Utrechtse Golf Club 'De Pan'
Executive summary (English & local language)
The Utrechtse Golf Club ‘De Pan’ in Utrecht is the second oldest golf course in the Netherlands and a member of the ‘Old Nine’ courses. De Pan began in 1894 as the Doornsche Golf Club, in the neighboring community of Doorn. In 1928 De Pan moved to the current location, to a newly constructed course designed by the famous golf course architect Harry S. Colt. The course lies embedded in a landscape of sand, heather and old Scots pines, surrounded by the Panforest. Remarkably, the course has hardly been altered since its construction. The lay-out is beautifully thought out, following the natural relief of the wind-blown sand drifts. The ubiquitous heather vegetation gives the course a strong characteristic identity, of which the club is justifiably proud. De Pan is considered a heath-land course. To protect the characteristic heather vegetation and prevent spontaneous seeding of trees throughout, a group of volunteers has been systematically managing these vegetations since 1984.
The 49 ha course lies almost completely in the community of de Bilt. The grounds are leased under a leasehold contract. The terrain is part of an extensive nature reserve – the ‘Utrechtse Heuvelrug’ – consisting of park-type landscapes, coniferous forests, heathland areas and drift sand reliefs (landscapes formed during the glacial periods). A large part of De Pan lies within the EHS (Dutch National Ecological Network). The aims of De Pan are to uphold the high natural qualities of the course, and where possible to further enhance these. The GEO certification program is seen as a means to support the club’s aims to protect the unique identity of this course.
De Utrechtse Golf Club ‘De Pan’ beheert een van de oudste banen van Nederland; een van de ‘Oude Negen’. De tweede club van Nederland begon in 1894 als Doornsche Golf Club. In 1928 werd te midden van stuifzand, heide en vliegdennen op de huidige locatie in het Panbos een baan aangelegd naar ontwerp van de befaamde Harry S. Colt. Sindsdien is de baan nauwelijks gewijzigd, wat op zich al uniek is. De lay-out is zeer doordacht en volgt het natuurlijke stuifzandreliëf. Door de alom aanwezige heide heeft de baan een sterke identiteit, waarop de club met recht trots op is. Men spreekt van een ‘heidebaan’. Om dichtgroeien door bosopslag te voorkomen is vanaf 1984 het heidebeheer systematisch aangepakt door vrijwilligers.
De golfbaan ligt vrijwel geheel in de gemeente De Bilt en meet 49 hectare. Het gebied is in erfpacht en maakt deel uit van een uitgestrekt natuurgebied - de Utrechtse Heuvelrug - bestaande uit parklandschap, naaldbos, heide en stuifzandrelicten en grotendeels aangewezen is als EHS. De club heeft als doel de hoge kwaliteit zorgvuldig te behouden en waar mogelijk verder te ontwikkelen. Het GEO certificaat beschouwt de club als een middel om dit beleid te ondersteunen en om de unieke karakteristieken van deze baan te behouden.
UGC De Pan lies on the western flank of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug, a lateral moraine formed in the next to last Ice Age. In the Holocene, sand (glacial drift) was transported and deposited here from the surrounding areas by the wind, resulting in the characteristic relief with sand drifts and dunes up to 10 m high. Traditionally, these poor sandy soils were used as grazing lands, especially for sheep. Here and there, fens and shallow wetlands developed in low lying areas with an impermeable soil layer. Such a small fen and water-bearing ditch are found on De Pan, with the corresponding flora and fauna: ferns and mosses, amphibious and aquatic animals; these are the hidden gems of the course. In addition to these historical elements there are the relicts of an old nursery with unusual trees such as Metasequoias and Robinias. The terrain can be regarded as one cultural historical entity.
The first study to evaluate the natural values of the terrain was carried out in 1991. Initially this was done on a voluntary basis, but since 2011 it is scheduled regularly, following a planned approach that is being progressively implemented. Breeding bird monitoring and vegetation scans are set aspects of this plan and carried out by the members of the club.
A forest of primarily Scots pine has developed on the wind-blown sandy soils. Scattered throughout, one still finds broadly spreading specimens of more than 150 years old that once stood as solitary trees in the sand drifts. More sparsely distributed throughout are oak and birch trees in the forest, and juneberry shrubs (Amelanchier lamarckii) in the forest edges. The tree population is healthy. The aims of the club are to maintain and, where possible, enhance this existing natural diversity. The original design and the natural maturation and development of the course are the guidelines in pursuing these aims. The undergrowth is purposely kept to a minimum for the sake of the game of golf and to increase light under the trees so as to encourage the growth of heather.
