Golfclub De Koepel
Executive summary (English & local language)
Golf club De Koepel manages a compact 18-hole course stretching over an area of approximately 50 hectares. The course can be found in the Salland region, between the towns of Wierden and Rijssen, and it lies between a railway line and a provincial road. The club does not own the land. The surrounding area is dominated by agrarian operations. There are no nature reserves or National Ecological Network areas nearby, nor does the golf course lie within the Natura 2000 influence sphere.
The first nine holes were constructed by the English golf architect Penning in 1983 in an existing forest area, with at its core a remainder of the former heathlands. 9 holes were added to the course on its norther edge in 2003, after a design by Allan Rijks. The club currently has no further expansion plans. De Koepel aspires to be a relatively open golf course embedded in the heath landscape, intersected by oak lanes and strips of forest with an open thicket, which is characterised by the shadbush, among other species. The classic English heath course is considered the great example to follow. The differences between the south-western and the north-eastern part of the course, which result from the different start situations and the developmental phases, will gradually fade away over time.
De Koepel golf club launched their Committed to Green programme quite early , and they were first certified in 2008. The certificate was converted to a GEO in 2010, and the first audit on basis of international GEO criteria was performed in 2014, when the certificate was renewed. In the recent period, GEO has been somewhat pushed into the background due to changes in the board (especially registration and safeguarding fell behind), although sustainability was not forgotten from a practical point of view. In 2016, the GEO was re-launched with some external assistance. The GEO work group currently comprises the greenkeeper and the course commissioner, who are looking for additional members.
Golfclub De Koepel beheert een compacte 18 holes golfbaan van ongeveer 50 ha. De baan ligt in Salland, halverwege de plaatsen Wierden en Rijssen, tussen spoorlijn en provinciale weg. De grond is niet in eigendom. De baan wordt omgeven door overwegend agrarisch gebied. Er zij geen beschermde natuurgebieden of EHS-gebieden in de directe omgeving en evenmin ligt de baan binnen de invloedsfeer van en Natura2000-gebied.
De eerste 9 holes zijn aangelegd in 1983 door de Engelse golfarchitect Penning in een bestaand bosgebied, waar in de kern nog een restant van de voormalige heide bewaard was gebleven. In 2003 werd de baan aan de noordoostzijde met 9 holes uitgebreid naar ontwerp van Alan Rijks. Er zijn geen uitbreidingswensen. De koepel ambieert een relatief open golfbaan in een heidelandschap, onderbroken door eikenlanen en bosstroken met een open struiklaag waarin o.a. krentenboompje kenmerkend is. De klassieke Engelse heidebaan dient als grote voorbeeld. De verschillen als gevolg van startsituatie en ontwikkelingsfase tussen het zuidwestelijk en noordoostelijk deel zullen geleidelijk vervagen.
De Koepel is al vroeg gestart met het Committed to Green programma en werd in 2008 gecertificeerd. In 2010 werd het certificaat omgezet naar GEO en in 2014 vond de eerste audit plaats aan de hand van de internationale GEO-criteria. Het certificaat kon worden verlengd. In verband met wijzigingen in het bestuur is GEO vervolgens wat op de achtergrond geraakt (m.n. registratie en borging bleven liggen), hoewel praktische gezien duurzaamheid niet uit beeld raakte. In 2016 is GEO met enige externe hulp weer opgepakt. De GEO werkgroep bestaat momenteel uit de greenkeeper en de baancommisaris en is op zoek naar versterking.
Around 1850, one could still find an expansive heath landscape on this arid sand oil; a zone between the old farm fields of Wierden and the hamlet of Huurne, and wetter grazing lands along the Regge river. The area was once known as the Wierden Dunes: a slightly rolling heath landscape, interspersed with marshy depressions or fens. The oak lanes are over 100 years old, dating back to the era of the De Koepel country estate. When the golf course was constructed, the design principle incorporated the original soil, the relief of the sand cover, and the natural drainage – no soil was shipped out or brought in. Thanks to the large biotope variety, the area is remarkable rich in birds and mammals. The combination of heath, sunny forest mantles, and different bodies of water may in time also produce some amphibian surprises. Several decades ago, one could, for instance, still find tree frogs and crested newts here.
