Executive summary (English & local language)
Nuolen was first GEO certified in December 2009, being one of the first 10 clubs to be certified and the first club in Switzerland. The site was formerly exploited as a gravel quarry before part of it was converted into a golf course about 18 years ago. Since then the club has been dedicated to improving biodiversity, maximising mechanical practices and minimising inputs of fertiliser and pesticide.
The golf course is dominated by extensive areas of wildflower meadows in the out of play areas, 6 man-made lakes and biotopes which separate the golf holes and provide extensive habitat for birds, amphibians, mammals and insects. The club continues to cooperate closely with WWF, the ANL and ProNatura and is guided by a local environmental consultant. The L-93 based playing surfaces still require regular mechanical maintenance but very little fertiliser and pesticide. In the past, the fairway surfaces had been slowly overseeded with Lolium and Poa pratensis but in time the Agrostis always managed to take over as the most viable turfgrass for this area. Nearly all irrigation water comes from the 6 lakes, collecting natural run-off from the golf course. Monitoring weather and golf course conditions informs the greenkeeper of irrigation and maintenance practices minimising inputs. A solid recycling system is in place and on-site composting provides soil for renovation projects.
Since the first certification, the club has begun a 9-hole extension, completing the conversion of the once gravel pit into golf and environmental areas. This process has been temporarily stopped during rough shaping of 5 of these holes, but will likely be continued in the near future. This conversion will provide further green space for the community including golf and public nature paths for walking, cycling and horse-back riding. When the addition is complete the site will include about 95 ha of land, with less than 1/3 of this being intensively maintained for golf playing surfaces.
The 9-hole extension will also include the a new clubhouse project, replacing the old less energy efficient building with a new building incorporating numerous energy saving innovations including solar panels for hot water and electricity, modern insulation, geothermal heating and water saving technology.
The club is still strongly dedicated to maintaining a high landscape quality and continues to collaborate with a number of nature and heritage organisations including WWF, ProNatura, the ANL (Amt für Natur und Landschaft) and a local bird watching club. They work closely with a local environmental consultant, still meeting 3 times per year to review the environmental management plan and monitor progress on environmental programmes.
The club continues to undertake regular surveys of plant and animal species together with local specialists, exhibiting many endangered and red list species. Most recently, a number of new ecological surveys have been completed to update older surveys and compare progress which has led to the discovery of many new species of dragonfly on site. Information gleaned from this survey has helped in the creation of new ponds which provide egg laying habitat for dragonflies.
The wildflower meadows and biotopes have been further enlarged in the last 3 years through the transformation of a large slope into a dry prairie (Trockenwiese), therefore reducing the intensively maintained surfaces from 12 to 10ha. All these areas as well as all semi-rough and rough areas receive zero inputs. Biotopes are systematically maintained, alternating areas to remove invasive species and optimise habitat conditions for insects, birds and mammals. The wildflower meadows are also cut over a period of a few weeks in order to conserve some higher grass in certain meadows for young rabbits to hide. A few times per year, a group of immigrant workers are brought to the club to hand weed specific environmental areas to encourage re-introduction of native species.
The L-93 hybrid initially seeded throughout the golf course has helped build up a decent soil on the former waste material and has in the past allowed the course to maintain these surfaces with a strict minimum of chemicals. The greenkeeper has experimented with overseeding with Lolium and Poa pratensis but the bentgrass has generally proved too competitive. The greenkeeper also built a test plot which was seeded with a number of different grass mixes in order to compare to the present mix and see if a new mix would fare better in the local conditions. The results at this time seem to indicate that the currently maintained sward is still the most sustainable for this region. That is, greens, tees and fairways present a mix of Agrostis with some fescues and the fairways have an additional percentage of Lolium against wear.
A nature trail winds through biotope and rough areas including brush piles, stone walls and bee hotels, and is to be enlarged to create a complete circuit around the golf course. Screens installed along the road continue to protect amphibian species and the wildlife tunnel continues to provide a safe passage under the road for frogs and other small animals. New bridges built to offer a more seamless passage for golfers, have also been beneficial as habitat corridors for numerous fauna including hares and rabbits. The club is also planning to construct an imitation sand wall for swallow nesting, to be built in 2017. Furthermore, 13 new bee houses have been erected on site for a new total of 27 bee families which help with the fruit tree pollination and produce 500L of honey per year which is sold in the clubhouse.
Nuolen is very conscious of their water use and remain more or less self-sufficient regarding water consumption. Almost all water for irrigation comes from rainwater stored in the many on-site lakes. Irrigation is limited to greens and tees with only occasional fairway irrigation once or twice a year in very dry periods.
The club has legal access to extract 1’800 m3 of water per day from the Lake of Zurich but in the last number of years they have taken almost none. The 6 lakes constructed on the former gravel pit, plus a more recent gravel washing area, collect rain water and run-off from the course providing nearly all the irrigation needs for the golf course. A new well has recently been discovered on site which will help to supplement any additional irrigation needs and also provide water for the maintenance area.