Since the 1980’s forest management is according to a systematic plan. Work is carried out in rotational fashion in 6 zones. Since 2000 increased thinning of the forest has occurred in order to give more space to monumental, mature specimens of native trees and to enhance the characteristic openness of the terrain. Non-native and invasive species control is proving successful.
The terrain is enclosed by fencing 1m high that is meant to keep out badgers, but which other animals can pass through or over. Nonetheless, this has not proven to deter badgers from setts in the vicinity from coming to forage on chafer grubs (Melolontha) on the course. Noteworthy are the three (possibly five) sorts of reptiles found and the diverse population of nesting birds.
Red fescue (Festuca rubra) and Bent (Agrostis tenuis) grasses have been the primary turf grasses used on the course for years. These grass species require minimal fertilization and are wear and tear grasses that are very drought resistant. Trials with several new species of turf grasses are being performed in collaboration with turf companies. Annual meadow grass (Poa annua) and other unwanted herbaceous plants and weeds are hardly a problem.
The course management plan, forest management plan and heather management plan (all updated regularly) provide direction in management decision making. Above all the club relies on the extensive experience acquired over many years. Years of experience in heather management is without a doubt unique. A wide variety of traditional techniques are used to prevent invasive seeding and growth of grasses and trees in the heather. Most effective, even despite the intermittent heather beetle (Lochmaea suturalis) infestations, have been the combination of sod-cutting and grazing by sheep (a flock of 250 sheep that travels in rotation throughout the terrains of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug). ‘Heather Days’ are held during which members help to remove freely seeded saplings manually, which increases involvement and awareness amongst members of the club. Monitoring survey information is used to adjust management where and when necessary.
Thanks to the knowledgeable management the area of the heather now comprises 6 ha. In addition several open sandy areas have been created. No less than 38 ha of the terrain qualify as high quality natural areas, which is a remarkably large portion of the total terrain (less than 50ha). The ecological continuity between the terrain itself and the surrounding areas is extremely high. Further improvements are hardly possible.
Nesting boxes are expressly not used for the reason that there are plenty of natural nesting holes available.
The golf course lies in an infiltration zone of a water catchment area. A pumping station for drinking water lies within 1 km of De Pan. The groundwater level is deep in this area, but here and there water collects above an impermeable soil layer. These are the scarce spots where one finds surface water and where drainage of the fairway is actually necessary. The club has a permit for pumping up groundwater from deeper aquifers. In practice only 30 percent of the amount specified in the permit is actually pumped up. This water is of excellent quality and is monitored on a monthly basis. Because the course lies in a water catchment area the water company has two monitoring wells installed in order to be able to determine the direction of water flow and sources of potential contamination.
Pumped up groundwater is used for tap water, irrigation and hosing down machines. Drinking water is pumped up separately and has the iron removed. The speed frequency of both pumps is regulated by demand. Water use has halved since the previous audit (from 20,000 to 10,000 m3).
In early 2016 a completely new irrigation system has been installed to maximize efficient water usage; this solves all previous leakage problems. Irrigation is done in the early mornings and adjusted according to measurements of soil moisture content and the weather forecast. The turfgrasses used are drought resistant species. Wetting agents are used to improve moisture distribution. Brown discoloration of the grass on parts of the course during the summer period is tolerated (and even appreciated by older members of the club who remember this as typical in the past). All these measures reduce water usage to a minimum.
In 2013 water meters were installed for monitoring consumption. Showers are equipped with water saving shower heads. Awareness of conscious use of water is promoted.
For De Pan reducing energy consumption is more important than generating power on site, mainly because the possibilities for the latter are limited. Energy consumption is monitored sufficiently and strengths and weaknesses have been identified. The fact that the clubhouse is an historic building restricts the possibilities for energy saving somewhat. The club’s approach to introducing energy saving measures is pragmatic rather than systematic; modifications to reduce energy use are generally coupled with renovations. The environmental care plan contains an energy audit.
Electricity and natural gas consumption are moderate and remain stable despite the dispersed, older buildings. There is a connection to the natural gas distribution network. There are no extra measuring points for electricity and natural gas between meters. Six boilers are used for heating the buildings. Those in the outbuildings are due for replacement in the near future.
