Golf Club Varese

GEO Certified® 02/2015
Luvinate,
Italy
Telephone: 0332229302
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Executive summary (English & local language)

Golf Club Varese is located in the province of Varese, in the Lombardy region in northern Italy. It is situated just a short way from the Swiss border, in a triangular area marked by three lakes (Maggiore, Varese and Lugano) with Campo dei Fiori Regional Park in the centre. Its geographical coordinates are 45° 50' 21'' north latitude and 8° 46' 02'' east longitude, in the municipality of Luvinate. The golf course offers visitors beautiful views of Lake Varese and Campo dei Fiori, which is historically known as “the mountain of the residents of Varese” due to its proximity to the centre of town and the rapidity with which the peaks can be reached. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region. A tramway and funicular network provided access to the top from the late 1800s to the 1950s. More affluent tourists stayed at the Grand Hotel Campo dei Fiori, a monumental Art Nouveau building, a style distinguishing many villas in the area. In the late 1970s, regional and local authorities decided to protect the entire area in a Regional Natural Park in order to enhance the area’s considerable natural, historical and architectural value. The project came to fruition in 1984. The Park includes major historical-architectural complexes, such as the Sacro Monte di Varese (an important sanctuary devoted the Black Madonna, a UNESCO Heritage Site) and numerous fine Art Nouveau buildings.

Golf Club Varese is located in an ancient monastery built in the 12th century by Comacine masters. It was home to a community of Benedictine nuns until the 15th century, when Charles Borromeo ordered it closed. The building’s walls are made of pebbles and hewn stones of varying sizes. Its cornices are decorated with terracotta tiles in a saw-tooth design, following Lombard Romanesque architectural precepts. A 15th-century cloister with a double row of arches extends from the base of the bell tower. The imposing walls are decorated with numerous frescoes. The GC Varese sports association is responsible for managing and restoring the structure, investing substantial funds each year to preserve this precious historical heritage. In 2014, the Club celebrated its 80th anniversary, although the sport has been practiced in Varese in 1897, boasting a long-standing tradition in the area. The current course was expanded to 18 holes in the mid-1950s. It is a par 72, very curvilinear course, designed by Gannon, Blandford, then Peter Harradine, Baldovino Dassù and Graham Cooke. Each hole is surrounded by centuries-old trees and offers views of incomparable beauty, of Monte Rosa Massif, Lake Maggiore, Lake Varese and Lake Monate, in addition to the Sacro Monte and Campo dei Fiori mountains, which protect the course from the cold north winds.

From a competitive point of view, Golf Club Varese has one of the finest records in Italy, both for teams and individual players. For this reason, an Italian Open tournament, national competitions and circuit finals have been played here.

The golf course is a veritable arboretum thanks to the presence of about 1,800 tall trees and large ancient specimens of great environmental value on which a census has been conducted; a list is available on the club website.

Bird counts have been conducted at the club as part of the Birdwatching Open in May 1998 and a list of bird species identified in the area has been drawn up.

The club was awarded certificates of merit for its environmental commitment in 2004 and 2007. In 2008, it received national certification thanks to its “Commitment to Green” project.

Il Golf Club Varese è situato in nord Italia, nella Regione Lombardia, in provincia di Varese, a pochi chilometri dal confine con la Svizzera, in un triangolo paesaggistico rappresentato da tre laghi (Maggiore, Varese e Lugano) con al centro il Parco Regionale Campo dei Fiori. Le coordinate geografiche sono 45° 50' 21'' di latitudine nord e 8° 46' 02'' di longitudine est nel comune di Luvinate. Dal percorso si godono splendide viste sul lago di Varese e sul Campo dei Fiori che storicamente, è "la montagna dei varesini ", per via della vicinanza al centro della città di Varese e dell'estrema rapidità con cui se ne possono raggiungere i crinali, è infatti una delle località di turismo più popolari del territorio. Dalla fine del 1800 fino agli anni '50 si saliva in montagna con una rete di tramvia e funicolare; per i turisti più facoltosi era a disposizione il Grand Hotel Campo dei Fiori, monumentale struttura in stile liberty, stile che connota anche molte ville site nel territorio. Per valorizzare le notevoli ricchezze naturalistiche, storiche ed architettoniche, l'amministrazione regionale lombarda, d'accordo con le autonomie locali, decise verso la fine degli anni '70 di proteggere tutta l'area includendola in un Parco Naturale Regionale. Il progetto si concretizzò nel 1984. Nel territorio del Parco si trovano importanti complessi storico-architettonici, tra cui spiccano il Sacro Monte di Varese (importante santuario dedicato alla Madonna nera, dichiarato dall UNESCO Patrimonio dell'Umanità) e il notevole insieme di edifici, di grande pregio, in stile liberty.

