The Wisley

GEO Certified® 01/2015
England, United Kingdom
Telephone: 01483 212126

Executive summary (English & local language)

The Wisley is a 27 hole golf complex, with extensive clubhouse and maintenance buildings, located to the South of the M25 and west of the A3 near their junction. The gated access road gives the first indication as to the size, scope and style of the facility providing views of the undulating course with water hazards including both lakes and the River Wey.

The land was historically agricultural and borders the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Wisley. Developed in the early 1990's, based on the designs of Robert Trent Jones, the original concept and feel were very much based on the “American” style golf course with fast greens and water hazards. With hazards guarding the greens, lateral water hazards claiming the inaccurate tee shot and speed of the greens has created a course that demands accuracy with both woods and irons. Having played the course in the early 1990's it is testament to the design that certain holes are still etched in my memory more than 20 years later.

The landscape setting reflects the composition and features of the site with with a sandy loam predominating and alluvial deposits resulting from both historic, and more recent, flood events. The ebb and flow of the River Wey evolves as part of a natural process, creating areas of succession on the margins as well as meanders changing the rivers flow, speed and depth.

The site is close to a SSSI East of Wisley Lane and is a Registered Park and Garden (England) that has required close and careful management and extensive liaison with a number of local and national stakeholders.

The resulting interaction, and discussions during the survey, show a deep understanding of the site, its context and a desire to create a programme to continue the work of softening and sympathetic management and enhancement.


Since the development of the golf course in the early 1990's the management has shifted from creating an open course with water hazards, to establishing a softer and more naturalised landscape to encourage greater biodiversity. This process has involved and encouraged clear lines of communications with a range of organisations including the Surrey Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency and the Local Authority.

The narrowing of fairways and allowance of succession from grassland to scrub and into woodland in certain areas of the site provide tangible evidence of this prevailing management style. The introduction of Gorse (Ulex europaeus) in a significant planting programme both reflects and connects the course with the surrounding landscape and the wider Surrey heath-lands so typical of many of the other great Surrey courses.

The Wisley has commissioned a range of consultations and surveys proving information and advice on habitat, species and estate management with various documents available as part of the application.

My attention was drawn to the significant consultation resulting in a naturalised management programme of the banks of the River Wey. The programme incorporates the managed loss of some areas of river bank and river flow management with natural materials being placed at key points creating changes in flow rates and direction in addition to creating habitats.

The site is not subject to any statutory designations

The choice and mix of species is the result of a combination of the requirements and playing expectations of the membership and the required inputs. The balance has resulted in the cultivation of species including Creeping bent (Agrostis stolonifera), Creeping red fescue (Festuca rubra), Annual meadow grass (Poa annua) and some Perennial meadow grass (Lolium perenne).

The combinations encouraged provide an optimum balance by allowing inputs to be minimised and player satisfaction to be maintained.

Amongst the programmes in place the gorse planting project has resulted in the creation of significant additional wild habitats and increased both the habitat size and connections to allow and encourage wildlife movement around the site.

Examples of further enhancement include encouragement of rough, river bank management, bird boxes, log piles, wild flower habitat creation and the reduction in close mown amenity grass increasing habitat and reducing fuel and man-hours in maintenance.

These programmes will be encouraged over the next few years with additional targeted consultancy to adapt and enhance the natural environment.


Potable supply over the period under consideration shows variation broadly in line with footfall although the 2013 clubhouse consumption has fallen by 3% compared to 2012.

Irrigation has been more varied but is based on a need, reflecting the rainfall totals experienced in the UK including periods of both significant rainfall and drought. The irrigation consumption looks relatively high but this reflects the significant watering required following redevelopment of the Mill course.

The discussions on site made it clear that the management are keen to reduce their consumption. A number of future projects will reduce consumption and increase self sufficiency for both clubhouse and course in the coming years.

The clubhouse is connected mains potable supply with consumption mirroring the patronage of the site. The management are raising awareness of resource consumption and a refurbishment programme has been undertaken including installation of dual flush, flow restrictors and PIR urinal controls.

Irrigation consumption is currently from a borehole and subject to an abstraction licence with higher levels of irrigation consumption declared following significant course reconstruction. These consumptions levels should fall over the next 3 years with plans already in place will migrate the irrigation source to onsite reservoir.

The irrigation system is maintained regularly to ensure system efficiency with checks carried out to detect leaks, spray arcs coverage are assessed to provide optimum coverage and defective or worn parts replaced.

Moisture metering and weather forecasting ensure that the water used on course is monitored to create a carefully targeted and managed irrigation plan to be implemented.

Clubhouse water consumption is the subject of awareness programs to encourage responsible water use. In addition, the facility has upgraded the ladies and gentlemen’s changing rooms including low flow rate taps, showers and low flush cisterns.

Irrigation use is reviewed on course and with weather forecasting to ensure minimum consumption. As part of their sustainability planning process the management have been working closely with stakeholders and are in the final stages of agreeing planning permission for the installation of a reservoir allowing 100% of the irrigation use to come from rainfall run-off and groundwater.

A local Thames Water waste-water treatment site is another possible source of irrigation water although further discussions will be required to reach a sustainable agreement.