There is no recent nature inventory. The club is reasonably aware of the diversity of species thanks to observations from 2008 and 2009, and the club’s participation in the annual Bird Watching Day. There have been no repeated vegetation surveys or monitoring efforts.
This area is home to a beautiful broad palette of biotopes: two small beech forests (1 ha), an original heath area with old juniper trees where a grown-over section has been successfully restored through sodding (1.3 ha), old oak lanes, open water with steep banks, soggy shores, bank roughs and seepage zones, pools, open forest strips with oak, Scots pine, and birch, thick young (birch) scrubs, small sandy dunes (waste area), and extensively-grazed pastures with a wealth of herbs. The final stage here is oak-birch forest and oak-beech forest in the more eutrophic parts. These types of vegetation should be guiding when planting new forest.
The highly-varied bird population reflects the range in biotopes and gradients. They include many farmyard, scrub, and forest-mantle species (house sparrow, barn swallow, common redstart, lesser whitethroat, green woodpecker). The number of different mammal species will also be relatively high (at least 4 kinds of bat, deer, rabbit, mustelids, and several kinds of mice and shrew). The arid soil is where one encounters the more extraordinary kinds of plants: heather, common heather, tufted bulrush, mouse-ear hawkweed, grey hair-grass, and lesser hawkbit. The forest edges, heath, and arid vegetation are all suitable habitats for the viviparous lizard and for butterflies. The presence of all kinds of water biotopes provides ample opportunity for amphibians and dragonflies.
There has been a successful transition to using turfgrass species that are attuned to the local situation. The greens are dominated by festuca rubra, with some agrostis here and there. One finds festuca, agrostis and poa pratensis on the tees, fairways and semi-rough. Meadow grass has been almost completely removed. The fairway still has a bit of holcus in it. Discolouration is accepted as a natural part of the local landscape. The annual monitoring and the accompanying recommendations (from STRI) are aimed at keeping the turfgrass healthy and resilient. Airing the greens and giving them more light is one of the measures that have been suggested, and this has been pursued since 2016, through phased and extensive thinning. The club is also overseeding the turf with festuca, using small plant pots, allowing the seeds to drop into small pits filled with dress-sand, providing the plants with some protection during their first stages, which endows them with increased resistance.
De Koepel has an excellent course development plan/nature management plan in place for the period 2015-2019. It was drawn up by the board in 2014. The plan distinguishes between 12 management units that each have their own desired target situation, and detailed management actions are described per individual hole. Thinning the forest plots is one of the key measures, and it has a dual objective: bringing more air and light onto the greens – which stimulates a healthy turf – and creating more room for the development of a thicket strip or a mantle of heath.
The nature rough is mowed extensively. The heath is maintained through short, intensive grazing. A part that had been grown over with grass was successfully sodded a few years back. The sods were thrown into a pile to serve as a shelter for animals. Sods from the nearby Holterberg area (Forestry Commission lands) are used to turn the open forest edges and the rarely-used parts of the fairway – in particular the Carry – into heath. Seeds harvested on-site are mixed with sand and sown on the deep-mowed rough. The initial results are downright positive. These measures have over time led to a growing percentage of natural vegetation.
The club grounds feature 150 nesting boxes, including 5 owl boxes, of which a staggering 80% is being used. There are also two stork poles and a steep bank that is suitable for kingfishers. Small (amphibian) pools were constructed on foil in the nature rough; the pool on the edge of the heath looks particularly natural. The management plan contains more suggestions for additional fauna facilities.
On both sides of the railway line, we find wide ecological transitional zones with dry rough and scrubs. These areas are managed by the regional water authorities. Together with the green zones on the edges of the golf course, the tree wall, and the somewhat wilder, natural shore zones, the area has a properly-enclosed ecological framework.
