Oosterhoutse Golf Club
Executive summary (English & local language)
I have visited the Oosterhoutse Golf Club on November 14, 2016.
The Oosterhoutse has been certified in 2004 according to the Committed to Green program with subsequent renewals in 2007 and 2010 at which date the CtG status has been changed to the GEO-certification.
For this audit I have used the criteria for re-certification as set by the Golf Environment Organization. During my visit I talked to Paul Jansen (course committee chairman, boardmember OGC/SGO) and Arijan van Alpen (head greenkeeper).
A lot of work has been done in the last 3-year period. The course extension in the Ecological Main Structure (Dutch - Ecologische Hoofd Structuur) has been effected in an impressive manner. In the same period the club has renovated the clubhouse. Both nature and the environment got lots of attention in those projects. Despite the size of the projects the club made considerable progress in other areas. Especially the transition of mainly Poa Annua to bentgrass and red fescue was a beautiful result.
The golf course has been build in 1989 on a 57 ha site. The 18 holes course is bordered by a motorway (A27); a business area and woodland. The woods/nature area has EHS-status (Ecological Main Structure) and is largely owned/controlled/maintained by Staatsbosbeheer (State Woods Department). The golf course can be characterized as a parkland course with extensive wooded areas.
Main features of the course are the type of soil; the surroundings and the historical landscape elements (remainder of old lanes; wooded banks). The golf course has over time (25 years) beautifully blended with the old features of the original site. The soil is sandy with loamy clay inclusions especially on the south side of the course. During the built of the course several water hazards have been constructed and the landscape has been shaped. The course can be divided into 3 zones: a cultured zone around the clubhouse; a parkland zone in the central part and a wooded zone bordering the existing woods in the southwest.
In the last 3 years the course has been extended with 15.6 hectare. This extension area has been used to build 4 new holes. Together with a new 2nd hole on the existing course this created space for the construction of a new 9 holes par-3 course. Construction of the par 3 course will start in January 2017 and will be completed end of 2017. During the construction activities 32 mature oak trees, beeches; birches and hornbeams have been given a new place to preserve those valuable and characteristic trees.
During the extension of the golf course, the species present have been monitored extensively. These surveys have been included in the compensation plan for the construction of the new holes.
The golf course is now partly situated within the Ecologische Hoofd Structuur. (Ecological Main Structure). EHS land had to be used for the construction of the new holes. Only the land required to build the tees; fairways and greens has been taken out of the EHS and the remaining part of the 15.6 ha is still EHS. As compensation for this change part of the existing golf course has been given EHS-status and consequently will get the same maintenance-regulations as the other EHS elements. The design protects the valuable ecological areas and in fact gives it an added value. For instance 6 new pools have been dug (as additional habitat for the great crested newt) and around the edges of the new 15.6 ha site new bush vegetation will be planted to enhance the existing wooded area. The Oosterhoutse has signed a contract with the city of Oosterhout and the Province Noord Brabant to guarantee nature conservation and a bank guarantee is part of that contract.
Over the last few years The Oosterhoutse has really transformed the grass in its greens. The percentage of Poa Annua has decreased from 62 % to approx 30 %. This result has not been achieved by a major renovation but the decrease is due to a continued new approach in maintenance.
During the renovation every hole got separate winter tees to lower the stress on the tees during the winter while still being able to optimally use the course.
To protect and enhance biodiversity for the long term, a nature management plan has been written for the part of the golf course that is located in the ecological main structure. This plan will be adjusted to cover the total area of the golf course. Following regulations, according the Flora- and fauna act, implementing the code of conduct is obligatory.
The Oosterhoutse has participated in the publication Committed to Birds which sets an example.
Since 2010 the club has undertaken various activities to reduce water consumption. An improved method of using irrigation water on the greens helped to optimize the turf quality on the greens.
The club accepts some form of dryness but prevents the fine grasses from dying by irrigation. This method is communicated to, and approved by the members.
In line with the new extension and changes in the course the club has modernized its irrigation system. This enables greenkeeping to use the irrigation system in a more focussed and responsible manner.
To avoid water spillage staff has been briefed on the responsible use of water. One of the annual golf events is used to increase the awareness of the members. Participants in the match had to answer questions on how to limit water consumption in their own homes.
The greenkeepers use several methods to pinpoint the timing and the quantity of irrigationn water.
They use meteorological-data from the nearby weather station at the air force-base at Gilze Rijen and in the growing season they measure soil moisture on a weekly basis. Spots which are normally dryer than normal get special attention. The head greenkeeper and his right hand man decide on the use of the irrigation system. The minimum level of moisture in the soil is 12%. The irrigation system can work on a sprinkler by sprinkler basis and where needed water will be added manually.
During the 2013 – 2016 period the club undertook several steps to manage the water consumption in a more efficient manner. Apart from instructions to the staff as mentioned before, water-efficient equipment has been installed in the clubhouse.
Also the irrigation system has been partly replaced to allow greenkeeping to irrigate more efficiently. Pipes on the old part of the course are still PVC but the control system has been vastly improved by a state of the art system.
Various adjustments have been made in this period to the clubhouse and driving range. After the refitting of the kitchen in 2010 the rest of the clubhouse underwent rebuilding activities and is now fully modernized. Unfortunately this has not yet led to big energy savings because the level total consumption over the last few years has been stable. The ambition to be fully self-sufficient has been further investigated but at present that goal does not seem to be realistic.
