Silver Lakes Golf Estate
Executive summary (English & local language)
Silver Lakes Golf Estate is situated inside one of the largest security housing estates (over 1600 houses) in South Africa. It is a well maintained top quality 18-hole golf course with a large clubhouse with all relevant facilities in place. At the moment of the verification visit work was still in progress on the new clubhouse-restaurant. The practice facilities are also of the highest standard. The staff communicated very friendly and helpful and the greenkeeping staff seemed very well motivated, skilled and organized. The greenkeeping staff are fully endorsing GEO programs initiated by their Golf Director Andrew McKenna. At the time of verification Silver Lakes was aiming to be the first GEO Certified golf facility in South Africa and has ambitions of being the sustainability leader in the country.
One of the main natural features of the site is the river running through that feeds into various dams and into a large central lake, providing open water and marginal wetland habitat for a variety of birds and other wildlife. The island in sight provides a sanctuary for birds and helps the course become a pretty ‘oasis’ in an otherwise semi-urban landscape.
The course had endured a long drought in the weeks before verification hence the fairways were off-colour, which is a well intentioned part of the estate's policy on water use. Irrigation of fairways in winter is kept to an absolute minimum to keep things in line with nature as the grass goes dormant and in summer the rains normally occur on a regular basis. Full irrigation is only necessary when rains occur late in the season or are less frequent.
The course is laid out in a typical Highveld area which is semi-arid and receives about 300 mm of predominantly summer rainfall. It features typical indigenous trees like the Acacia Thorn, African Sumac and Stinkwood which gives it a typical African look and feel. Also the use of natural stone/rocky outcrops gives it a typical ‘veldt’ habitat, helping the course blend in with the wider landscape and acting as a buffer for the developed suburbs of Pretoria. The Kikuyu grass on fairways and tees goes (and is kept) dormant in the African winter when irrigation is kept to a minimum but comes to life with the summer rains. Bordering the golf course lies a 50 ha game reserve.
The installation of floating islands in the dams are being explored to create more breeding space for birds and fish. A comprehensive list of birds, both migratory and non-migratory is available, as well as a list of animals living in the game reserve. Recently a Cape clawless Otter has been saved from one of the lakes and has made a habitat for himself. Research is being done with NGO FreeMe to release more otters and possibly other species. A number of owl houses have been installed by the golf course staff and homeowners.
Silver Lakes is situated in summer rainfall area where in this particular year the summer rains had started very late (probably due to the El Nino effect). A large lake is present in the centre of the golf course and a river runs through the course flowing into a number of dams.
There is a manual irrigation system which will be upgraded to a computerized system in the course of 2016. As a condition of certification, Silver Lakes has committed to install this fully automatic and computer controlled irrigation system. This will serve to improve the auditing capabilities of how much water is consumed and where; reduce consumption by being extremely efficient; allow precise application of water to targeted priority areas; and reduce energy consumption in the efficient running of the pumps.
The river running through Silver Lakes and the various lakes/dams allows the course to catch and store the rainfall effectively. The annual water usage in the Clubhouse area is at present unknown but will be measured from 2015-2016 to acquire a base benchmark reading. Irrigation is being done from rainfall water and in dry periods a number of boreholes assist with the irrigation.
The usage of water on the course and in the maintenance facility has been approximately the same in the last two years measured (2013-2014). With the new irrigation system it is expected that this number will come down significantly and that consumption will be known exactly.
The clubhouse area uses public water for showers, basins and kitchens. Waterwise shower heads have been installed. Wetting agents are used on the greens. The rough is not being irrigated.
Although Pretoria boasts a high number of days with sunshine (approx 300 days per annum) there is an apparent lack of solar energy generating opportunities. Decreasing costs of purchase will likely make this way of providing energy more popular in the years to come
Silver Lakes has taken a number of measures to minimize energy usage. Energy efficient lighting is present in all areas of the clubhouse. The kitchen in the new restaurant will make use of liquid-gas for cooking. Energy efficient light bulbs have been installed in all areas of the clubhouse and maintenance facility. Staff is being transported in a mini-van to the nearest bus station just outside the estate
The new irrigation system will not only reduce the water usage but also minimize energy costs. The club will soon trial electric and hybrid golf carts.
There is a lack of knowledge how much energy the clubhouse area is using on a monthly basis and this will be measured more closely from 2016 onwards.