A computerised irrigation system services all playing areas but fairways are normally only watered a couple of times per year. Greens and tees are given water as necessary, normally at night by the computer controlled automatic system, and hand watering is done in needy areas. The existing irrigation system is scheduled to be completely renovated following the construction of the new 9-hole extension in 2018.
The head greenkeeper has acquired a moisture control meter to more precisely monitor the soil moisture level of greens and other surfaces which has helped to reduce irrigation regimes on greens by 25% and up to 50% on tees and fairways. An on-site weather station and up to date computer software provide detailed weather information for the golf course helping to reduce irrigation and optimise application of fertiliser and treatment in case of potential disease. Wetting agents are applied to optimise water intake. Some additional water saving activities are in place including the use of low-flow urinals and toilets, pressure reduction nozzles on taps, timers on showers and water awareness signage in toilets and changing rooms.
The club has clear records of annual energy consumption with detailed consumption of diesel, petrol, hydraulic oils, heating oil and propane. The club has installed a number of energy saving measures including low energy lighting and motions sensors as well sunlight pipes heating water for showers.
They are connected to the local green grid supply, use biodiesel and electric buggies. The greenkeeper has tried a number of hybrid and electric machines including a battery powered hand mower, but is not yet convinced.
The clubhouse is the greatest source of energy use throughout the year and the club is still in the planning process for the construction of a new clubhouse building, including restaurant, changing rooms and club storage. Projected to begin in the next couple of years, this building will incorporate the newest energy saving technology and increase efficiency for employees and golfers.
The fairway mower with groomer and brush continues to reduce cutting time of fairways by almost half and reduces the need for regular verticutting. Use of growth regulators and bio-stimulants in conjunction with the liquid fertilizers have helped to optimize the growing conditions and have reduced the mowing needs, mowing fairways only once per week and tees only twice per week. Existing buildings still have a number of energy saving devices such as movement sensors for internal lighting, use of low-energy lighting and sunlight pipes (like solar panels) for hot water for shower An energy audit for electricity use and gas burners is planned for this summer in order to make a detailed analysis of their energy consumption and look for ways to make further savings in the future. Furthermore, as the club goes further with their 9-hole extension, the efficient placement of fill helps minimize the need for excessive shaping and thus saves both time and resources.
The club keeps a solid record of their purchases and they are aware of the importance of keeping the supply chain local. The greenkeeper continues to search for new ways of working to refine the management practices and increase efficiency, reducing transport distances and buying certified products.
The golf club has an ethical and environmental purchasing policy in place for many years and regularly meets to review their suppliers and products. They are committed to buying locally and using quality products for both the golf course and restaurant.
The club continues to buy locally and in bulk orders to minimise transport and packaging and keep the carbon footprint small. Seed is purchased at the local Landi and the greenkeeping crew grind all their own mower blades on site to maximize self-sufficiency. Many materials for construction and renovation are still available on site, including local gravel from the former gravel quarry. Sand used for topdressing and construction is sent to Zurich by train and then brought from Zurich to Nuolen Golfpark via barge, favouring low CO2 transportation choices.
Turf is still maintained with very low inputs of fertiliser and pesticide, showing significant reduction in N-P-K over the years and now stabilising at minimum requirements. Fertiliser and pesticide applications are limited to greens, tees and fairways with all other areas receiving zero inputs including water. The minimum chemical input is achieved through a maximum use of mechanical practices such as regular dew removal, verticutting and topdressing, monitoring for shady areas and removing overgrowth when necessary. Experimenting with different variations of turf decompaction has further helped to cut back on chemical intervention. When necessary, hand picking weeds or spot treatment with a hand applicator is employed, however the club maintains a high tolerance for disease and weeds made possible through regular communication with the club and golfers. The sprayer is certified by Swiss Government Controlers and valid for 4 years. The greenkeeper believes that this is the first spray unit to be certified for golf course use.
Almost all waste is recycled or reused, including PET, aluminium, metals, glass, paper and cardboard. All material from the golf course including grass clippings, cores and leaves are recycled/composted and reintroduced to the site. Wood from removed trees is used for creating brush piles and habitat areas. Other wood is reused for building shelters on the golf course. Materials from the kitchen and maintenance area such as detergents, oils, lubricants, pesticides and batteries are collected and disposed of by registered uplift. Old machines like golf carts are put to new use for other purposes to prolong the life of these vehicles.
Being Switzerland, pollution control is a major concern and taken very seriously. Regular thrice annual meetings of the environmental management committee keep track of environmental progress and evaluate possibilities for improvement. Generally, the environmental quality on the once gravel quarry site has improved in every sense with the inception of the golf course, from the quality of water, biodiversity and landscape aesthetics.
Most water on site runs off golf surfaces into on-site ponds or retention areas (irrigation reservoirs) almost eliminating any possibility of contaminating adjacent waterways. Water entering and leaving the golf course is tested regularly by specialists, sometimes with only a few hours’ notice. However with such little pesticide used and a turfgrass profile as filter, the water leaving the course is often cleaner than when it enters the site.
