Executive summary (English & local language)
The Delfland golf course is a Pay & Play course: a commercial course without a club, meaning that there are no member workgroups active here, but there is a relatively large number of permanent employees. The premises, measuring about 230 acres, are leased from the Midden-Delfland recreation authority. The course is situated between the A4 motorway and the village of Schipluiden, and the area does not merely constitute a green buffer but also serves as a perfect transition zone between the Delft urban area and the rural landscape of the Midden-Delfland region.
The layout and design of the 9 Par-3 holes (2001) and the first 18 holes (2004) have been subtly integrated with the strikingly empty and preserved polder (i.e., land reclamation) landscape. The design was inspired by the original marshlands that dominated the area until peat extraction began in the Middle Ages: lots of open water, hemmed by rows of reed. In 2010, the course was expanded with another nine holes that form a link course on which strong sea winds play a major role and water is less important. There are a total of three 9-hole loops that can be played in any number of combinations. Through a clever use of the natural lines of sight, the entire course grounds are perfectly embedded in the surrounding polder landscape. There is hardly any nuisance from the motorway and one really feels that one is out in the country. The two oldest loops have recently been renovated and work has started on a redesign of the 9 Par-3 holes to 6 Par-3 to 4, which will require a minor expansion into the strip of land between the golf course and the A4.
Management has always been invested in sustainability, which received additional impetus after an intern executed a baseline measurement. In 2015, the Delfland golf course launched the GEO process with some external assistance. There are three key points regarding business operations: (1) increasing communication regarding sustainability; (2) reducing energy and water consumption; and (3) improving on-course sustainability.
Golfbaan Delfland is een laagdrempelige Pay and Play baan; een commerciële baan zonder club, wat betekent dat er ook geen werkgroepen actief zijn, maar daarentegen een groot aantal mensen hier vast werk heeft. Het terrein van 95 ha omvang wordt gepacht bij het Recreatieschap Midden-Delfland. De golfbaan ligt tussen de A4 en het dorp Schipluiden en vormt niet alleen een groene buffer maar is tevens de perfecte overgang tussen de stedelijke bebouwing van Delft en het nog landelijke Midden-Delfland.
De aanleg van 9 pars 3 holes (2001) en de eerste 18 holes (2004) sluit aan op het omringende, nog opvallend lege en gaaf bewaard gebleven polderlandschap en is geïnspireerd op het moeraslandschap dat hier ooit was voor de middeleeuwse ontginning: veel open water omzoomd door rietkragen. In 2010 werd de baan uitgebreid met 9 holes met meer het karakter van een links course, waar de soms harde kustwind vrij spel heeft en water ondergeschikt is. Momenteel zijn er dus 3 lussen van 9 holes die in allerlei combinaties gespeeld kunnen worden. Voor het geheel geldt dat er een perfecte aansluiting is op het omringende polderlandschap, gebruik makend van zichtlijnen. De snelweg is nauwelijks storend, waardoor de het ‘buiten zijn’ goed beleefd wordt. De twee oudste lussen zijn onlangs gerenoveerd. Er worden voorbereidingen getroffen voor de herinrichting van de 9 pars 3 tot 6 pars 3-4 waarvoor een geringe terreinuitbreiding nodig is, namelijk een strook tussen de golfbaan en de snelweg.
Duurzaamheid was altijd al een onderdeel van de bedrijfsvoering, maar na een nulmeting door een stagiaire is hier een extra impuls aan gegeven. Met enige externe hulp is Delfland in 2015 het GEO traject gestart. De visie op de bedrijfsvoering kent drie speerpunten: (1) communicatie over duurzaamheid verhogen, (2) energie- en waterverbruik reduceren en (3) verder verbeteren van duurzaamheid op de golfbaan zelf.
