in 2016 have been studied for their effectiveness; the results were described in a highly detailed report.
One of the key characteristics of this course is its sheer openness, with all the natural values that come with a course like that. This openness is in part the result of the young age of the afforestation, but open landscape types are also part of the final goal that the management has in mind (this does not include the estate zone). The fairways are kept as minimal as the game allows (approx. 15 acres at the moment, which is exceptionally little), allowing the course to reserve as much space for the development of nature as possible.
The high natural values are made possible by heathlands and oligotrophic grasslands, open water, and all intermediate gradients. The golf course is home to a few extraordinary plant species and great number of butterflies and dragonflies. The transitional zones toward the surrounding forest plots and the rising vegetation also provide a wealth of opportunities, in particular for birds. The percentage of heath and dry grasslands is on the rise thanks to the continued efforts to bring the grasslands back to their original, more oligotrophic state. These areas amount to about 7.5 acres (estimate) at the moment. Open bodies of water are found in the form of ponds and a dozen pools along the outer edges of the grounds. Due to the variety in locations, sizes and depths, in combination with very suitable land biotopes, these form perfect habitats for amphibians and dragonflies. A surprising and striking feature are the tiny plots of cropland where we find winter wheat: if properly managed, these plots can serve as year-round foraging areas for birds and mammals.
The greens consist of Festuca rubra and Agrostis species, and the tees are dominated by Lolium perenne. The fairway is home mostly to Festuca rubra, but also to grasses that prefer a more eutrophic soil. Festuca is gradually gaining ground. One can find meadow grass (Poa annua) here and there, but it is slowly withering away and does not pose a major problem.
The course management plan (2014) provides insight into the current and the potential natural values for the area. The connected progress analysis discusses the bottleneck issues and solutions in great detail. The old oaks and birches are integrated into the design, but most trees can be found in the young planting plots, home to silver birch, Scots pine, beech, shadbush, and broom. Tree management is performed in-house by the greenkeepers. The unwanted invasive species, such the northern red oak, are under control. Heath has been returning to the former pasture lands, thanks to applying heath sods to the sodded roughs, although their efforts are still limited to a number of smaller plots. The efforts to bring the rough back to the original, more oligotrophic state are quite successful, expect in the areas where the old, heavily enriched soil (former agrarian land) has not been excavated. This is a matter of time. The management has refrained from mowing the backs of the bunkers to make them more natural.
More than 60 nesting boxes were hung in 2016, under the supervision of a local ornithologist. A great number of these boxes already attracted residents in the very first year; these new residents included starlings, who are very welcome in the battle against leather jackets.
The golf course is completely enclosed by National Ecological Network areas. To be able to comply with the statutory nature compensation obligations, the management is currently purchasing plots on the southern edge of the course, which will be designated and designed as natural reserve areas. All fences have been removed to allow the golf course and the woods to blend into each other without any obstacles.
The groundwater lies rather close to the surface in these low sand soils, creating a landscape where dry and wet biotopes are within a stone’s throw of each other. The golf course design includes a chain of interlinked, natural ponds. The largest pond is also the driving range, where players use floating balls to practice their swing. These ponds serve as basins for drainage water. Thanks to the highly permeable sand soil, artificial drainage is hardly necessary at all; drainage has only recently been installed at a few problematic sites.
The water level of the adjacent canal can sometimes drop quite a bit, causing the pond levels to drop as well. This hardly poses a problem at all. Considering the rather high iron levels in the southern ponds, it seems likely that these bodies of water are affected by groundwater seepage. Runoff from the parking lot and the roof drains into the ground. The driving range structure’s roof has been turned into a sedum green roof.
Water consumption levels are normal, taking into account how intensively the buildings are being used. The on-course sanitary facilities are linked to the public water network and have their own water meter. Machines are cleaned using on-site surface water, or air (weather permitting). Water consumption is gauged once a year.
Sprinkling uses surface water that is buffered through a system of ponds and is finally pumped from the largest pond, where a fountain has been installed for aeration purposes. The sprinkling system has been completely computerised. Sector sprinklers allow for a precise dosing. The total volume of the water used for sprinkling is quite low and gradually decreasing, thanks to the draught-resistant grasses. A soil moisture meter will be installed in 2017; this will allow for very precise measuring of the irrigation levels. Furthermore, the sprinkler heads will be adjusted to save water.
The facilities are fitted with water-efficient faucets and showers. There has been a slight decrease in the total tap water consumption. The focused efforts have also led to a gradual drop in the sprinkling water consumption levels.