Water quality on site has improved by more than 40% since 1998 and the little water running off site runs into a large retention area with overflow allowing the water to be slowly filtered through reed beds. Sediments are removed once a year. A regular circulation of water through the lake system keeps the water well oxygenated and free from algae.
Hazardous materials are kept under secure storage or disposed as registered uplift, collected a few times a year by a 3rd party.
The closed loop wash pad reuses water after passing through a filtering system, separating any oils and lubricants for later deposal. They are planning to buy a more updated Waste2Water recycling system in the near future. A metal containment around the washpad and sprayer filling station prevents any contamination of soil or waterways. Maintenance on equipment is done on a covered, impervious surface with a catchment for oils and petrol. A new maintenance facility is planned for 2017/18 which will further improve the safety, including covered areas for mixing fertilisers and pesticides. New above ground fuel tanks will be installed in the coming year.
A 6m no-spray zone is always enforced around all water elements, according to local legislation. The club still uses almost only liquid fertilizer which eliminates most leaching problems through optional take-up. Together with their up to date sprayer, very precise dosage can be obtained by keeping applications to a minimum and only where they are needed. The greenkeeper is looking at replacing a tractor with the newest diesel particle filter to reduce air pollution.
The club is very good at communicating both internally and externally. They are an important member of the local community and take their role as a sustainability leader very seriously.
Greenkeeping staff continue to receive regular education on pesticide handling, habitat management, safety and waste administration. The head greenkeeper holds the rare title of Master Greenkeeper demonstrating a very elite level of greenkeeping at this club. An older house on the golf course property is to be used as on-site accommodation for apprentices coming from US and other parts of the world who wish to gain experience from a Master Greenkeeper in Switzerland.
The club has a sustainability working group comprised of internal and external members who meet regularly to discuss any problems or opportunities for improving the club’s management.
A public nature trail leads around the golf course with numerous interpretive boards explaining the importance of biotopes and habitat structures. About 10 nature walks are organised per year to explain to visitors the various habitat areas maintained. The public walking path which runs through the golf course property is to be extended to complete a full loop around the course. A horse-riding trail is also well used around the perimeter of the course. A bird expert does daily bird watching surveys and the secretary does daily amphibian counts along one adjacent road. The club regularly cooperates with local school and professional groups to do on-site habitat construction projects such as building stone walls, constructing nesting boxes or bee hotels.
The on-site orchards were recently expanded with more pear trees with the harvested fruit sold locally or made into schnapps. They have also installed houses for 25 new bee families. The honey produced is sold in the clubhouse and in local shops. Over 10000 trees and shrubs were planted additionally on the site and are beginning to form interesting landscape structure.
For a few years, the club has been involved in a 9-hole extension. Initially all permits had been obtained without any opposition and construction work had begun on 5 of the 9 holes. Then during a change of architect and small revision of the original layout a new opposition sprung up from a neighbour. This opposition remains and work has temporarily been stopped until both parties have come to an agreement.
The club communicates its environmental activities at the club with an eco-table, posters and a company magazine. The club also has a facebook page which they keep up to date with new events and environmental messages.
The golf club has a good relationship with their surrounding neighbours and local businesses. A member of the golf club is present at local political meetings.
- Action Plans and Project Proposals
- Environmental Data
- Environmental Management Plan
- External Surveys and Reports
- Internal Reports
- Minutes of Meetings
Nuolen continues to demonstrate a strong dedication to improving their environmental management. The management plan is reviewed with meetings 3 times per year and protocols are made and adhered to. The club has in the past received the GCSAA environmental stewards award 3 times for their nature work on the site and continue to improve the quality of the environment through regular maintenance actions and construction projects.
Together with club members and local environmental groups, the greenkeeper and club manager are extremely successful in their environmental management of the golf club. The director of Kibag, the owner company, is also extremely dedicated to supporting environmental initiatives and gives his full support to making sure Nuolen becomes an environmental leader in the community.
In the last 3 years the club has continued to search for new solutions to reduce impact and become even more sustainable. The greenkeeper is always trying to refine their management practices, looking for new ideas, experimenting with different turfgrass mixes or products that reduce cutting, water or chemical application. At this point the golf club is already on a very solid sustainable path but they continue to make small steps every year to try to further reduce impact, lower inputs increase energy savings and improve the landscape quality.
Their engagement continues with the new 9-hole addition and the future construction of a new energy efficient clubhouse which should finally begin in the next year or so. The high percentage of environmental area as a proportion of the total hectares is rare for a golf course in Switzerland if not anywhere in the world and the future 9-hole extension on surrounding gravel quarry will continue with this proportion including the addition of more wetland areas and natural wildflower meadows overlooking the Lake of Zurich.
The highlights during the re-certification visit included further reduction of intensively maintained surfaces from 12 down to 10ha in the past 3 years.
They are also continuing to clear out alternate wetlands and ponds to provide optimum habitat for a large number of dragonfly species.
The greenkeeper continues with further research to find the ideal turfgrass species through overseeding trials and the creation of turfgrass test plots.
Purchase and use of a soil humidity reader which has reduced water use by 25%.