The dominant feature here is the Midden-Delfland creek landscape. In the 12th century, a large swathe of the peat land that had accumulated behind the dunes was washed away by the North Sea and then filled up with black marine clay. After the sea dikes were built, the area was reclaimed in successive strips separated by meandering outflow ditches that remind one of the old creeks that used to regulate the peatlands water balance. The local soil is heavy clay with calcareous soil in the creeks. The southern half of the area still holds peat and the groundwater lies close to the surface. The polder lies about 10ft below sea level. When the older loops were constructed, the overall balance of excavating and applying soil was kept even, meaning there was a so-called ‘closed soil balance’. For the latest loop, soil has been brought in, and the holes there are slightly higher and add a rolling quality to the grounds. Another landscape outlier is the bushgrass that can be found on the rough. Periodical flooding urged the course to renovate the two older loops, where the works were recently completed. The renovations have created more room for wet nature.
Two members of a local bird workgroup perform an annual inventory on the golf course and consequently, there is a sound overview of the bird population. An external field biologist will execute a broad flora and fauna inventory in 2017, which will produce a more complete insight into the current natural values and will also reveal opportunities. What, for instance, does the golf course mean to bats, water-bound mammals (e.g., the tundra vole and the water shrew), amphibians, or dragonflies? And how can targeted management efforts and species-specific development measures encourage them?
Clumps of trees and rows of (pollard) trees have a relatively limited presence, emphasising the open character of the grounds. The planted trees mostly comprise native species, such as the black alder, Italian alder, (grey) poplar, downy birch, ash, white willow, and the pedunculate oak. Austrian pines have been planted in the northern loop, and this area has its own distinct character. The hundreds of pollard trees (white willows) are knotted annually. Since the trees grow quickly in this rich clay soil, thinning and pruning produce more and more wood, which is largely processed internally in dead hedges or as wood chips.
Birds are flourishing here. There are oystercatchers brooding in the willows and common terns enjoy the two islands that were created for them, complete with a shell layer that is touched up every year. Both these striking species are not shy at all and one can clearly hear them on the course. The grounds are also home to many marsh birds, including rare species such as the water rail, the bittern, and the bluethroat. Migratory birds such as the curlew forage here in winter. The water depth changes strongly from site to site, which has stimulated the water vegetation such as the common water-crowfoot.
The greens are dominated by bentgrass, with some 10% meadow grass. Course management balances between discouraging meadow grass (less fertiliser and water) and encouraging competing turfgrass species (re-seeding red fescue or white bentgrass, which is better suited to take on meadow grass). The meadow grass is highly susceptible to mildew, causes bald areas in winter, and requires lots of water and fertiliser. Attempts to push the meadow grass out, however, can lead to increased blooming caused by stress. Samples are taken and analysed every year to arrive at a perfect turfgrass composition and the most sustainable management possible (taking into account sprinkling, fertilisation, pesticides, mowing frequency). Course management consciously opts for a combination of different species to decrease the overall vulnerability to diseases and pests. Bluegrass, fine-leaved ryegrass, and red fescue grow on the tees, and the aim is to encourage more red fescue.
English ryegrass is growing on the tees. This species already occurred naturally due to the rich soil. The formidable restorative abilities on this high-traffic course also favour English ryegrass.
Delfland does not have a nature management plan in place, but works from the head greenkeeper’s practical experience and field knowledge. Activities are generally performed when necessary and are tailored to the specific situation.
The interlinking banks create a strong ecological cohesion. The shore vegetation is highly diverse and comprises reed belts of different ages (reed is mowed in phases and 20% is left every year), flowery rough grassland, and more open banks. Hardwood piles have been placed here and there to prevent erosion. Recently, coconut rolls have been installed and planted with river bank plants and cut at the right height on bundles of willow grafts. The water-bound biotopes blend in beautifully with the surroundings. There are a bendy creek (the Keenwatering) and a duck decoy south of the golf course in the extensively grazed fields. Both are part of the National Ecological Network.
Management wants to make the golf course more suitable for bee populations. One strip of land has been sowed with a mix of flowers and is managed as a hay meadow (2017) and the course has placed beehives. These facilities are part of the world’s first Honey Highway: a 4.5-mile flowery verge along the A4 motorway, right next to the golf course (2015).