Excluding locally harvested firewood for the fireplace, 100% of the energy supply is from fossil fuels. Possibilities for generating power in situ are limited to placement of solar panels on the roof of the golf cart storage building. Issues here, however, are the non-weight-bearing roof construction and the presence of shady trees surrounding the building.
The club’s various functions are spread over five (historic) buildings of which several are from the early 1900’s. This limits the possibilities for reducing energy consumption. The buildings’ thatch roofs and relatively small volumes work in the club’s favor in this regard.
The food-and-beverages operation is leased out but the space and equipment are owned by the club. This presents opportunities for implementing energy savings when the equipment is next renewed.
The use of motion sensors, dimmers and led-lamps aims to increase energy efficiency in lighting. Outside lighting is minimal and the driving range has no lights.
The greens are mowed manually which reduces diesel fuel consumption.
The GEO committee is highly motivated and very aware of the club’s responsibility in sustaining the natural environment. This awareness is promoted among members and club employees. Supply chains are well documented. The environmental care plan of 2016 is in effect a waste-disposal audit.
There is no strict purchasing policy in place; quality, cost and distance from the supplier are all weighed when choosing suppliers. Developments on the markets and available alternatives are monitored. Many procedures are also not outsourced; for example the regular maintenance or repairs of machinery owned by the club is done by the employees. The greenkeeping team is well equipped for this. The equipment renewal plan foresees a transition to increased use of electrical vehicles in the future.
The restaurant is leased out. It caters to the fairly traditional tastes of the members, however seasonal and local products are often used, as well as Fairtrade products in accordance with demands from the (quite traditional) members. Purchasing and delivery is via a wholesaler; in the case of local produce, the restaurant manager picks these up from suppliers himself.
Due to the fact that the grass species are selected to be well suited to their location and growth conditions, minimal use of fertilizers is needed. Notably the use of phosphates has been greatly reduced over the past few years. Since 2013 the fairways are no longer fertilized; clippings are not removed after mowing; this provides enough nutrients. The club is reticent in the use of organic fertilizers because of an increased chance of moulds and mildews. Pesticides are used very sparingly. Biological control methods (nematodes) and especially prevention are preferred. Greens are regularly dressed, aerated and verticut. By reducing forest undergrowth adequate light and aeration is achieved for healthy growth of the grasses. Noteworthy is the approach to controlling chafer grubs by drying out the fairways (no irrigation) throughout the months of May and June. Restricted irrigation also reduces occurrence of moulds and mildew.
Waste separation occurs in accordance with the practices of the contracted waste disposal company. Waste containers are underground (paper, glass, other waste) and have vacuum sealed lids. This is not only an esthetic solution, it also successfully prevents vermin and odours.
Pruning waste is shredded, composted and sold. A portion of the timber from felled trees is used by the club as firewood, the rest is sold. Clippings from the fairways, semi-roughs and tees are left behind after mowing. Clippings from the greens are removed and then disposed of by the waste disposal company.
Care is taken to meet all legal requirements with regards to pollution control. Inspections are regularly carried out (for example, municipal). In 2016, an environmental care plan was written encompassing an analysis, vision and action points. De Pan has already done much with regards to implementing sound environmental practices, which therefore limits significant additional environmental gains.
The club has given permission to the regional water supply company to monitor the groundwater for contamination on a monthly basis at two locations (as of 2015). Both the pumped up water and the filtered tap water are analyzed every month by the drinking water supply company. Twice a year the water is also checked for Legionella bacteria. Surface water is scarce at De Pan and mainly fed by rainfall (the small fen and the ditch). This water is not monitored.
The buildings and the wash pad are connected to the municipal sewer via three sewage pumps. All grease separators are emptied and cleaned twice a year by a certified company.
Fuels, fertilizers and pesticides are stored safely and according to legal requirements.
There are ample pollution-controlling measures in place to prevent soil contamination. Areas for equipment maintenance are spacious and have sealed, impervious floors. The impenetrability of the wash pad floor is checked yearly. In 2015, the diesel tank was replaced with a double wall tank which is placed inside the building and which meets all legal requirements.
There are no toilet facilities on the course. Crop protection agents and fertilizers are used minimally and only applied during favourable weather conditions. The fairways are not fertilized at all which also ensures the fertilization sensitive heathland vegetation will not be at risk.
