St Andrews Links The Castle Course

GEO Certified® 12/2014
St Andrews,
Scotland, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0) 1334 466676
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Executive summary (English & local language)

This report presents the results of the verification carried out under the terms of the Re-Certification procedure, which takes place every 3 years. The Re-Certification procedure conforms to the same comprehensive protocols as the original certification, but with a focus on changes over the period since original certification. It therefore has specific priorities, and applies explicit criteria which differ slightly from those used originally. In particular, the club’s progress in addressing any Continual Improvement Points is a key area of interest. The starting point for this report is the equivalent 2011 Verification Report, which has been updated through revisions, additions, and omissions as necessary.

The Castle Course is the most recent of the courses to be constructed by The Links Trust, opened in 2008, and continues the story of expansion of golf in St Andrews from the addition of the New Course in the late 19th Century onwards. Conceived to complement the courses at St Andrews Links, it represents a contemporary interpretation of traditional links strategy and playing values, but with the crucial distinction that the site is emphatically not linksland. Its clifftop location, with a history of agricultural land use, presented a significant set of challenges to its successful realisation in sustainability terms. These challenges are continuing to be addressed and significant advances have been made since the 2011 GEO Certification award.

Key achievements identified by the 2014 OnCourse Report and verification procedure include:

• appointment by the Links Trust of a full-time Environmental Officer whose duties extend to the Castle
• continued progress on ecological management in accordance with the existing 5 year plan
• emerging landscape and habitat structure based on increased species diversity in roughs, maturing gorse stands, and a growing network of functioning wetland ecosystems
• new wetland habitat creation project shortlisted for a BIGGA environment award in 2015
• initial water quality monitoring to demonstrate reduced nutrient levels in water from upstream catchment
• comprehensive overhaul of heating, air conditioning and ground source heat pump system at clubhouse, with resulting major energy efficiency improvements
• new wild flower seeding areas
• significant improvements in the proportions of supplies sourced from within the 100 mile distance band
• comprehensive internal waste audit with significant improvement in the quantification of waste streams.

Nature

The fertile topsoil which existed on-site prior to construction contributed to a range of management issues given the predominant ‘links-style’ concept. These were addressed in a comprehensive 5 year Ecological/Landscape Management Plan prepared by STRI, which included a strategy for long term improvement of the out of play areas. The current 3-year period has seen significant progress in accordance with this plan. An impressive landscape and habitat structure is now emerging based on increased species diversity in roughs, with reduced areas of rank grassland/weeds, maturing gorse stands (now beginning to require cutting back) and an extending network of functioning wetland ecosystems.

The Castle continues to consult with STRI Ecology unit on landscape and ecological management. The existing “Ecological/Landscape Management Plan” covers the period 2008-2013 and is accordingly due for review. A full suite of Management Plans for all Links Trust courses is currently being prepared by the Environmental Officer which will be available for the next certification.
Two additional reports have been uploaded since 2011, covering respectively research on invertebrates, and the new wetland created adjacent to Hole 14.

Although the course itself is not included, land immediately to the north of the fenceline along the cliffs forms part of the St Andrews – Craig Hartle SSSI.

Habitat areas remain unchanged with the exception of an additional 0.5ha of wetland associated with the new project at Hole 14.

No significant changes to predominant turfgrass species. The Bentgrass species used for greens and tees are a combination of Agrostis tenuis and Agrostis capillaris compared with Agrostis tenuis only in 2014.

An ongoing programme of green re-shaping/reconstruction to provide additional pin positions is not only continuing to moderate the playing challenge but is also reducing wear and allowing generally improved sward conditions with less maintenance input. A new divot sand with a 10% organic compost component is being used for fairways and tees.

A new wetland habitat creation project has been completed adjacent to Hole 14 near the southern boundary with the A917 has been shortlisted for a BIGGA environment award in 2015. Additional areas of native wildflower seeding have been established, with further areas planned.

As referred to in 2011, although there are no significant outstanding sustainability issues in this topic area, a useful addition would be to articulate an integrated “Landscape Vision” for the entire site, to be included in the updated Landscape Management Plan currently in preparation.