La sede del Golf Club Varese è un antico Convento, edificato nel XII° secolo dai “Magistri Comacini”, che ospitò le suore Benedettine fino al XV° secolo, quando San Carlo Borromeo ne decretò la chiusura. L’opera muraria, costituita da ciottoli e conci di varie dimensioni, ha le cornici ravvivate in cotto a denti di sega, perfettamente secondo i moduli dell’architettura romanico-lombarda, ed un chiostro quattrocentesco a doppio ordine di archi muove dalla base del campanile. Numerosi affreschi decorano le maestose pareti. La associazione sportiva GC Varese, che si occupa della gestione, oltre al recupero attuato, investe ogni anno cospicui fondi per la conservazione di questo prezioso patrimonio storico. Nel 2014 il circolo ha celebrato gli 80 anni di vita, anche se in realtà il Golf a Varese nacque nel 1897, vantando così una tradizione di lunga data in terra varesina. L’attuale percorso, ampliato a 18 buche verso la metà degli anni ’50, è un par 72 molto ondulato, disegnato da Gannon, Blandford e in seguito da Peter Harradine, Baldovino Dassù e poi da Graham Cooke, e ogni buca, immersa tra il verde di piante secolari, offre scorci di incomparabile bellezza panoramica, che raggiungono la Catena del Monte Rosa, i Laghi Maggiore, di Varese e di Monate, oltre che il Sacro Monte ed il Campo dei Fiori che lo riparano dai venti freddi del Nord.

Dal punto di vista agonistico, il Golf Club di Varese rientra certo tra i più titolati nel nostro Paese, sia a livello di squadre che nei singoli; per questo motivo un Open d’Italia, gare nazionali e finali di circuiti si sono svolte su questo campo.

La presenza di circa 1800 alberi d'alto fusto rende il percorso un vero orto botanico, con esemplari vetusti di grandi dimensioni e valore ambientale, di cui è stato realizzato un approfondito censimento disponibile anche sul sito del circolo.

Dal punto di vista faunistico, il circolo è stato oggetto di rilevamenti nell'ambito del Birdwatching Open del maggio 1998, che ha permesso di stilare un primo elenco delle specie di uccelli presenti.

Il circolo ha ottenuto nel 2004 e nel 2007 attestati di merito per l'impegno ambientale e nel 2008 la certificazione nazionale a seguito del progetto "Impegnati nel Verde".

Nature

The area’s hillsides are part of the Alpine foothills ecosystem, characterized by deciduous forests, although chestnut trees have replaced the oaks, maples and hornbeams typical of this area, as well as beach trees above 600 meters, almost everywhere.
The 18 holes are masked by large trees, many over a hundred years old. The course can be considered a real urban park/botanical garden for the diversity of its trees: 1,788 trees of 43 different species have been counted and catalogued. The club covers 40 hectares with very little underbrush due to the proximity of the holes to one another, with the exception of a 10 hectare area with mixed woodland left wild, where alders, beech and chestnut trees can be found, along with other species planted in this area before the golf course’s construction.
Over 40 bird species were registered during the Birdwatching Open in May 1998, including the European green woodpecker (Picus viridis) and the great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major). Mammals include bats, European badgers (Meles meles) and squirrels, both the native species (Sciurus vulgaris) and unfortunately the North American one. Amphibians include the salamander Salamandra salamandra, and reptiles include the grass snake (Natrix natrix). Various species of butterflies have been found, reflecting the fact that no substances harmful to insects are used. Invasive species reported in the lake at holes 7 and 8 are the pond slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) probably freed by their owners, and the eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus), which was introduced for hunting purposes and then spread throughout the area.
Fish introduced in the lakes include the largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) and the pumpkinseed sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus).