The local bird club and the golf course together have hung over 30 nesting boxes, among others for falcons and the little owl. Starling boxes have been installed in the hopes of attracting more starlings, which will help deflect another leather jacket infestation. It seems that the sand martin wall has been situated incorrectly, as it suffers from the prevailing winds. Nests are protected during the brooding season and management makes sure not to disturb them. Shrubs will be planted in the coming years in order to increase the habitats and offer more suitable nesting sites. Candidates are the shadbush and native roses. The building of dead hedges will also be ramped up, which will further increase nesting opportunities.
The golf course lies in a polder below sea level. The lowest point lies on the southern edge: up to 10ft below sea level. There is surface water everywhere, in the form of elongated bodies of water connected to each other by small channels. The golf course follows its own water level management plan that deviates slightly from the surrounding areas: higher in summer, lower in winter, with a difference of 4-6 inches. This water level decision was negotiated with the Delfland water authorities. Sprinkling is done with on-site surface water. Three interlinked pumps provide mains pressure.
The runoff from the roof and the paved parking lot are drained back into the water system through retention ditches and a watercourse, in order to avoid overburdening the sewers. The course was renovated to resolve the regular stagnating water in the southern part of the area. Water has become a more integral part of the game and there are new wet biotopes.
The abundant surface water is used for sprinkling the grass. There are no gauges so there are no total consumption figures. Although sprinkling is done highly efficiently, the size of the course (36 holes) and the strong winds that are blowing constantly mean that the water consumption must be relatively high. Tap water consumption is higher than average, which is not surprising considering how intensively the course is used.
Surface water is pressurised using interlinked pumps that have their own electricity meters. The grass species used here are drought-resistant and the clay retains a lot of water. The system is fully automated. Greens and tees are sprinkled 2-3 times a week during the season. Fairways are only sprinkled in case of sustained droughts. A part of the fairway has not been fitted with underground sprinkling tubes and these areas are sprinkled using hoses. Discolouration is not combatted and the players increasingly consider it normal.
The course aims to use water efficiently, which is especially relevant for tap water. The facilities have been fitted with water-efficient faucets and shower heads. Customers and staff members are made aware of unnecessary water consumption. The toilets have waterless urinals (PlayPlee). The kitchen is equipped with Aquafox sinks that reduce unnecessary water consumption.
The golf club wants to generate all its own energy by 2030, meaning it will not use any natural gas or off-site electricity. The mowing machines will be fully electric by that time. The buildings are concentrated in one area and their layout is functional and geared toward intense traffic. The two-storey driving range is integrated with the restaurant, golf shop, golfpro, reception, and locker rooms. There is a remarkable amount of natural light flowing into the building. The hospitality sector is still growing. Customer surveys show that visitors would like health-oriented services to be integrated with the golf course. This will allow for an even more efficient use of the premises. Greenkeeping is housed in a large facility in the newer, northern part of the course, at a non-central location.
The fuel consumption is normal. Management has a clear insight into the energy consumption of the individual machines. The electricity consumption is relatively high, which is not unexpected considering the size of the facilities and the intensive use. The pumps are responsible for about 10% of all consumption. The patio is unheated; the parking lot and driving range are lighted at night. The high-yield heating boilers (floor and radiator heating) use natural gas.
The course switched to renewable energy from wind turbines in 2017. There are several opportunities for generating electricity on-site. The most logical option would be solar panels – there is an abundance of suitable roof surfaces.
There was an energy scan in 2015 and it was updated recently. A lighting plan is used to switch to LED lights wherever possible. Machines and appliances are only turned on when necessary; for example, the dishwasher is only turned on if there is enough to wash. In 2017, the refrigerator and freezer installations were replaced by larger but more energy-efficient versions. The beer is stored in the cellar underneath the restaurant. The energy-guzzling gas lights were replaced in 2012, but there are plans to use LED lights here as well, as soon as the quality is deemed satisfactory. Timers have been installed until then. Low-traffic rooms have been fitted with movement sensors.