Water

As noted in 2011, the golf course inherited significant drainage issues, given the extensive upstream catchment for run-off from farmland to the south, and from the A917 coastal road, together with the planning constraint that existing land drainage pipes could not be increased in diameter. Work has continued to enhance the positive drainage from the playing areas linking to an extending network of swales and wetlands. The wetland system is likely to have significantly enhanced the chemical and biological quality of the water entering the site from the upstream agricultural catchment. Although a comprehensive monitoring programme is not yet in place to demonstrate this, initial observations have begun in association with the new wetland project. There have been no further significant changes to the overall situation.

All sources remain as for the 2011 report. The headline figure for total consumption on the golf course continues to fluctuate significantly year on year, primarily reflecting weather conditions, with a notably low volume used in 2012. The average annual consumption over the period 2011-2013 was around 13 million litres, in comparison with around 15.5 million litres for the period 2008-2010. Water consumption efficiency continues to meet the required criteria in the clubhouse and maintenance buildings.

There have been no significant changes to the irrigation system which continues to meet criteria for efficiency and regular maintenance and servicing.

The additional new wetland area adjacent to the 14th hole as noted above is linked to the existing wetland and watercourse system which ultimately outfalls to the SSSI along the cliffline. This represents a material improvement in the hydrological environment of the site which could be demonstrated with appropriate monitoring. (See also Pollution Control below).

A comprehensive water audit as recommended in the 2011 verification report has not yet been undertaken. As noted also for the Links, this will require a strategic decision within the Links Trust management outside of the direst control of the Director of Greenkeeping.

Continued work to improve the drainage conditions on the playing surfaces should be complemented by pursuing further opportunities to extend the already significant network of wetland areas.
No further dialogue has taken place with Scottish Water to investigate the potential for future use of treated sewage effluent. Pragmatically this may be regarded as unlikely unless or until Scottish Water can provide absolute guarantees on supply volume.

Energy

Overall the evidence of a very considerable range of good practice measures being implemented, which was reported at the last certification, has been maintained. Significant new measures have been implemented at the Clubhouse to improve energy efficiency, reflecting the overall progress made under the Links Trust’s new Property Manager. Most notably, there has been a comprehensive upgrade/overhaul of the heating and air conditioning system, with the heat pump now able to function at full efficiency. New thermostats were also installed and a filter film has been applied to all windows to reduce solar gain.

The average annual non-renewable grid electricity consumption shows a small decrease of around 4% since 2011. Use of natural gas for cooking has been eliminated with a change to electric hobs. Consumption of diesel and petrol remains essentially stable and unchanged from 2011 with some minor fluctuations. Changes in the utility vehicle fleet are reflected in a minor reduction in the proportion which is powered by grid electricity.

New PV solar panels were installed to the Maintenance Facility building in 2013. Use of hybrid fairway mowers is currently being investigated.

A change in engine oil type used is predicted to lead to significant savings over the next certification period.

The recommendation in 2011 to undertake a comprehensive energy audit has not yet been implemented. As noted for the Links courses report, this is still under serious consideration by the management team, and it is envisaged that there is a relatively high probability of its inclusion during the next recertification period, highlighting the positive overall contribution due to ground source renewable energy. Also as noted in 2011, continued efforts should be made to transition towards vehicles powered by alternatives to petrol and diesel.

Supply Chain

Procurement continues to be a vital component in the overall effort to improve sustainability. The Castle is included in the overall Links Trust policies in this regard. The new Tom Morris storage and distribution building at the Eden has also allowed improvements in recycling of packaging materials. Website retail percentage has increased and a dedicated IT team has been set up to improve this service.

The supplier profile shows improvements across all categories in comparison with 2011. 100% of Food and Beverage and Catering suppliers are now located within 100 miles, and 88% of contracting services and 83% of course supplies now sourced within 100 miles compared with 50% and 63% respectively in 2011. Additional organic food lines are now used.

As for the Links courses, The Trust continue to be advised by STRI on agronomy, with regular twice yearly visits. Discussion with the Director of Greenkeeping during the visit confirmed that there have been no significant changes in the total quantities or frequencies of fertiliser or pesticide applications since 2011 as a result of this advice.

As noted in the 2011 verification, waste awareness is undoubtedly well-established in the working methods of the Links Trust and continues to be reflected in the comprehensive range of policies and measures which are implemented. Partly in response to The Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012, a comprehensive internal audit was undertaken covering all facilities including The Castle prior to the appointment of contractors Binns Group in December 2013, this has also had a significant improvement in the quantification of waste streams, with monthly summary reports by weight now available. An example of reduced “lifecycle” impacts was demonstrated with a change since 2011 from traditional timber hazard marker stakes, which require regular painting and replacement, to maintenance-free recycled plastic markers.