When assessing the consumption figures, it is very important to keep in mind that we are dealing with a complex of different buildings that are all used both intensively and continually. The complex consists of a pavilion with the reception area, golf shop, golf accommodation and offices, restaurant, grand café and two meeting rooms (built in 2007) and the old coach house that is used for parties and functions (16th-century building, renovated in 2009). Sustainability and insulation were key points in the new constructions and the renovation. The maintenance facility is housed in a relatively simple shed that is part of the buildings of the Ter Aalst hamlet. The management has not ordered an energy audit, but the consumption numbers are properly tracked and registered.
There are no individual meters. Electricity consumption is rather high, which is to be expected for such a multifunctional complex. Part of the power consumption is caused by the electric stoves in the kitchen. The parking lot is permanently lighted for safety reasons. There are 12 electric golf carts and 2 Gators. The pavilion and coach house are heated with high yield condensing boilers. Heating is linked to the ventilation system. Natural gas consumption levels are relatively low, considering the size of the accommodation. The maintenance facility has its’s own propane heating.
The management is planning to purchase 100% of the course’s power from renewable energy sources once the energy supplier contract can be revisited in 2019. There are plenty of surfaces that can be used to generate solar power on-site.
The management is vigilant about tackling lights that burn purposelessly. The large glass walls and skylights usually provide plenty of daylight inside. Dimmer switchers, timers and sensors are used to combat pointless lighting. Many bulbs have been replaced with LED lights, for instance in the clubhouse, on the parking lot and out on the terrace. Fixtures that have to be modified for LED lights will follow in the future, and the driving range lighting is also being discussed. The maintenance facility has been fitted with daylight domes and movement sensors. The kitchen equipment is modern and generally has the energy label A.
The general mentality of the management is to generate, purchase, produce, and process as much as possible on-site or at least very nearby. The overall balance of excavating and applying soil is even, meaning that there is a so-called ‘closed soil balance’. The on-site sand extraction and recycling deserves special mention. The management does not have a specific purchasing protocol.
For Bergvliet, conscious purchasing is nothing less than a matter of fact. Maintenance is largely executed in-house, which saves tremendously on transport. Only the sharpening of the reel blades is outsourced to an external company. The course owns hybrid mowing machines and electrical Gator carts, but the management is not very enthusiast about these because of the limited working radius. Management and greenkeepers keep a keen eye on market developments in these areas.
Key examples of a conscious, environmentally-friendly purchasing policy are the short distances and low frequencies of the transport, the habit of purchasing large or combined volumes, choosing for free-range meat, and combining deliveries to limit the number of suppliers for the hospitality patron to only three. Bundling several orders into one delivery is also practiced by the greenkeeping department for products such as fertilisers and pesticides.
The use of fertiliser has been low and dropping over the past period, thanks to the small total surface area of the fairways and the low fertilisation rate. The turfgrass species used here do not require a lot of nutrients. Pesticides are used very sparingly as well. The Merit Turf granular insecticide has not been used for a number of years now. Since 2016, the leather jackets have been combatted with starlings.
Paper, glass, and residual waste are stored in semi-undergrounds containers. Plastic is not collected separately yet. Waste is removed once every two weeks. The amount of waste produced by the course is tracked using the pick-up receipts. Fairways clippings are not removed; other clippings and woodchips are used as green manure at a nearby corn field. This requires the temporary storage of clippings in a tiled depot.
Bergvliet has drawn up a proper, operational environmental care plan (2013) with clear action points, a planning, and a division of tasks and responsibilities. Annual checks and inspections make sure that all environmental laws and regulations are complied with at all times. These pertain to the storage of fuels and waste materials, and their processing.
The sprinkling water quality is chemically tested by an external firm every two or three years; the quality has been good and stable. The pipes are cleared every two weeks. Tap water is analysed every six months.
All waste water drains into the sewer, after passing through oil and grease traps, including the runoff from the wash pad and the paved parking lot. The on-course sanitary facilities are also connected to the sewer.
Chemicals are stored in a ventilated, fire-resistant, closed cabinet, in accordance with the Environmental Management Act. The set-up is assessed every year. The acquisition and use of pesticides is carefully registered and there is a digital backup.
The double-walled diesel tank is located outside, directly behind the maintenance facility. The hose runs inside, where vehicles are tanked on top of an impermeable concrete floor. Flammable materials have recently been moved away from the tank and staff are now keeping the area properly clear. The impermeable floor is inspected every year, and inspected by an external, certified specialist every six years. Not all elements are placed on impermeable floors.