All tree species have been surveyed and marked with plates indicating their scientific and common names. A targeted study on the area’s arboreal heritage has been done, and a factsheet is available for each plant on the web, with their GPS coordinates and image on Google Earth. Each factsheet includes information on maintenance and interventions, pruning and other practices for each tree. This information is available on the club’s website. Each year, at least € 70.000 are spent on trees management conducted by a technical consulting firm. The club is also creating information panels with a map identifying the finest trees along the course. These will be placed at the club entrance and throughout the course.
Due to their advanced age, the following trees deserve special attention: a black poplar (Populus nigra) over 30 metres tall, and a common beech (Fagus sylvatica) measuring more than 20 metres in height. Some trees are used as obstacles or to surround the holes, which are distinguished by the plants grouped by species. For example, hole 7 is characterized by American oaks, hole 5 by beech trees and hole 8 by silver pines. The course is beautified even more by the changing colours as the seasons change.

The site is not included in any list of protected areas, but the club is just a few kilometres from the Campo dei Fiori Regional Park and five kilometres from Lake Varese. The golf course is not fenced in, allowing animals free movement.

As already noted at other golf courses in the Alpine foothills, significant shade from tall trees along the edges of the fairways, as well as general weather conditions do not allow the use of warm season turfgrasses. Therefore, the species and cvs present are the only ones possible in these environmental conditions. Agrostis stolonifera (80%) and Poa annua (20%) cover the greens and collars (covering 1 ha), Lolium perenne (60%) and Festuca rubra (40%) are present on the tees (covering 1 ha), Lolium perenne (40%), Poa annua (30%), Festuca rubra (20%), Cynodon dactylon and other weeds (10%) dominate the fairways, whereas on semi rough (surface equal to 1 ha) there are mainly Lolium perenne, Festuca rubra and Poa annua.

The trees are pruned and new native species planted as necessary. Ecological corridors are also maintained to allow animal movements on the ground and in the trees.

Water

The golf course is located in the Alpine foothills with extremely variable average annual rainfall (minimum 971 mm in 2005 and maximum 2.397 mm in 2002) of 1.540 mm (average over the past 50 years). The average temperature over the past 40 years has varied between 11 and 14°C. Rainfall is abundant in comparison to the rest of Italy, and average temperatures are not extreme.

Water sources for irrigation are three wells that feed two catchment areas with a total volume of 7.800 m³. The municipal water system also provides water (residual water from filter washing of the aqueduct) representing about 20% of the total. In the three years under observation (2011-2013) the average volume of water used on the golf course was 109.037 m³. However, consumption decreased by 50% from 2011 to 2013. In 2013, 76.280 m³ were used, equal to average consumption of m³/ha. Water consumption at the Club House and Maintenance Facility has also declined: the average volume consumed in the three years under observation was 8.645 m³, down 33% from 2011 (9.974 m³) to 2013 (6.724 m³). This was made possible by the installation of motion sensors for sinks in the bathrooms.

The irrigation system is controlled by PC. Both hardware (specific nozzles changed for each sprinkler) and software (updated in 2010) are monitored regularly.

Actions taken to limit water consumption are:
1) Monitoring of the evapotranspiration rate via a weather station connected to the irrigation system, with daily readings
2) Change in irrigation program (shorter, but more frequent, cycles throughout the day). Reduction of the number of cycles before weekends for smoother greens without resorting to rolling (which is always stressful for turfgrass).
3) Replacement of the sprinklers in the tees, decreasing the irrigated surface
4) Intensification of turfgrass aeration to limit compaction and thatch formation (core drilling, slicing, verticuttings and topdressings)
5) Reduction of irrigated surfaces (rough and marginal areas are not irrigated)
6) Repair of the largest catchment area, which had leaks in the cement. Any leaks in pipelines and sprinklers are immediately repaired.

Energy

Currently, all electricity used in the club comes from non-renewable sources. However, the club has undertaken an energy-saving policy both for the golf course (signs powered by photovoltaic panels) and the Club House (motion sensors, low consumption LED bulbs) for both renewable and non-renewable energy.

