Frilford Heath

GEO Certified® 07/2016
England, United Kingdom
Telephone: 01865 390864

Executive summary (English & local language)

Frilford Heath Golf Club is a large golf club that encompasses a nationally important Site of Scientific Interest. As such, the course management is aligned to the conservation of this natural heritage whilst promoting a high quality golf facility. It has taken the opportunity to implement a wide range of environmental and sustainability initiatives as well as identifying future opportunities for improvement. this assessment has concluded that Frilford Heath Golf Club should receive GEO Certification.


The majority of Frilford Heath Golf Club is notified as Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which is a statutory nature conservation designation of national importance. The SSSI includes all of the red and green golf courses and extends onto approximately a third of the blue course. An estimated 75% of the land associated with the club is SSSI. As such, nature conservation plays a significant role in how the course and other areas are managed. The Natural England citation for Frilford Heath SSSI notes its value for acid grassland, heathland and fens. It has an exceptionally diverse range of flora and fauna notably plant and invertebrate species including national rarities. The gently undulating landscape is underlain with grits and limestone although leaching has resulted in dry acid soils being developed with no contact with the underlying calcarious geology. This juxtaposition of acid and alkaline conditions contributes to the unique nature of the habitats at Frilford Heath, including those within the Club lands.

Since 2009, a further condition assessment of the SSSI by Natural England concluded it was unfavourable but recovering, which indicates that at the point of survey (2012) the course management regime was helping to restore and enhance the features of ecological interest. The current condition has not been reported, but the site visit associated with this GEO evaluation identifies some excellent habitat management activities that will help support the long term maintenance of the SSSI.

Frilford Heath golf Club maintains consultation with Natural England as part of the ongoing course management. Certain operations are formally listed as having the potential to impact on the SSSI and as such there is a statutory duty for these to be avoided and in some cases managed through formal consent.

The Club obtains detailed support from the STRI and local ecologists. Ecological surveys have been used to develop detailed Ecological Management Plans for each course.

The Club land includes a range of semi-natural habitats including: calcareous fen, lowland dry acid grassland with heathland, scrub, small areas of woodland, individual trees and other areas of less intensively managed grassland and open water. There are a small number of streams within the courses.

As well as the SSSI notification, parts of the course are designated as a non-statutory Local Wildlife Site; further indication of the value of the golf courses as valued habitats.

Turf grass species are carefully selected to maintain a high standard of golf course throughout the year. The selected grasses have developed a sward that responds well to local soil and microclimate conditions. The STRI provides an Agronomist to help manage the turf grass.

A wide range of nature conservation activities are incorporated into the management of the golf club. These include: minimising the extent of amenity/turfgass areas to promote the more valuable semi-natural acid grasslands, which in turn increases the size of habitat patches. Habitat corridors are maintained across the site and include grassland/heathland corridors, ditches, streams and areas of shrubs/trees. Woodland edge habitats have been maintained and thinning of trees occurs to increase the diversity of the ground flora. A cut and collect process is implemented that allows the removal of material and a reduction in nutrient levels over time. Additional specific management activities have been identified by consultation (Natural England and the STRI) and are being implemented. These include the provision of bat and bird boxes and the creation of deadwood habitats.


The club is in the process of embarking on the implementation of a new irrigation system and club house renovation/rebuild that will increase the level of efficiency in water use/management. Currently, the management of water follows good practice principals and the irrigation system is computer controlled.

The majority of water is sourced from surface water (a large reservoir is present at the Club) and to a lesser extent from mains water. No water audits have been undertaken as yet. This is an ambition once the new irrigation system and club house efficiency measures have been introduced.

The recorded levels of water usage across the clubhouse, maintenance facilities and golf course between 2013 and 2016 shows an overall trend for reducing water consumption since 2013.

The current irrigation system is computer controlled and is used to irrigate greens and tees only. It is serviced annually and checked for efficiency every month. Irrigation efficiency measures include: overseeing greens with bent grass, effective aeration, watering at night and using a pre-water cycle to prime turf or greens ahead of the main irrigation activity. Soil moisture is measures and used to inform irrigation activities. A wetting agent is used and system pressure is also monitored.

Water efficiency has been increased within the clubhouse toilets. Urinal sensors help reduce water wastage. Further reductions in water usage have been achieved by modifying the volume toilets use to flush with.


The club is in the process of embarking on the implementation of a club house renovation/rebuild that will increase the level of energy efficiency. Currently, the management of the Club has been informed by an energy audit (2010) that highlighted key areas where efficiency could be achieved and through the installation of LED lighting in the clubhouse.

Energy supply is provided through non-renewable grid electricity, supported by petrol, diesel and LPG. A review of consumption levels from 2013 to 2015 demonstrates a fall in energy use, in particular the level of non-renewable grid electricity.