The recommendation from the 2011 report to increase the proportion of purchasing from local, regional and Scottish-based suppliers has been successfully acted on. Implementation of the waste auditing recommendation has now partly been achieved internally. Continued improvement in this area is anticipated.

Pollution Control

There have been no significant changes in this topic area during the re-certification period. The OnCourse Report again provides solid evidence of high standards of attention to pollution control across all operational systems at The Castle Course. “Industry-standard” pollution prevention systems are in place at the Maintenance Facility including a closed loop recycling system for equipment washdown, and comprehensive collection and interception measures for hard surfaces. Materials storage is minimised through coordinated delivery from the central facility at the Jubilee Course, and best practice methods including secure, sealed, indoors areas are observed.

Comprehensive chemical and biological water quality monitoring has yet to be introduced. Initial observations have begun in association with the new wetland project.

No changes in the area of waste water disposal. All activities continue to meet criteria.

All activities relating to the storage and handling of hazardous materials continue to meet criteria.

All activities relating to pollution prevention at the clubhouse, maintenance facility and on the golf course continue to meet criteria. A minor improvement is noted whereby use of a large number of aerosol air-freshener units has been eliminated.

The 2011 verification report recommended establishing a water quality monitoring programme to test water both for run-off within the site, and at inflow and outflow. As noted above, the extended wetland system is likely to be already significantly reducing the nutrient content of the water which discharges to the SSSI compared to intakes from agricultural land, and the extensive buffer strips within the site should also be acting to mitigate any run-off from the playing areas. It is very encouraging to note that initial observations have begun in association with the new wetland project. Extending this work to a comprehensive monitoring programme would provide more solid evidence and could communicate a powerful message for the Trust, especially if combined with a similar programme at The Links.

Community

As a registered Charity, The Links Trust embraces social responsibility as an integral part of its mission statement, and the evidence is that this principle is continuing to be delivered in practice. There have been no major changes at The Castle since 2011 and the most notable aspects remain the wide-ranging nature of the partnerships which the Links Trust has developed with the community, and the relevance of the combined project work achieved.

The Trust’s internal initiative to improve staff education on waste management following introduction of the new Waste (Scotland) Regulations in 2012 also extends to The Castle.

The sustainability working group has been strengthened by the addition of the Environmental Officer.

The depth and variety of partnerships which have been developed with the community continue to be a major strength across the Trust’s operations. The job description for the Environmental Officer highlights the development of further outreach projects and this work has already begun.

A new project has been commenced with SNH and the Fife Coastal Path group to introduce sheep grazing at Craig Hartle. Fencing improvements and bracken control have already been implemented.

The Trust website includes The Castle and continues to be updated to service on-line golf bookings and retail. Additional IT and social media trained staff and have recently appointed. The Environmental Officer has also introduced a weekly blog.

The 2011 Verification Report for St Andrews Links referred to the benefits of studying the wider economic impacts provided by The Trust. A study of economic impacts of Golf Tourism in St Andrews was commissioned by Scottish Enterprise and the St Andrews Golf Development Group, and reported in June 2014. This work included data from The Castle Course.

Documentation Reviewed

Conclusion

As in 2011, The St Andrews Links Trust Management Team has collaborated effectively to deliver a strong and very comprehensive Certification Report for The Castle Course. The evidence provided demonstrates that standards have been maintained, and that significant improvements have been made over the 3 year review period.

Certification Highlights

• appointment by The Links Trust of a full-time Environmental Officer
• emerging landscape and habitat structure based on increased species diversity in roughs, maturing gorse stands, and a growing network of functioning wetland ecosystems
• new wetland habitat creation project shortlisted for a BIGGA environment award in 2015
• initial water quality monitoring to demonstrate reduced nutrient levels in water from upstream catchment
• comprehensive overhaul of heating, air conditioning and ground source heat pump system at clubhouse, with resulting major energy efficiency improvements
• significant improvements in the proportions of supplies sourced from within the 100 mile distance band
• comprehensive internal waste audit with significant improvement in the quantification of waste streams.