The policy undertaken includes: 1) Installation of motion sensors in bathrooms, 2) Timers for outdoor lighting; 3) Use of low-consumption LED bulbs; 4) Installation of photovoltaic panels to power signs along the golf course; 5) Planning and construction of a new heating system with low dispersion (condensing boilers); 6) Installation of individual valves on each heater; 7) Windows in the locker rooms have been replaced with double-glazed windows. Despite the above-mentioned actions, energy savings for heating are not yet apparent, as heating costs have increased by 16.3% since 2011 (in cubic metres of methane gas). Electricity consumption has remained substantially unchanged since 2011 (slight increase of 1.07%). Fuel consumption has decreased considerably for diesel fuel (10%), slightly for hydraulic oil (3.85%) and remained unchanged for petrol (no change from 2011).

Individual valves were installed on every heater in 2011. In 2013, the central heating system was replaced with a new condensing boiler. Two photovoltaic panels currently power signs along the golf course.

Equipment running on petrol has been replaced with diesel-powered vehicles (currently 95% diesel and 7% electric). Almost all golf carts are now electric (98%) and all staff members have participated in training courses organized by IGF to learn how to use energy more responsibly.

Supply Chain

A small number of products and materials have been selected for use on the golf course. Suppliers often store ordered materials at their premises for us, thereby reducing storage costs for the club. In 2013, the club began experimenting with natural organic fertilisers on the fairways. These products will also be used on greens and tees in coming years.

The management team’s general policy is to reduce the use of nutrients and pesticides as much as possible. A variety of organic products have been tested over the years, such as soils and soil improvers with local companies that have become our partners. Because storage is outsourced to our suppliers, supplies must be delivered rapidly. Therefore, the club chooses companies located near the club as privileged suppliers. Management also selects suppliers based on their environmental certification (ISO 18001 – ISO 14001). The same applies to external companies called to perform extraordinary work on the golf course.

Of the 19 suppliers, 15 are located near the club (within 10 km) and only four are 10 to 100 km away.

The amount of products used on the turfgrass has been significantly reduced in the three-year period under consideration. It should also be noted that semi-rough and rough areas receive no maintenance operations except for cutting. In particular, the quantities of nutrients have been reduced to a minimum, as follows:
1) N – 43% reduction on tees, 4.2% increase on greens and 16.5% reduction on fairways
2) P – constant use on tees, 13.3% reduction on greens and 84.4% on fairways
3) K – 36.3% reduction on tees, 8.7% on greens and 65.6% on fairways
The absolute value of reductions on fairways is high.
As regards pesticides, the club use only products approved by the Ministry of Health. Their use depends on the environmental conditions and type of surface (no treatments are applied to rough and semi-rough and no insecticides are used). More specifically, the following reductions have been obtained over the last three-year period:
1) Fungicides: 50% increase on tees (but the absolute amount is only 7.5 kg), 62% reduction on greens and 68% on fairways
2) Herbicides: 47% reduction on tees, no application on greens (elimination of the 8 kg consumed in 2011) and slight increase (4%) on fairways
3) Insecticides: no application on any surface
Moreover, growing practices have been adopted to reduce the incidence of pathogens, such as:
A) Continuous surface monitoring in order to apply curative treatments only when the intervention threshold is reached, avoiding scheduled applications
B) Aeration and thatch control
C) Dew removal
D) Poa annua control using mechanic means on greens
E) Manual weed removal on greens

Clippings are returned to the turfgrass on tees and fairways. Clippings on greens are collected and distributed manually on semi-rough. All waste collected on the golf course is sorted manually and then deposited in appropriate municipal waste containers.

Pollution Control

Because of its inclusion in the Campo dei Fiori Park, the club is required to apply an extremely rigid policy preventing and avoiding pollutants released in the soil and in the atmosphere, for both golf course maintenance and Club House and Maintenance Facility management. For example, the few pesticides applied on the golf course are approved by the Ministry of Health and the least toxic products are selected.

