Rj National

GEO Certified® 02/2013 GEO Re-Certified 02/2016
Ipswich,
England, United Kingdom
Telephone: 01473 270000 EXT 451
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Executive summary (English & local language)

This 3 hole golf course and adjoining noise testing area was built in 2008 on industrial wasteland adjacent to the Ransomes Jacobson international headquarters and manufacturing facility in Ipswich. It was designed for multiple uses – as a golf course, as a demonstration area for golf course maintenance machinery, and as a noise testing facility for machinery. The aim was to produce a sustainably managed golf course, using turf grasses (mainly bents and fescues) managed appropriately with low inputs of water, fertiliser and pesticide. This has been achieved. There is a strong link with the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, who provide ecological advice. All water abstraction and discharge, and energy use and waste management, is undertaken as part of the whole site environmental management plan operated by Ransomes under ISO 14001. There is a strong link with the nearby Waldringfield Golf Club, whose Course Manager provides consultative support to the Ransomes Greenkeeper through a weekly visit in the summer. During the winter months, the retired Course Manager from Woodbridge Golf Club provides monthly advice. Support is also provided, on as an needed basis, from Ipswich Golf Club greens staff.

There is clear evidence of steady continual improvement of all aspects of the facilities environmental performance over the 6 years since initial certification of the site, and especially with regard to ecosystems, energy and resources, environmental quality, and people and communities. The level of commitment shown by the company, and their staff, is exemplary.

Nature

The site (approximately 1.3 hectares) was converted from an industrial use, so all habitat present has been created during the construction. There is a deep pond covering 0.2 ha, with good fringing vegetation on a marginal shelf. Indigenous water plants have been introduced, and other species are gradually colonising the pond. The sloping banks (approximately 3m wide) are no-spray zones, and in addition there is a 1.5m no-spray zone beyond this. Heather fringes have been planted around parts of the pond, and around some of the bunkers, and are now well established. The heather was stripped from part of the site before construction work began, and replanted afterwards. The remainder of the area is dry acidic grassland.

The character of the site has been greatly improved by the building of the golf course, as previously it was an area of industrial wasteland. The creation of an area of managed grass and appropriate semi-natural habitat makes a significant contribution to the landscape ecology of this highly urbanised part of Ipswich, and constitutes an important ecological stepping stone. The new habitats are linked to a pre-existing area of woodland along the northern edge of the site, improving ecological connectivity. A beech hedge has been planted along one side of the golf course, and is becoming a significant landscape feature. All shaping within the site was done using material already on site, with arisings excavated from the pond being used to create the mounded landforms within the golf course. A number of mature trees lay within the site, and these have been retained.

The Suffolk Wildlife Trust (SWT) has done a botanical survey of the site, identifying 85 species, and provides advice and guidance on ecological management. SWT re-visited the site in 2011, and confirmed that the results of the 2009 baseline ecological survey are still valid. They also provided detailed specific advice on practical management of the grassland and wetland habitats for the benefit of reptiles and amphibian, and for the silver-studded blue butterfly. In addition, there are periodic visits by the Ipswich Golf Club Conservation Officer Neil Sherman, who provides advice on heather management and translocation, and management of the marginal aquatic vegetation in the pond. He is available for more detailed advice as necessary.

There are no habitat or landscape designations on the site. All habitats present on-site have been deliberately created in order to enhance the broader environment of the area, and are being managed very well. The areas of rough grassland, heather and scrub have been extended since the last re-verification visit, and there is an ongoing programme to continue this. Further details appear in the Conservation & Enhancement Activities section (below).

Impressively, the almost pure bent fescue mixes planted in 2009 have been retained, with virtually no ingress of grasses such as Poa. This has been achieved deliberately through keeping inputs of water, nitrogen and pesticide low, and through developing a targeted approach which recognises the different character of each green. Broad composition of the sward is assessed regularly by their consultant agronomist and by the greenkeeper, who deliberately manages to ensure invasion by meadowgrass does not occur. Irrigation levels and nitrogen inputs are markedly different for the golf course and the football pitch/noise testing area, and the figures given in the company’s submission are aggregated for the whole site. Detailed records of all the inputs to each green, tee, approach, fairway and football pitch area are made, on a monthly basis. Moss control is done on an as-need basis, using lawn sand. A strong cultural management philosophy is apparent.