Close collaborations with suppliers and staff are yielding a decrease in the overall environmental pressure. Delfland is always looking for ways to improve. Greenkeeping is outsourced to a large and efficient greenkeeping company (De Enk Groen & Golf), which is ISO- and VCA-certified and uses a proprietary quality-control system for safety and the environment.
Delfland uses a large number of suppliers. These were recently asked about their sustainability efforts, focusing on the themes of well-being, waste, pollution, use of natural resources, and awareness. De Enk greenkeeping is always on the look-out for new methods and machines, and collaborates with local and regional businesses and suppliers. They save on transport and packaging by buying in bulk.
De Enk has a large fleet of hybrid and electrical machines, including a fairway mower and two green mowers. All transporters are fully electric and there are plans to replace all mowers with electrical machines as well.
The restaurant menu is slowly becoming green. The regular hamburgers have now been replaced by ecological burgers, but there are bigger things on the horizon. There are plans to work together with local farmers, in order to stimulate ecological and local foods. There is also a plot of land right next to the golf course that can be used to grow herbs and vegetables for the restaurant. The urban environment offers plenty of opportunities for increasing the overall sustainability.
Greenkeeping strives to absolutely minimise the use of chemicals and prefers to solve mildew infestations through the self-healing capabilities of the turfgrass species (also see ‘nature’). Fertilisers are used when deemed necessary by the experienced greenkeepers and are is always tailored to the specific situation. The amounts are adjusted on a yearly basis. The fairway fertilisation machine with GPS can administer highly accurate amounts in very specific spots. Some fairways are not fertilised at all.
Airing the turf releases nitrogen, resulting in less need for fertiliser and less application of extra nitrogen. This has led to a more constant growth of the grasses. Fertilisers used here are both organic and inorganic. The fertilisers used on the greens are increasingly liquid, meaning that the dosages are lower and the growth is more constant. Delfland is keeping an eye on tests with 100% organic fertilisers conducted by other golf courses and will switch if the results are positive. There is also a local test on two identical greens to study the effects of different approaches to mildew. The Pervade soil penetrant is used on the greens to allow water to seep through more quickly, creating room for oxygen. This combats mildew and releases nitrogen.
The Merit Turf insecticide is no longer used here. There are plans to possibly cease the use of herbicides on the fairway, which will mean that visitors will simply have to tolerate white clover.
The course aims to minimise the general waste produced here and wants to recycle what is left, on the course itself if possible. The greenkeeping company strives to reuse materials as much as possible and separates its waste. Green waste is stored in a container and picked up by a certified composting company when necessary. Cut branches are increasingly used to build dead hedges. Fat and oil are collected and picked up separately. A semi-underground container was installed in 2017, which has greatly reduced the total number of transport movements. Tee-markers were replaced by wooden markers and all GEO information signs are made from FSC-certified wood.
There is no dedicated environmental care plan. The Environmental Management Act is followed closely and management considers it the absolute minimum for its environmental efforts. There are fixed annual inspections for machines, equipment, and the maintenance facility, performed by both the golf course itself and by external professionals. There is a protocol for machines that are used on a daily basis.
There is no data on the surface water quality, but it seems satisfactory for the time being. There are no signs of salinisation, which is of course an important issue in this coastal region.
All sanitary facilities in the main building and the greenkeeping facility are connected to the sewer. There are no facilities on the course itself. The greenkeeping facility and the restaurant are fitted with oil and grease traps.
Registration of all chemicals in a log means that the stocks overview is always up to date. Greenkeeping has a proper calamity plan. All necessary calamity resources are present in the greenkeeping facility and on the course.
The packaging of pesticides and fertilisers is cleaned and properly disposed of. The greenkeeping facility has a new, certified impermeable floor and there are properly-tested drip trays and a chemicals cabinet. The 2017 double-walled tank sits in a drip tray.
There are a number of measures to prevent pollution on the golf course. The course uses human- and environmentally-friendly Aspen fuel for the two-stroke machines. The chainsaw is greased with organic oil.