The inlet water in the two basins (pond and masonry cistern outside the ground) is chemically tested three times a year, and visual inspections are done daily. Outlet water is analysed chemically monthly and visually daily. No monitoring is done on the biological quality of water.

The water used in the Club House and in the Maintenance Facility is treated as required by law and therefore, is sent to a septic tank before being discharged into the sewage system. Equipment is washed on the washing platform and washing water is separated from biological materials and mineral oils.

Pesticides are stored in a separate, insulated, dry and aerated building. The equipment garage is covered and enclosed. Pesticides and fertilisers packaging, exhausted mineral oils, batteries, petrol and diesel fuel filters, and cooking oils are disposed of as required by law and are temporarily stored in appropriate receptacles and containers.

Fuels are stored in underground tanks as required by law and resistance tests are conducted on the walls. Refilling pumps are covered and have a collection basin in case of spills.

Pesticides are not applied on rough and edge areas of the golf course. The type of soil, plant species and the “culture” of club members help to limit the quantities of chemical treatments and fertilisation employed throughout the year. In 2013, the club began applying organic fertilisers on fairways and will extend its use to greens in 2015.

Community

The golf course has no fences with free access to the public. It is used by the public community for jogging and walking. There have never been any problems because the community respects the turfgrass. Over the last few years, the Varese province has been promoting golf through both internal and external events in neighbouring municipalities. Days to promote golf with free lessons are organized, as are annual events in cooperation with FAI (the Italian Fund for the Environment), an association promoting knowledge of hidden artistic heritage, through guided tours to explain the Monastery history. An exhibition was organized in the ancient cloister to celebrate the club’s 80th birthday, with images and captions explaining important events involving the club and people who have left an indelible mark on its history.

The club employs local residents and has 25 employees, including secretaries, maintenance personnel and caddie masters.
Staff members are regularly made aware and informed of correct use of water resources, emergency and accident management, waste sorting and energy conservation.

The club received certificates of merit for its environmental commitment in 2004 and 2007. In 20018, it was awarded national certification thanks to its “Committed to Green” project.

Important events are held each year in collaboration with local authorities both in the Club House and on the golf course during the summer season. The club enjoys excellent relations with the municipality, the province and the Pre-Alpine Geophysical Observatory.

Photos from the 1930s show the poor condition of the ancient Monastery, which the club later renovated and restored. Every year, the club invests money to preserve and safeguard it. More recently, major restorations and refurbishment have improved the Club House’s infrastructure and comfort, creating an extremely pleasant environment within a unique structure. The restorations revealed ancient frescoes and old brickwork, and new roofing and ceilings were installed to better preserve the structure. The club also recently renovated a small rural building near hole 6 (previously a barn) which is now used as a shelter for players in case of bad weather.

The club notice board provides information and documentation on all actions, events and initiatives. The website is constantly updated and includes the golf course’s history, its characteristics, events and other useful information linked to golf activities.

Since Luvinate residents use the club for jogging, walking or use the services, events include the participation of the local community.

Documentation Reviewed

Conclusion

Golf Club Varese is a club with an ancient tradition located near an important Regional Park. Its majestic Club House is almost 800 years old. The many fine and ancient trees enrich the landscape. For several years, the management team has taken on greater responsibility, issuing precise directives to reduce consumption of water and of major maintenance materials (fertilisers and pesticides). Currently, only energy supplies (for the type of interventions carried out) are lagging in achieving our planned reductions.

Certification Highlights

1) annual investments for the maintenance of the 12th-century monastery to guarantee the conservation of the historical buildings
2) management and care of the arboreal heritage
3) in 2004 and 2007, the club was awarded certificates of merit for its environmental commitment and received national certification in 2008 thanks to the “Commitment to Green” project
4) the club has been part of the local community for so long that local residents use its grounds freely and enjoy its historical beauty and arboreal heritage that have been preserved thanks to the club management
5) Golf Club Varese has one of the finest records in Italy, both for teams and individual players. For this reason, Italian Open tournaments, national competitions and circuit finals have been played here, on a course that offers interesting difficulties for golfers of all levels.
6) Progress achieved over the past three years in terms of reducing the use of water, fertilisers and pesticides is significant and of great importance in absolute value.