Since 2012 there has been further heather planting on the golf course area, using turves translocated from an adjacent area owned by the company, to expand the heather areas by the 1st tee, the 2nd green, and on some of the bunker surrounds. Heather planting has also been used to extend the range of transitional communities around the pond area. It is particularly good to see that the heather is encouraged to develop as a grass heather mix, rather than as a heather monoculture. A heather management programme has been put in place, using a hedge-cutter to trim the plants, with the seed being allowed to fall so it can strengthen the seed-bank. Fescue roughs have been established on banks around the edges of the playing areas, and to separate the golf course area from the football pitch area. Areas of gorse are being planted, both along the edges of the course, and as some stands within it, and this programme is continuing; a gorse management plan is being developed to ensure that this habitat does not become dominant.

Plans for planting a wildflower mix into the acid grassland are being developed, in liaison with the course architect Howard Swan, to provide increased food sources for pollinating insects. A scarification programme to manage these areas is being incorporated within the habitat management plan for the site. The plan is that these areas will become taller roughs., thereby reducing the areas of short mown turfgrass.

Log pile refugia for vertebrates and invertebrates are continually being added (there are now about 6), using wood from trees being felled to remove shading of greens. Hand cutting of reeds around the margins of the pond takes place on a rotational basis, and records are kept of which areas were cleared and when. Periodic removal of silt is planned, to ensure that water depths are maintained.

Water

The management philosophy for the golf course is founded on the Disturbance Theory approach, keeping the turf grasses “lean and mean” through low levels of irrigation and feeding. Forcing the grasses to stay drought tolerant is achieved through controlling irrigation tightly.

All legal compliances are met with regard to water use and recycling/discharge, with all recycled and discharged water going through the factory’s polishing system operated to ISO 14001. There are detailed maintenance plans covering all aspects of the irrigation system, which include sprinkler heads, pipework and nozzles.

Irrigation water is drawn from a licensed private borehole (permitted extraction ceiling is 6400 m3 per annum, and consumption is approximately 2100 m3 per annum. Usage is recorded by a flowmeter on the inlet pump, and data held in a spreadsheet. Tees, greens and surrounds are irrigated. The company understands that, to retain the bents and fescues sown on the course, low input is needed to withstand invasion by Poa. Evapotranspiration rates and 5 day forecasts are used to help decide on the timing of irrigation. The pond is too small to act as an irrigation reservoir, and in any event this could compromise its ecological value. There are no discharges from the site, which is legally compliant.


Monthly records are kept showing amounts of water used for spray irrigation, and to top up the pond when necessary (there are no natural inflows other than from precipitation). Irrigation needs are determined through use of a moisture probe, with water not being applied unless moisture levels are below 10%. Monthly rainfall is also recorded, and the Greencast system is used to help inform decision making. All water used is groundwater from the licensed borehole, with no potable water being used. Alternative sources are not possible, as rainfall levels in this part of England are so low, and the ecological importance of the pond precludes its use as a water storage reservoir. Wetting agents are used to facilitate the transmission of all water applied to the root systems.

A determination to retain the bent/fescue sward composition drives a strong policy of keeping irrigation to a minimum. The moisture probe is used to ensure that irrigation is only applied when really necessary.

Energy

Since the golf course does not have a clubhouse, Pro shop or a dedicated maintenance area, energy use relates solely to the course maintenance machinery. Energy consumption levels are therefore very low, especially since the course has only 3 short holes. Good records are kept of machine use and fuel consumption. As one of the objectives of the golf course is to test and demonstrate newly developed, more efficient and lower emission turf care machinery (including use of electric and hybrid technology), consumption of diesel and petrol is at a low level and reducing. Use of electric and hybrid mowers (using battery packs) is showing the way forward in mower technology. The company is also aware that energy reductions can be achieved through the retention of more sustainable turfgrasses, which require cutting less frequently, and their course management plan continues to achieve this.

Machinery hours are recorded monthly for each piece of equipment, along with records of fuel consumption. Mowing is reduced through use of turf irons for rolling, meaning that height of cut can be increased whilst retaining green speed and trueness. All data is recorded onto RJ corporate systems, so that it is accessible to current and future staff. There has been a significant change in fuel mix used on the golf course since 2012, as a result of a move from petrol and diesel powered mowers to hybrid and electric mowers. Consequently, consumption of petrol, diesel and hydraulic oils have reduced significantly over this period, whilst electricity consumption from the grid has risen.