The golf grounds lie in the middle of a water extraction area; this has no consequences for the grounds. When the store of surface water declines too quickly, groundwater is pumped up from a depth of 25-30 metres. The pond beds were made from applied loam that has been compressed over time by the water pressure. This has created a leak in the system and the club has to replenish more water than it actually uses. The groundwater is rather ferruginous, but it can be used for sprinkling after some minor treatment. The first pond is aerated, causing oxidation of the iron. The water then flows to a second, lower pond through an area of constructed wetlands that serve as a filter to brings the iron to an acceptable level. The volumes of pumped-up water are between 20,000 and 30,000 m3 per year. Pumping must be reported to the provincial governments. No restrictions for the pumping up of groundwater are to be expected in the Overijssel province for the time being.
On-site surface water is used for sprinkling. The water is replenished with groundwater. The consumption levels for tap water and groundwater/surface water are average for an 18-hole sand-soil golf course. The machines are cleaned using compressed air and surface water.
Sprinkling is done using filtered groundwater. The turf almost completely consists of draught-resistant grass species. The turf is sprinkled more heavily than is absolutely necessary to ward off cockchafer larvae. The greens and tees and (incidentally) the fairways are sprinkled at night by approximately 400 zone sprinklers. The moisture levels on the green are kept at a constant 18-20%. The club wants to start sprinkling the driving range as well. The greens are drained. Using a sprinkling computer installed in 2014, the experienced head greenkeeper finetunes the sprinkling on a daily basis, using soil moisture measurements and meteorological data. The sprinkled heads are adjusted every year to ensure an optimal sprinkling range.
The sanitary facilities in the clubhouse have been fitted with sensors in order to reduce water consumption. Wetting agents are used locally in summer. Roof runoff is not drained to the sewer but led to the sprinkling ponds. Parking lot runoff is drained to the sewer via a rainwater buffer and an oil and grease trap.
A lot of extra attention has been paid to energy consumption of the past few years and much has been invested in energy-efficient lighting and equipment. Examples include replacing lights with LEDs, and the new kitchen equipment. The clubhouse has a rather compact layout and has been properly insulated.
There are two power metres here: one in the restaurant and one for all other consumption, which provides ample insight into the consumption of electricity and offers motivation for the caterer’s investments. Electricity consumption is average. There was a slight rise in 2016, which can be explained by the introduction of electric carts. The consumption of natural gas is remarkably low. This has to do with the small number of members and the compact layout of the clubhouse. The building is heated by radiators that are fed by an high yield condensing boiler (2012). A second boiler provides warm water. The greenkeeping facility has its own boiler. The boilers are checked and cleaned every year.
The club has been purchasing green energy since 2016. The roofs of the clubhouse, the greenkeepers’ shed, and the driving range are in principle suited for solar panels. The club has sufficient potential for generating all the power it needs on site.
On basis of the results of a costs savings calculator, the club started replacing regular light bulbs with LED lights in 2015. This policy will continue in 2017, and all lighting will be energy-efficient by the end of the year. Timers and motion sensors make sure that the outdoor lighting are not on for too long. The driving range is lit using LED lights that have also been fitted with a timer. Kitchen equipment was replaced as well.
Greenkeeping is an in-house operation, and the greenkeepers also take care of major maintenance and repairs. This significantly cuts back on transport and allows the club the act immediately. The sharpening of reel blades is outsourced to a local company that picks up the blades. The new caterer is open to suggestions regarding a sustainable business. Transport distances, the number of deliveries, and certifications are considered when purchasing materials and tools. The club also has a good insight into the waste flows.
Golf club De Koepel is trying to limit the number of deliveries and to buy locally. Fertilisers are usually delivered once a year. Delivery of pesticides occurs when needed. Deliveries of diesel can be kept at an absolute minimal thanks to the extra-large tank. Sharp sand for dressing and aprons is delivered in a number of delivery moments and comes from approximately 60 km away.