The Club has an electric hybrid vehicle as part of its maintenance fleet although the size of the Club land means that this is less effective than conventionally fuelled vehicles.
The Club has investigated introducing renewable energy generation and will be revisiting these options as part of future development activities when the best efficiencies can be achieved.

An energy audit has identified the areas where energy wastage is occurring and where energy savings can be made. The introduction of LED lighting has enabled energy and cost savings to be made. Motion sensor lighting has been installed in the locker rooms and green keeping complexes. Staff are educated on methods to help increase energy efficiency. The Club has investigated a wide range of initiatives to promote green travel. Facilities such as showers, lockers etc have been implemented. The very rural location of the club significantly limits the opportunities available.

Supply Chain

Because of the size of the Club and its rural location, a buying solution through a consortium offers the best solution to the business. However, opportunities to use local suppliers are taken whenever possible.

Certified products are used where appropriate. Local suppliers are used whenever possible, taking into account the operating requirements of the business. Procurement of certain materials without packaging is also adopted where possible.

Although the majority of individual suppliers are sourced beyond 10km, the golf club uses over 90 suppliers within 10km, demonstrating the economic benefits of its operations.

Green keeping activities include a range of methods to minimise turf grass inputs including, regular aeration, maintaining a low organic level in the upper soil horizon, maximising disease and drought tolerant grass species, verti-draining and hollow-coring. Fertiliser use at Frilford Heath has remained consistent over the last three years. Only the greens and tees are fertilised, which helps minimise effects on the more sensitive and valued roughs and ecologically important habitats. This is also the case for pesticide use. Non-chemical weed control is also implemented e.g. for ragwort.

The Club has a robust waste recycling and re-use policy in place. It recycles glass, plastic, aluminium, metal and paper/cardboard. It re-uses grass clippings, cores and turf, sand, wood/timber. Oil is separated and recovered in the maintenance areas.

Pollution Control

As a SSSI, the Club is acutely aware of the risk associated with pollution and undertakes its work accordingly. Minimal fertiliser and pesticide use is a key part of this, together with use of appropriately trained staff along with pollution response kits. Specific vehicle wash down areas and oil separators are used for the green keeping equipment. Waste water is discharged to mains server and septic tank.

Weekly visual inspections of water quality occur on the inflow, out on the courses and the outflow. Biological monitoring occurs on a three yearly basis.

Discharges are separated in accordance to their origin e.g. the golf course drains to surface watercourses, whilst the clubhouse discharges to a mains sewer.

Hazardous materials include detergents, cooking oils, oil filters and batteries. These are kept in secure locations and are removed from site by licensed waste carriers.

Frilford Heath Golf Club employs a range of best practice methods in it pollution prevention strategy. Fuels and other hazardous material s are kept in secure and dedicated areas, at the point of use/refilling. There are full time maintenance operators and workshops to ensure machinery is in good condition and does not leak. Appropriate pollution prevention/spill kits are provided and relevant staff have been trained in their use.

The approach of only using the minimum amount of slow release fertiliser and pesticide on limited areas of the course (greens and tees) minimises the risk of diffuse pollution. All waterbodies are surrounded by well vegetated buffer strips and certain parts of the SSSI do not have any chemical applications. Soil erosion is minimised through the extensive vegetation cover at the Club.


The Club is in a relatively rural location and as such the local community is dominated by its residential neighbours although its community outreach extends into the wider area.

The Club is, itself a large local employer, especially considering the rural location of the golf club.It invests in training and good working conditions and as such staff retention is high. 39 full time members of staff have been recorded along with 20 part time staff. Environmental education includes: pesticide management, water efficiency, accidents and emergencies, conservation awareness and specific conservation skills for the green keeping team, waste minimisation, energy saving, awareness of the 10 year and 5 year environmental management plan.

The sustainability working group comprises the General Manager, consultants and Local Government representatives.

Community relationships are good with regular contact with the 40 neighbouring properties. The Club works closely with the local MP, Natural England and the Abingdon Green Gym. Non-Golf activities occur in the club house and local schools are actively encouraged to get into golf at Frilford Heath.

There are no designated cultural heritage assets at Frilford Heath and no formal archaeological surveys have been required though its development or operation.

Regular members newsletter, emails, website are used along with a range of social media to communicate the activities of the club to members and staff.

Social media is used to promote the Club';s activities to a wider audience. The Club is also a member of the Oxford B4 Business Group.

Documentation Reviewed


Frilford Heath Golf Club has demonstrated a high level of environmental awareness, responsibility and deliverability. The evidence submitted in conjunction with the outcome from the site assessment has enabled me to conclude that it should receive GEO Certification.

Certification Highlights

The skills and understanding of the green keeping team in relation to the sensitivity of the nationally important habitats, in conjunction with restoration work of the fen habitat was excellent. Considering the scale of Frilford Heath Golf Club, the whole operation is exceptionally well managed and this extends to its environmental and sustainability duties. Through the proposed investment in new irrigation and clubhouse facilities, it should be possible to increase the environmental benefits further.