Electric and hybrid mowers and haulage vehicles have replaced petrol and diesel vehicles, with consequential improvements in emissions and energy efficiency. Electric mowers are used for handcutting tees, greens and approaches, whilst hybrid mowers are used to cut fairways, carries and the football field.

The move to electric and hybrid machines has led to significant reductions in energy use, whilst maintaining quality of cut and presentation of the course.

Supply Chain

The company are clearly aware of the benefits of ensuring that their supply chains are sustainably managed, and keep good records of them. The turfgrass products used are advised and recommended by their agronomic consultant.

Ransomes Jacobson Ltd has a comprehensive environmental purchasing policy which, in the golf course context, takes particular regard of risk assessments, COSHH assessments, and the need to source all materials from a single environmentally credible source who are themselves ISO 14001 compliant. RJ National uses Collier Turf Care in this role, supplying turf care products including top dressing, seed and fertiliser; as much of this as possible is delivered to the site loose, thus avoiding packaging, and the waste which this often comprises. The company also has a waste and energy purchasing policy which is maintained as part of their ISO 14001 accreditation.

There are good records of the geographical distribution of the suppliers to the golf course facility, with all 9 suppliers lying within 100 miles of the facility.

RJ National maintains comprehensive records, on a monthly basis, of fertiliser and pesticide use, and the initial selection of turf grass species (the composition of which has been maintained over time) has ensured that minimal use of water, fertilisers and pesticides are needed. This is done as part of an Integrated Pest Management programme, and overseeding during the year also benefits retention of original sward composition.

Detailed records are kept, on a monthly basis, of applications of fertilisers and pesticides to the golf course, broken down separately for each green, tee, fairway and the football pitch area. Different tees and greens have different sward composition, and chemical applications are tailored to their different needs. 90-100 kg/hectare of nitrogen is the usual rate of application in broad terms, and is being maintained at this low level.

Detailed records are also kept of the cultural management treatments made during the year for the different areas of the course, ensuring that cause and effect relationships between management activities and outcome can be assessed. The Greenkeeper walks the course daily to assess turf quality, and scout for disease and pests.

Waste is managed within the overall context of the company’s ISO 14001 waste strategy. There is a well organised waste recycling area, in which wastes are sorted and separated for the company as a whole, and the purchasing policy operated by the golf course means that packaging is minimised. All waste is either re-used or recycled, with none going to landfill or incineration. All activities are legally compliant.

Pollution Control

ISO 14001 drives the approach taken to maintaining environmental quality in respect of all golf course activities. Development of the golf course has resulted in environmental improvement to the overall factory site, and has made very significant contributions to wildlife. Previously the area was a brownfield site with no biodiversity features, whereas it now acts as an important reservoir of grassland and heathland habitats, supporting characteristic species.

Visual checks on water quality of borehole water being used on the site are made monthly, as part of the overall environmental monitoring programme. The maintenance department make daily checks on the chemical and biological properties of inflow and site water, as part of the whole-site protocols.

No water is discharged from the site, whilst effluent from machine washdown goes into the factory’s on-site treatment plant. All discharges from the site are legally compliant.

A detailed comprehensive record is maintained of all hazardous materials used on the golf course, and these are stored in locked containers or storage areas, to standards set by the company as part of their overall hazardous material policies. All storage areas are bunded and impervious. All COSHH and LERAP records are comprehensive and up to date.

There is no clubhouse, so this section relates solely to the maintenance area. The design and operation of the small maintenance facility is incorporated within the overall site procedures. Storage and washdown areas are bunded, and significant maintenance is carried out in the adjacent factory area.

Pollution prevention on the golf course is secured through minimisation of inputs, erection of warning signs and cordoned off areas when spraying is taking place, and through operation of a buffer zone around the pond. No spaying takes place in any areas of tall rough. All spraying is done by external contractor, with all required certifications.

Community

There are difficulties in using the site for broader community activities, as it lies in the middle of a busy factory complex, with all the security and safety hazards which this presents. An Open Day is held every 2 years, and the golf course receives about 1000 visitors a year, but these are mainly golf related, or involve dealers and customers. However, the golf course area is well used for training purposes, for company staff using company machines.