Due to the fact that South Africa only has one energy supplier (ESKOM) diversifying energy supply is complicated. Only recently has it become possible to feed back into the grid with ‘private’ solar power panels and this should be something Silver Lakes looks into in future.
The course does use wood from its own source (cleaning up old trees) to use in the clubhouse wood burner in winter. At the maintenance facility there are no cooling or heating facilities.
The club uses local suppliers with the correct BEE status (Black Economic Empowerment) for all purchases.
Recyclable waste is collected and utilized by a recycling company both in the maintenance facility as in the clubhouse area. Turfgrass inputs are minimized through careful management and clippings are re-used where possible in a ‘mulch’ mixture. A balanced fertilizer program is in place.
Locally sourced and locally manufactured products are used where possible.
Only legislated and certified pesticides are used and measuring is done with calibrated equipment.
Worth mentioning is that Silver Lakes recycles all golf balls found in the water (staff dives for them) (approx 30-40,000 balls p.a) and they are sold in the golf shop generating revenue for the club of approx R300,000 p.a.
The greenkeepers area (maintenance facility) looked neat and well organized with machine equipment neatly in their designated areas. Planning boards were present and information boards on Health & Safety and Employee Rights & Obligations were in place.
The water outflow, inflow and on-site is measured on a monthly (chemical and biological) and weekly (visual) basis by course maintenance staff.
Clubhouse wastewater goes to the mains sewer. Waste water from the maintenance facility goes into a septic tank and waste water from the wash pad goes into a detention pond via an open drain. The wash pad is on a concrete impermeable hard standing.
Hazardous materials are stored in a secure building with concrete floors separate for the maintenance facility. Pesticides and fertilisers are mixed and loaded on concrete, hardstanding areas. Any spills are contained using sand and/or chemical absorbing materials. Fertiliser is swept and reused.
The disposal of hazardous material containers is inline with South African regulations.
All necessary and legal obligations in terms of working with hazardous materials, workplace safety and storage of hazardous materials were observed
Due to the fact that Silver Lakes is situated in a housing estate of over 1600 houses it has an important (recreational) function due to its central character; it acts as a green lung for those houses and their inhabitants.
After golf hours the course can be utilized by the inhabitants as a park within certain limitations; this usage is very popular. The golf course has a greenkeepers school on the premises where future greenkeepers are being educated and trained to a very high level. Silver Links maintains close links with SRUC Elmwood and The R&A, both in Scotland, to keep up to date with the latest in turfgrass education and sustainability best practices.
An environmental plan is being updated which will incorporate golf course, estate gardens, the game reserve, as well as the people of Silver Lakes, including the staff.
The game reserve serves all residents of the estate and has many trails where one can walk, run or cycle. The golf course publishes a monthly online newsletter and regular information bulletins are being put up on clubhouse and pro-shop notice boards.
A number of holiday camps are held for children which have been well attended and an annual charity run is organized over the golf course and through the game reserve.
Silver Lakes has an excellent working relationship with the community both inside and outside the estate and has regular meetings with the relevant stakeholders.
Internal employee communications is done via work-meetings and planning boards. Internal communications to members is done via a newsletter, website and announcement-boards, and external communications is done via the website.
- Action Plans and Project Proposals
- Awareness Raising Materials
- Certification Report
- Environmental Management Plan
- External Surveys and Reports
Silver Lakes is very much committed to becoming the first GEO Certified golf course in South Africa and taking on a leadership role for sustainability education and practices in the country. The course is part of a large housing estate with over 1600 houses and provides a large green space with lots of rain and river water catchment areas. The necessity of upgrading the irrigation system from a manual to an automated, computerized system is well understood by the golf course management and with the future diversification of energy is key in continuously improving the facility. Following a comprehensive on-site visit and discussions with staff I am happy to recommend Silver Lakes for certification based on the standards it has achieved so far and the commitment to improvements in stated areas, notably recording and reporting of water and energy use, and evaluating technological advancements to reduce consumption of non-renewable resources and transition to greener sources.
A well laid out golf course with typical (South) African natural features yet in the middle of the largest ‘security estate’ in South Africa providing green and blue lungs to the community. The well trained, knowledgeable and motivated staff under the inspired management by Golf Director Andrew McKenna will be instrumental in making this certification in South Africa a great success.