The total electric energy consumption has been very constant. The club mentions that despite an increase in net sales space there is no increase in energy consumption. That is attributed to a.o. better energy efficient equipment; led lighting and a modern air circulation system.
Use of natural gas has increased slightly but that can be attributed to the increase in the number of members/guests using the facilities.
After the recent theft of diesel fuel the club has upgraded the protection of the diesel storage-facility. This theft has left to a higher use of diesel in 2014. One of the other factors in the increase of the use of diesel is the use of a pump to lower the water table in one of the waterhazards. In the meantime the club has decided to stop using pumps for that purpose.
At the start of the GEO-project the club did formulate the ambition to be completely energy self-sufficient . Since then, the club initiated research into several means of energy generation a.o. solarpanels and geothermal energy. That research showed that the payback period was extremely long and on the basis of that it has been decided to not invest in this direction at this moment. The club however is buying green energy and where possible will use electric equipment. At present they use 2 electric green mowers and 3 electric transporters.
Most lighting in the clubhouse is now led-lighting and for instance also the lighting on the driving range. Most rooms have motion-sensors and several energy meters have been installed. The kitchen has a new cooling cell and a new energy-efficient air circulation system has been installed as well.
Most striking in this subject is the club’s choice to not use any more pesticides since beginning of 2016. Also the use of fertilizers has, compared to other courses, been lowered to a minimum. Greenkeeping uses a crop protection plan to support the vitality of the grass turf as much as possible. Most products are bought locally and to a limited extent also regional.
The club has a preference for local suppliers and they also pay attention to energy-efficient equipment. On the other side this policy still has not been formalized in a written purchasing policy.
The caterer buys his products from a local wholesaler mainly in wholesale packaging and crates to minimise packaging waste.
The transition in turf grass composition clearly has an effect on the use of fertilizers and pesticides. This use can be minimum. On the basis of regular soil sample tests a fertilizer program is made. In 2016 for the first time ever greenkeeping has not used pesticides.
The existing waste flow from the clubhouse and greenkeeping has been examined and a plan has been formulated to better separate the waste flow. Of late plastic waste is collected separately and disposed of separately.
Greenwaste is held in depot at greenkeeping and later used as green fertilizer on the clubs adjacent farmland or used as woodchips on the paths on the course.
The prevailing legislation on the environment is used by maintenance staff and catering personnel. From time to time the Municipality will check the actual situation. The maintenance plan specifically pays attention to this subject.
When the surface water shows aberrant coloration or plant growth, an analysis of surface water will be ordered. Groundwater is being checked annually.
Waste water from the clubhouse and greenkeeping facilities is disposed in the correct manner. The club has planned to investigate the future possibility of separating rainwater from the roofs from the rest of the wastewater to avoid discharging that water in the sewer system
Hazardous materials, both in the clubhouse and greenkeeping are being stored in the correct manner. Staff is being trained both formally and informally. Storage of pesticides is not needed anymore because the use of pesticides on the golf course has been stopped.
On a regular basis the club is being checked by the environmental authorities and the club’s activities are completely in line with the current legislation. The club has an evacuation plan according to the NEN 8112 norms.
The club is aware of its responsibility to look after an enormous piece of land. There is a deeply rooted feeling that the club and the members have to look well after nature and protect the landscape. Several club committees each have contact with external specialists to get proper advice. Also during the extension of the golf course there have been extensive contacts with numerous parties to get the best results. The club also had intensive discussions with local environmental groups including IVN Mark & Donge; RAVON and BMF.
Staff has been instructed to use the equipment on the course in a careful manner. Greenkeeping staff participates in specific courses and training modules on site to be able to perform their work in a responsible manner.
Activities and GEO targets are a big part of the work of the Fauna and Flora committee. They are also responsible for organising the awareness campaigns in that area.
During the extension of the golf course there have been extensive contacts with numerous parties like the local environmental groups. The club has frequent contaqct with local businesses and schools.
The club gives special attention to the remainder of the old lanes on the golf course. The club has some years ago signed the bee-covenant and may be as a result of that a beekeeper is expected to place his beehives on the new development of the golf course.
A publication board with news on sustainability and/or nature related news has a place in the clubhouse. Also the club magazine features articles on those issues.
Very interesting is the annual match dedicated to nature, environment and sustainability. During the match members/players are being quizzed on their knowledge of the subject thus growing the awareness from the members. The net receipts of the match are being used to fund environmental activities and promotions.
Golfers or potential golfers are welcome during open days at the club. During those events the club will also promote annual themes like “year of the bee”.
- 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 fact that the club paid lots of attention in the last few years to the extension of the golf course and the renovation of the clubhouse; the club has succeeded to implement a number of changes. This proves the club’s serious efforts to create a more sustainable manner to manage the golf course and the rest of the facilities. The club has an action plan which keeps track of the goals and the results. The club has a written policy including all the core-issues of the club management.
- Extension of the course and increase in EHS-area
- Transformation of turfgrass on greens
- Complete stop on the use of pesticides which shows the serious approach of the club towards the environment
- Organising of matches with a sustainability theme is an unique activity which provides clues to players in an interesting manner to increase awareness of the issues both at home and on the course
- The cooperation and regular contacts with local nature groups helps to get sufficient knowledge to ensure a responsible manner to look after nature on and off the golf course.
- Structurally investments in external environmental advice