There is a well-structured and managed training programme for the people managing the golf course, as part of the company’s overall internal management system. Weekly visits by the Course Manager from the nearby Waldringfield Golf Club, to support the work of the on-site Greenkeeper, are a fundamental part of this. Accident and emergency plans are comprehensive and reviewed periodically. Wider communication of the environmental activities and considerations (within the company and externally) are covered in a variety of ways. There is a well designed storyboard sign adjacent to the golf course, newsletters are produced, video blogs are produced and disseminated, course walks are organised which explain what is being done and why, the course is used for the company’s customer care conference, open days are held, and strong links have been established with local environmental organisations, colleges and businesses. Events are held which provide workers from the factory with the opportunity to operate the machines they build.

The facility holds good records of staff working on the site, and their responsibilities are clearly set out in job descriptions.

There is a company environmental policy, signed off and championed by the Managing Director, and a formal Sustainability Working Group for the golf course which meets annually, and which is chaired by the Customer Care Director; this takes the form of a course walk, followed by a discussion to agree issues that need to be addressed. The group includes external representation in the form of the golf course's agronomic consultant.

The golf course area is used as much as is practicably possible for local community engagement, but this is necessarily limited by the location of the golf course within a busy industrial complex. There are good links with the golf management media, especially that part associated with golf course management, and local schools are supported via formal visits.

There are no historic, cultural or archaeological features on the site, as it is a long established industrial site. However, the company has introduced several interesting and innovative land uses which fit well. An All-Terrain Vehicle testing and training track has been built on the periphery of the golf course site, and is managed by the Greenkeeper. This has been well landscaped and fits the site appropriately. An area of land is also used as a test area by the seed supplier Everris, to experiment with different specifications for swards for tees, greens and football pitches. The area is managed by the Greenkeeper, and has mutual benefits for RJ and for Everris.

There is excellent communication with company staff, customers and dealers on how the golf course is being managed, using both newsletters and a video blog which appears regularly on the company website. On-site, and internally directed engagement with company staff, with customers and suppliers, and with golf-related groups are strong. And there is an increasing amount of more public dissemination of information through newsletters and blogs.

Opportunities are limited as a result of the golf course's location, and are largely restricted to family Open Days and customer/dealer visits.

Documentation Reviewed

Conclusion

The creation of this small golf course, built and managed to good sustainable golf course principles and standards, has hugely improved the environmental quality of the area. The aim of creating a small golf course to be used as a demonstration facility for turfcare machinery, and managing it in a sustainable way is laudable, underpinned by careful choice of fescue and bent turfgrasses to achieve this. Good areas of semi-natural habitat have been created and are developing well, and further biodiversity initiatives have been implemented subsequently. Record keeping is exemplary, regulatory compliance is unblemished, and there are very high quality innovative communications mechanisms in place. The quality of the playing surfaces is very high, and the course demonstrates well how playing quality and sustainable management can go hand in hand.

I have no hesitation in recommending that this course should be re-certified, and it is entirely justified.

Certification Highlights

The strong focus on creating a wildlife oasis within a heavily-used industrial site is excellent, and good quality grassland, heathland and wetland habitats have been created and are being well-managed. It is also impressive how well these have been integrated with the golf course. The company is rightly proud of these achievements, which benefit from well established relationships with the Suffolk Wildlife Trust and Waldringfield Golf Club.

The innovative creation of a small golf course which also serves as a test-bed and a demonstration area for greenkeeping machinery is, in my experience, unique. The fact that it has been done in a way which acts as a shop window for sustainable management of golf courses, through selection of turf grass species which require low inputs of water, fertiliser and pesticide, and delivers high quality playing surfaces is exemplary. I have been particularly impressed by the way that presentation has improved very markedly over the last 3 years, and by the fact that good management has ensured that the original sward composition has been retained.

The replacement of petrol and diesel driven machinery by electric and hybrid mowers and trucks is especially impressive, as it represents the way forward for the turfcare industry. Their use here is being as an exemplar of how emissions can be reduced, and efficiency increased, whilst maintaining quality of cut and presentation. The way that video blogs are starting to be produced by the company to demonstrate this is especially pleasing.

The way that the Greenkeeper has developed effective methods of communication , through newsletters, video blogs and training courses is extremely impressive. The video blogs explain and show what management work is being undertaken, how it’s done, and what are the benefits, and also provides information on machinery set-up. Many golf clubs could learn from this.