Across this region, golf club greenkeepers keep each other informed about products and prices. An interesting acquisition has been the electric Tru Turf roller. The mowing machine reel blades are also powered electrically.
Greenkeeping and catering products are purchased centrally, and where possible in bulk and from local suppliers. The club contracted a new caterer in 2017, who installed washing machines with the A+ label. The restaurant uses fair-trade and organic products wherever possible.
The volumes of nitrogen and phosphates that are applied to the greens, tees and fairways are very modest, especially considering how oligotrophic the local soil is. The club strives to use an absolutely minimal amount of pesticides and fertilisers, which goal they realise by using native grass species and making every effort to keep the turf in peak condition. They will for instance continue the test with the locally-made compost tea, which stimulates beneficial soil fungi. Regular sweeping and aerating of the greens prevents harmful fungi from moving in. Pesticides are used only sparingly. It mainly concerns herbicides (against clover, plantains and dandelions), and fungicides on the green. The cockchafer larva poses the greatest threat to the turf, but leather jackets have to be kept in check as well. The usual Merit Turf insecticide will never be used on this course. The fairways are kept moist by sprinkling and wetting agents in order to minimise the chances of cockchafer larvae. Open turfs after draughts are the perfect habitat for these larvae. Starling boxes will be hung in 2017; starlings are a great way of combatting the cockchafer larva without damaging the turf. The same goes for the oystercatcher and other meadow birds that regularly visit the area.
In sum: De Koepel is properly prepared for the Green Deal in 2020, which will ban the use of pesticides in the Netherlands.
The club has not ordered a waste audit but it is aware of the different waste flows. The waste is picked up and processed by a certified company. There are two underground waste containers: one for glass, and one for plastics, swill, and general waste. The waste-processing company separates reusable and non-reusable materials at its own facility. A local society picks up paper and cardboard. Glass is also separated. Fairway clippings are left on the grass; other clippings are composted off-site. These clippings are temporarily stored next to the parking lot, on a concrete floor with raised edges.
Dead wood is left where it is, as long as it poses no hazards. Logs from the thinning actions are used on the premises. A part of the prunings is used to build ecopiles; the rest is chipped and picked up to be processed into biogas. Leaves are brought to the fields of a neighbouring farmer.
The sheer level of organisation and orderliness of the greenkeeping department is quite striking. Workstations and facilities comply with the Environmental Management Act and are regularly checked for their compliance. The GEO workgroup used the online checklist tool Ngfmilieuzorg.nl to get a better handle on the environmental aspects of the business operations.
The pumped-up groundwater is analysed by a certified company on a biennial basis. The quality of the water has been shown to be stable. The high iron levels in the water have been countered by appropriate measures (see above, under ‘water’). Tap water is checked chemically for legionella twice a year.
The clubhouse and the maintenance facility are connected to the public sewer. In the two farthest corners of the course we find shelters with sanitary facilities, connected to septic tanks. The shelters have been fitted with lightning rods. The cleaning materials used by the club are chlorine-free and bio-degradable.
Hazardous materials are properly registered, safely stored, and responsibly disposed of. In addition to the municipal inspections, the club performs a risk inventory & analysis.
The wash pad has an impermeable concrete floor and an oil and great trap. Diesel is stored in a new, 3000-litre tank. This double-walled tank sits on an impermeable floor, in a drip tray. Waste oil is stored in the old diesel tank, which sits in a drip tray as well. The chemicals cabinet can be found in a separate room that can be accessed through the greenkeepers’ shed.
Chemicals are used sparingly and only locally, and the buffer zones and the right weather conditions are always taken into account when they are applied.
The club aspires to establish a future-proof GEO safeguarding within the organisation, with sustainability becoming a permanent part of the business operations. Communication has been picked-up again in 2016, with the website and a newsletter as the key channels. The club does not have a communication plan in place. Golf club De Koepel is solidly anchored within its community, which is among others attested to by the good relationships that have established with the provincial and municipal governments, the regional water authorities, the National Forestry Commission, and the club’s neighbours.