The course has been a part of the landscape for the last century and the club, too, is firmly embedded in society. The number of sponsors listed in the entrance hall and on the website attest to this. On the other hand, the club has never felt a need to actively promote themselves to the outside world more than strictly necessary. The club’s greatest asset has always been the strong internal cohesion, which is treasured by the members.
The club provides work opportunity for about thirty people; employees in charge of maintenance mostly have a fulltime contract. There is a large group of members active as volunteers in the various committees. All employees have all followed BHV training (safety and emergency response). Several greenkeepers have a spraying license. Environmental advocacy is promoted during regularly held work meetings.
The GEO committee has seven members. They include the head greenkeeper, with more than thirty years of experience in working at De Pan. The committee members come from different professions and fields of expertise: amongst others, biology, architecture, landscape architecture. Everything pertaining to sustainability on the course is carefully documented and collected in a GEO file.
Good contacts are maintained with the adjacent nature reserves, neighbouring communities and the water supply company. The course is not open to the public and there are no public walking paths over the terrain. This is for two reasons: a lack of sufficient space for creating these safely and a lack of demand for them due to the ample walking paths in the adjacent nature areas. The golf club is surrounded by fencing and the entrance gate is closed in the night. Unfortunately, vandalism and theft do occur regularly.
In 2013 De Pan was given status as an estate (Natuurschoonwet, 1928). The terrain as a whole exemplifies a landscape of the preindustrial age when large flocks of sheep grazed on the expansive heathlands. The original name of an old sand path that ends at De Pan is telling: ‘de Schaapsdrift’, meaning the sheep drift. Other historical elements are the fen, the water-bearing ditch and remnants of the nursery and several lanes. The buildings (from the Amsterdam School period of architecture) are registered as cultural heritage monuments, as is the course (Colt) itself. The walking paths, of grey lava stone, the modestly designed furniture, simple course shelters and steps up to the tees on the course fit into the landscape beautifully.
There are no legal disputes or planning and development procedures pending.
De Pan is a members-only club with highly involved members who contribute to the club each according to their ability. The club magazine is an important means of communication which regularly features articles on nature (on and outside the course) and on the environment. Judging from the high member participation levels, the nature quiz and nature walks are successful recurring events. The yearly bird watching day is also enthusiastically attended.
De Pan maintains ties with several other golf clubs such as the ‘Old Nine’. Guided tours are given to students from local agricultural and horticultural programs. There is a basic, but well-designed website; however, the part of the website that is accessible to the public makes no mention of GEO or of nature and the environment as themes.
- Action Plans and Project Proposals
- Awareness Raising Materials
- Certification Report
- Environmental Data
- Environmental Management Plan
- Environmental Policy
- Internal Reports
Architect Harry Colt created an exceptional golf landscape in 1928, coupling golf, cultural historical elements and nature with great harmony. The entire course can be seen as one natural, cultural and historical heritage monument, in which the architecture of the buildings also figures prominently (Amsterdam School period of architecture). The club aims for the highest quality in managing and maintaining the entire terrain. Most distinctive is the skilled management of heathlands, a result of many years of extensive experience. Improvements with regards to managing the nature on the course are hard to find; the challenge for the future will be in safeguarding the present qualities and in stimulating the club’s neighbours to meet it. The biggest challenge will be to reduce the club’s ecological footprint, although the possibilities are limited due to several restrictions. A planned approach in investigating possibilities and opportunities to meet this challenge is recommended
De Pan can justifiably be called an expert in the field of managing heathland vegetations. All traditional management techniques are employed, except burning. Today a connected mosaic network of heather vegetation is found of a diverse vegetational structure with heather plants of varying ages.
De Pan has recently been ranked as the third best course on the European continent by the British magazine ‘Golf World’. The almost iconic design and the competent management of a course featuring various stages in development validate this choice. The club’s primary objective is to preserve and enhance, above all, the existing natural qualities of the terrain; there should be no disturbing/unsightly elements, no nesting boxes to distract from a course designed to so harmoniously fit into the undulating relief of the local sand drifts.
The club has a driven GEO committee with specialists from all relevant professions. Noteworthy is that the GEO golf sustainability program is essentially executed solely by club volunteers. The club considers the GEO certificate a means to conserve, enhance and further develop the unique characteristics of the course.
The frugal use of fertilizers and irrigation are exceptional and can serve as an example to other courses on sandy soils. The use of phosphates has been greatly reduced since the last audit.