Pesticides and fertilisers are never used within a three-metre zone around the water edge or the forest edge, and never used in oligotrophic areas. The use of electric/hybrid machines significantly decreases the risks of spilling oil on the course.
The management and staff are ambitious and together have the proper training to work toward a sustainable, open, hospitable golf course. The management has all kinds of intensive contact with the surrounding community and they are considered intensifying the communication efforts. However, there currently is no communication plan.
The course employs about 40 people, a small part of them on part-time basis. The restaurant and golf shop are run by the management itself. Employees are following additional trainings in all kinds of areas (safety, medical, nature management). The greenkeepers attend NGA and NGF lectures and courses. The management will soon launch an incident log.
The GEO team is small but stable and receives professional support. Greenkeepers from several golf courses in the area exchange knowledge and expertise. The management is constructing nature compensation plots together with the Oosterhout Nature Society and the forest ranger. The manager keeps a proper GEO archive, both digitally and on paper.
The golf course radiates openness on all sides: there are no fences and the grounds are intersected by several public (hiking/cycling) paths. The restaurant and grand café are open to all passers-by. The management does not only participate in the annual Open Golf day, but also is also host to public activities such as Cycling and Dining programmes. The management works closely together with local businesses and the relationships with the neighbours (companies, residents, conservationists) are generally good. Some neighbours even work on the course and are free to play golf here.
The course was constructed on the fields of the Bergvliet country estate, and the history of the surroundings is highly tangible: the houses of Ter Aalst, the country roads, the old oaks. The exterior of the former coach house was restored to its original style. The Munnikenhof Line lies to the west of the grounds: a military defence structure dating back to 1701 (currently a natural monument under the auspices of the Forestry Commission). The course furniture is kept simple and is made from natural materials. The rare paths that are paved, are paved with sand-coloured grit.
There are currently no legal disputes or active planning procedures. The collaborations with the local environmentalist movement in the preparations for the construction of the villas on an adjacent plot went smoothly.
The active internal communication uses the newsletters and foyer signs. There is daily contact with the operators of the restaurant and the golf shop. Customer satisfaction is monitored and the results are incorporated in the management efforts.
The Bergvliet attitude of ‘sustainability and hospitality’ is communicated through press releases and pamphlets. The golf course’s website is accessible, appealing, and has a professional design. The contents show the close ties between the community and the course. Unfortunately, any GEO-related information is quite limited and not very visible.
- Action Plans and Project Proposals
- Awareness Raising Materials
- Certification Report
- Environmental Data
- Environmental Policy
- External Surveys and Reports
- Internal Reports
Rarely does one encounter a golf course that is so intimately woven into the surrounding landscape, nature (the course is encircled by National Ecological Network areas), and society. Everything fits together on the Landgoed Bergvliet golf course: the players, the business contacts, the neighbours, the hikers and cyclers that have access to the area, the restaurant, the meeting rooms and the grand café. Add to that a wonderful rural calm and the famous Brabant hospitality, and you’ll have a fantastic basis.
Since the very beginning, the management has been working on bringing back the characteristic heath that is interrupted here and there by clumps of Scots pine and birch. Taking the well thought-out list of action points, the annual planning, and the task division as a guiding principle, the management will continue to work on improving the golf course’s nature, landscape and sustainability. After the audit, the Continual Improvement Points for 2017-2020 were immediately incorporated into the GEO document, which deserves some praise as well! Bergvliet is properly prepared for a sustainable future.
The conclusion already mentioned the hospitality and the sheer accessibility of the course, in combination with the wide range of other recreational possibilities in the area and in the buildings: this naturally is one of the highlights!
The management has a clear vision for the golf course’s future, with the grounds being divided into three landscape zones that all have their own, unique identity: (1) the country estate, (2) farmland, and (3) wilderness. Because of the relatively young age of the course, there is still ample opportunity to adjust the trajectory of these developments, for instance by moving trees that match better with a different part of the grounds. It would be even more perfect if each of the three zones were to be paired with a limited number of target species; species whose development are tracked closely and that can help focus the identity of the zones. These species could then be considered Bergvliet’s nature ambassadors.
The most striking sustainability features at this golf course are the high intensity of use of the buildings, and the efforts to keep the transport distances to a minimum. The management always keeps an eye on these issues.