The clubhouse is a substantial two story 1990’s construction, aligned North East/South West. The brick and block cavity walls and the roof space thought to be insulated and double glazed windows.

The design of the building is impressive with large atrium at the entrance and high ceilings in a number of areas creating a large volume for heatings and lighting. Management of the space is key to preventing unoccupied areas being serviced unnecessarily. This is an element that key staff have in hand and the zoning of the spaces are already assisting in energy reduction.

Bulb upgrades to LED and CFL have been undertaken in the main bar area and function room with further upgrades to follow over the coming months.

Heating for the clubhouse is powered by natural gas, with an encouraging fall in heating consumption over the period under review. Adjusting for a Heating degree-days comparison there is a “Like for like” reduction of approximately 14% between 2012 and 2013.

Grid electrical consumption has also fallen over the period, benefiting from the installation of the bulb upgrades, staff awareness and controls.

Fuels consumption has shown variation that could be considered largely in line with course use and activity that is always subject to weather conditions.

The overall CO2 emissions, from the energy consumed on site and from owned vehicle, has fallen by 5.5%..

There are options for the use of renewable technology on site, the roof alignment provides some opportunity, how ever discussions are ongoing to identify the alternatives available.

In addition to the LED and controls further consideration to the use of LED tubes in staff areas and the maintenance buildings. The Building Management System should also assist in reducing consumption over the next 3 year period.

Vehicle fuels are closely managed although the size of the site limits the ability to reduce consumption without possible substitution to hybrids or to bio-fuels.

Supply Chain

The Wisley is reviewing and working with suppliers to reduce delivery miles and encourage local suppliers where possible with the majority of Trades contractors located within 10 miles of the site.

Deliveries are consolidated wherever possible to reduce delivery mileage and site purchasing policy is to engage with suppliers to ensure environmental ambitions match and that waste is minimised and recycling maximised.

Suppliers are appointed based on a criteria hierarchy that includes environmental policy and ethical trading.

Reviews of suppliers are ongoing and policy will encourage local relationships with suppliers sharing the same with ethical and environmental ethos.

The local supply network currently focusses on food and external service and maintenance contractors.

Assessments carried out as part of the management process allow inputs to be minimised and carefully monitored. The communication of the management style and tolerance of low level disease on fairways during the winter period has allowed chemical use to be reduced.

The number of applications appears high, however the records confirm that many relate to small areas and spot treatments rather than blanket applications.

Fertiliser inputs are similarly assessed with the applications are split between the use of organic and inorganic products.

Waste separation and recycling systems are operated through all departments

Pollution Control

The storage facilities, inventory records and training underline the managements risk assessment and prevention programmes underline the awareness of the increased pollution risks associated with the proximity of the River Wey and its flood history.

The combination of risk factors has required, and resulted, in close management of the fuel and chemical storage areas together with significant bunded areas.

Regular checks are made, along with a close review of the storage of chemicals, fuels and oils prior to use, or awaiting collection to ensure containment of pollutants.

The clubhouse and maintenance area are both serviced by mains sewage, with a closed loop recycling system and wash-pad used for the vehicle wash-down area

Chemicals are stored in bunded-locked cabinets within the maintenance building. Spill kits are easily accessible, as are water stations and first aid facilities in the event of a staff members being affected by a spillage. Fuels and oils are stored in proprietary bunded tanks

Full records are maintained including deliveries, stocks held and include where, when and how staff access and use any fuels oils or chemicals to ensure detailed management.

Both the maintenance area and the clubhouse use bunded stores for storing oils and chemicals. Wash-down water is recycled and treated and waste products collected periodically by a licensed contractor

Weather conditions are assessed prior to spraying and buffer zones are maintained in treated areas near boundaries to prevent drift and leaching.


The Club has established The Wisley Foundation working with local community based charities and raising significant sums of money from events and competitions.

The Club employs 97 staff at peak times, and provides local employment and golf and leisure employment training at the facility.

The Sustainability Working group meets on a regular basis and includes key management representatives. This creates and encourages a questioning culture where suggestions are welcome from all the stakeholders that have clearly paid dividends.

Access is available via footpaths and bridle-paths maintained by Greens staff, with ongoing woodland and habitat management intended to enhance the site for the future.

No legal disputes advised

Internal communications are provided via newsletters, notice boards and open discussions and includes management aims and course maintenance programmes to create awareness by stakeholders

The website provides a range of information on environmental management of the site and future plans

Documentation Reviewed


The Wisley is a fantastic golf facility providing a testing golf course and significant area of habitat forming connections with SSSI's and important habitat corridors. The management of both the built and natural environment are clearly a priority with great efforts being made to reduce environmental impacts and improve habitats.

This environmental management is clearly not static but is evolving with significant future plans and encouraging desire shown by all the staff I met with during the survey.

I am very happy to recommend GEO Certification of The Wisley and look forward to seeing their progress in the next 3 years.

Certification Highlights

The Wisley have undertaken a number of projects ranging from the relatively simple to extremely complex. Al have been worthwhile and have creating environmental returns.

The bio-engineering project of the River Wey incorporates the determination to balance the needs of the Club, its members, external stakeholders and the natural environment. The projects complexity and consultations require engagement across the entire management structure but are resulting in a project that The Wisley can be rightly proud of.