Clippings are temporarily stored in container to make sure the leachate doesn’t seep into the soil. Chemicals are used sparingly and carefully, and there is a clear buffer zone around the water and the embankments.
It is clear that the customer is king at Delfland. The course performed a customer survey 2016, focusing on golf, health, green, social, and comfort. This has led to a long list of opportunities, for instance in the appreciation for a golf course that treats nature and the environment with respect and prioritises the quality of the landscape. Increasing the communication with customers and other stakeholders (governments, environmental organisations, local businesses, and neighbours) is very important to the course. Delfland hopes to receive the certificate to attest to the results of its efforts.
The golf course provides employment to no fewer than 90 people. Course management, the restaurant, the golf shop and the golfpro are all handled in-house, and greenkeeping is outsourced to a large, green company managing 20 courses. As this commercial course does not have its own club, there are no volunteers. The greenkeepers have their spraying licences and a nature legislation certificate. There are plenty of emergency response officers.
There is no dedicated GEO workgroup, but the head greenkeeper and one of the managers drive the sustainability efforts. There is a horizontal organisational structure in which the managers communicate clearly and openly, and constantly inspire each other. The staff stays informed about the latest developments through the NVG branch association, workshops on the Green Deal, and conferences. The management’s open attitude and the head greenkeeper’s knowledge and passion are highly commendable.
The regional recreation authority has created a Tourist Transfer Point near the entrance to the golf club, where people can park their car and explore the area on foot or by bike. Cycling and hiking routes crisscross the region and the course itself. There are plans for a nature path between the golf course and the motorway. The restaurant welcomes all visitors. There are monthly Open House Days where interested people are introduced to the course and to the sport of golf.
There are collaborations with among other the Hodenpijl hamlet, the Midden-Delfland water authorities, the Midden-Delfland recreation authority, and the Dutch Bird Protection Agency. There is an organic restaurant and lodge next to the course. Organic fruit and vegetables are grown all over the area. There are good contacts with the neighbours, which are mostly private individuals.
To the south, the course borders on the Zuidkade polder dike. There are no authentic landscape elements on the course itself, but with its rows of knotted willows, long bodies of water, and reed belts, the course fits in with the landscape perfectly. The shell paths are also very regional, but they do require a lot of work because the shells tend to move to the sides of the path. The on-course shelters are not particularly attractive but they are screened by ivy and rows of alder trees.
Visitors are kept informed about the course, activities, management, and GEO subjects by means of the digital ‘Delfland Forebode’ magazine. There are plans to build information signs at special sites on the course in 2017.
The extensive, highly accessible website has plenty of information for themes surrounding GEO, nature, and sustainability. The bird safari (early bird excursion) also welcomes non-golfers. The greenkeeping company manages twenty other golf courses as well and the greenkeepers share knowledge and experiences.
The Delfland Golf Course is a modern course that has balanced commercial and sustainability objectives since its very beginning. The ambitions, engagement, and dedication of the management and the greenkeeping department are strong. They are committed to working toward a future in which the course’s environmental impact is minimal and it no longer uses any fossil fuels. Many of the continual improvement points in this report were already taken up and explored during the audit period. There is a great confidence that the sustainable approach can go hand in hand with expanding and developing the Delfland golf course in the future. I, Paul van Kan, independent accredited verifier, recommend that Golfbaan Delfland be awarded GEO Certified status for excellence in environmental management.
Delfland has a compact, clear, and practical document where the vision on the course has been translated into objectives, duties, and actions spread out over three periods. For this golf course, sustainability is not an interesting trend but a normal, integral part of a healthy business.
The self-healing capabilities of the healthy turf are a top priority. There are lots of innovations regarding fertilisation and combatting or preventing mildew, supported by the aggregated experience of twenty golf courses, exchanges, and trainings.
The course’s design has been superbly attuned to the regional identity. There are beautiful lines of sight into the surrounding lands, making history legible and tangible (duck decoy, a meandering waterway, old farmsteads with shady yards, a church in the Hodenpijl hamlet).