The golf club employs 9 people. A lot of work is done by volunteers organised in workgroups. All greenkeepers who use pesticides have a spraying license. The greenkeepers regularly attend refresher courses on applicable laws and regulations through the NGF and the NGA. Employees have been trained in emergency response and in the use of the automated external defibrillator.
The GEO workgroup comprises the course commissioner and the head greenkeeper. The former is also a member of the board and keeps the entire process going; the latter is responsible for the practical GEO aspects. The greenkeeper keeps in touch with colleagues employed at other clubs in order to exchange experiences and set up trials. Strong connection to the board; anchoring by reserving a part of the annual budget for nature projects.
The compact layout of the course does not allow for any public hiking or cycling routes. There is a walking and mountain-biking path on the outer boundary of the premises. The club has a Hospitality Chain with other golf courses and recommends hotels in the vicinity of the course.
There are good contacts with government authorities and the neighbours. Twice a year, a hunter visits the grounds to shoot the excess rabbit population and other species that can be legally hunted. There is no exchange with the local nature society.
The oak lanes date back to 1900 and are inspected for their vitality and safety by a certified specialist. On the heath, there is a small hut that perfectly blends into the landscape. Course furniture and the shelters fit in properly with the landscape.
There are currently no legal disputes or active planning procedures.
Sustainability and the enhancement of the natural values are supported by the board and there are regular communications on sustainability and GEO actions, such as with regard to the recently-launched thinning of the forest strips. The GEO workgroup prefers to communicate with the members and visitors directly. Unfortunately, there is no major practical member involvement yet. The annual Bird Watching Day attracts a mere 5 to 10 members. The group that’s actively involved in nature management, such as sodding, is also quite small.
The golf club participates in the national Dutch Open Golf Day. The website lists GEO under the ‘local rules’, mentions the sustainable operations, and displays the option to exchange or sell old golf equipment.
- Action Plans and Project Proposals
- Awareness Raising Materials
- Certification Report
- Environmental Data
- Environmental Management Plan
- Environmental Policy
- External Surveys and Reports
- Internal Reports
- Minutes of Meetings
Despite the small team and limited volunteer support, De Koepel has achieved a lot over the past 3 years. The club has a clear vision for the future: a sustainable, tight association with a course inspired by the historical heath landscape. A classical English heath course, as the club envisions for itself, would certainly not be out of place here, and all necessary ingredients are already present: the heath core in the centre of the oldest part, the original, oligotrophic sand soil, the rolling landscape, and of course the knowledge and expertise of the highly-skilled greenkeeper, combined with the general support within the association.
However, like in many golf clubs, it has shown to be difficult to find a sufficient number of members who can actively assist in the implementation. The club has achieved a lot with regards to its pressure on the environment: the fertilisation volumes are remarkably low for a sand-soil course, and the use of pesticides has been pushed back to an absolute minimum. In the coming years, the club will focus on reducing its energy consumption, executing the forest management plan, and increasing the attention for fauna and flora. Golf club De Koepel is properly prepared for the future.
This golf course has a remarkable ecological wealth, despite the limited room that remains for nature: the biotope variety is immense, the internal coherence is good, and the connection to the surrounding nature is very strong.
The club’s environmental impact is minimal; chemical pesticides and fertilisers are used sparsely and carefully. The healthy turf is composed almost completely of native species that require minimal amounts of nutrition and moisture. Meadow grass has mostly been banned. In 2016, the club energetically launched a programme to minimise the energy consumption in the buildings, which has decreased the environmental footprint.
Greenkeeping has all its affairs in order. The maintenance facility and its surroundings are neatly laid out, greenkeeping is properly equipped, and all aspects easily meet the statutory requirements. A lot of work is done in-house, using resources owned by the club itself.
The course has a strong identity, which is mostly determined by the heath and the open forest strips that feature shadbush, the pedunculate oak, silver birch, and Scots pine. The ascending beech woods and the oak lanes provide a framework within the landscape. The ambition to restore the old heath landscape as much as possible is highly praiseworthy.