Royal Portrush Golf Club
Executive summary (English & local language)
Royal Portrush Golf Club has successfully demonstrated it is delivering a wide range of positive environmental measures throughout the Club and the course including nature conservation, water management, supply chain, its communities, energy and waste management. This positive approach is seen throughout the Club and is demonstrated through the high quality course and extensive ecologically rich habitats.
Royal Portrush Golf Club is the custodian of an extensive area of valuable coastal habitats that include large sand dune complexes, scrub, grassland and small areas of wetland. It is clear that ecosystems and biodiversity at Royal Portrush have significantly benefited from the pro-active and informed approach taken to managing the course, and from the high degree of passion and interest in the Club's natural landscape. Considering land use associated with other coastal zones in the local area, it is also probably true to say that in the absence of the golf club, the ecological value of this land would be significantly lower and there would be little or no management of the dune system.
The Club engages the services of external consultants, which includes specialist advice on nature conservation and ecological management. A wide range of baseline surveys have been undertaken which are used to inform a comprehensive ecological management plan for the Club. This information is then used in combination with the knowledge of the course management team to inform day to day and strategic activities. The Club also engages with local statutory organisations, sharing knowledge and advice and ensuring it meets all relevant statutory requirements.
Royal Portrush Golf Club supports an extensive sand dune complex that vary in species and faunal composition as a result of factors including distance from the sea, topography, aspect, age and presence of scrub, grass and bare ground (sand). All of these factors are considered as part of the approach to course management.
Ground flora is dominated by marram grass towards the coastline, but this varies inland. Areas of scrub are present that provide structural diversity and shelter and food for nesting birds, which also use ground nesting habitats. The course supports a range of invertebrates including a number that are rare and/or conservation notable. Small streams are present that drains part of the course leading to a natural low-lying area which includes an ephemeral pond. as part of the Water courses consist of a pond. Surface water discharges from the courses on the Strand Beach adjacent to the course.
The Ramore Head and The Skerries Area of Special Scientific Interest is located to the north east of the north eastern club boundary and offshore. This is a geological site and is the closest legally protected designated area. Habitats associated with the Club are also associated with those listed un the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Ecologically rich habitats extend across over 80ha at the Club.
Turfgrass species are carefully selected to represent a true links experience. The species selected (typically finer fescues and bent grasses) are also more sustainable in terms of their requirements for fertilisers, pesticides and water use. Turfgrass selection and management is informed by external expert advise and delivered by the very capable course management team.
A wide range of conservation and enhancement activities have occurred and were observed during the course of the course assessment. These range from specific habitat improvements for species recorded during the baseline surveys and forming part of the ecological management plan to longer term strategic projects such as the management of the invasive and non-native Japanese rose and sea buck thorn (the control of this shrub plays a part in stabilising dunes).
Conservation management is typically undertaken by the course manager and the greenkeeping team, although this is guided by the Club's environment committee which demonstrates 'buy-in' and commitment from all levels of the Club.
Voluntary activities are also encouraged through the Conservation Volunteers for Northern Ireland. The OnCourse application report produced by the Club details the comprehensive range of enhancement activities being undertaken, which were observed during the site visit.
Royal Portrush Golf Course takes a responsible and effective approach to water management. Although mains water is available (and is used in the clubhouse), water for course irrigation is sourced from six boreholes and used for the course irrigation. Water management and irrigation is managed by a computer-controlled system that can address the specific requirements of each of the two courses. Irrigation is linked to a golf course weather station and field measurements of rainfall and evapotranspiration. The system can address water requirements in terms of mm or as a percentage. Documented use of water has fallen over the recorded period. Water efficient devices are used within the clubhouse and rainwater recovery and reuse also occurs.
Mains water provides all of the water use for the clubhouse, although water efficient devices are fitted and water efficiency awareness/behaviour is promoted by the Club. The course is irrigated (as necessary by borehole supplies) although parts of the Valley Course can encounter high groundwater naturally. The maintenance area uses some mains water and some water is recovered from the processes occurring in this location.
Water bills were viewed and consumption figures show a reduction in the last three years.
Irrigation is computer controlled and is linked to measures demand taking into account rainfall and evapotranspiration. Irrigation technology is good and tailored to minimise water wastage on areas not needing watering. This extends to the use of hand watering in certain locations and watering at night.
Course specific techniques include the selection of drought tolerant species of turf grass, a robust turf and soil management plan (e.g. aeration, detaching, use of wetting agents), and in the club house, the use of water efficient toilets and rapid response to leaks (e.g. informed through a review of water meter data).
Principal energy uses associated with Royal Portrush Golf Club occur in the clubhouse/maintenance building (electricity and gas) and from vehicles (diesel and petrol). Currently, no energy is generated on site from renewable sources, although these have been previously explored. Energy conservation education and activities are widely promoted and energy bills observed during the visit and reported on in the On-course report demonstrate a reduction in energy usage over the recorded period.
Key sources of energy originate from hydrocarbons (gas, petrol, diesel) due to a current lack of competition from a renewable energy supplier. No renewable energy is currently generated at the Club, although the feasibility for this has been previously explored.
The clubhouse is of recent construction and incorporates high levels of insulation, natural lighting and ventilation. The course maintenance building also integrates natural lighting, ventilation and insulation. Energy consumption reduction has been achieved though careful management of equipment and demonstrated through a review of paperwork held by the Club.
The Club is keen to explore how it can diversify its energy sources and will be looking at this in the future.
As well as general energy efficiency education and awareness raising, the Club uses a high level of insulation and a modern heating system in the clubhouse. Energy efficient lightbulbs are in use and motion sensor lighting is present in parts of the clubhouse. The Club also encourages the use of public transport and bikes.
Royal Portrush Golf Club has a significant role to play in the local economy and is highly aware of this responsibility and demonstrates that it takes these responsibilities seriously, with numerous economic multipliers being apparent.
As well as being a local employer, the Club has a good local purchasing policy, noting that as a northern coastal club all supplies/suppliers need to come from locations to the south, west and east which may increase supplier distances compared to inland clubs.
The Club aims to purchase locally where possible - particularly meat and building supplies. Significant economic multipliers occur from the tourism associated with visitors to the Club and recommendations given for local accommodation and food etc. Large events significantly increase the value of this e.g. the Irish Open and will continue to be the same into the future (e.g. The Open Championship).
Turfgrass inputs are minimised and specialist external advice is obtained to complement the in-house expertise from the course management team. A range of measures are employed to reduce the reliance on fertiliser and pesticide use on the course. These are all documented in the On-course report and were discussed in detail with the Course Manager. The approach to reducing turfgrass inputs at Royal Portrush is comprehensive and effective and this is demonstrated through a general reduction in the volume of substances being applied (there is some variability between substances as a result of needing to respond to differing annual conditions).
The Club implements a strong level of waste reduction education to its staff and separation and recycling of materials occurs and was evidence during the site visit. Some materials are not recycled (aluminum and wood). Grass clippings and hollow grass cores are recovered with the cores being used to very good effect in repair and re-establishement of areas of grassland.
A high level of understanding and practical deliver of pollution management was observed during the site visit. No pollution incidents have been recorded.
The Club undertakes daily chemical and visual water quality monitoring.
Wastewater arising from the course and the maintenance facility enters a closed-loop system and is treated and reused. Foul waste from this area is stored within a septic tank. The clubhouse discharges foul waste to the mains sewer.
The maintenance area is very well organised and has specific suitable locations for the storage and use of potentially hazardous materials. All staff are adequately trained in their use.
A wide range of appropriate pollution prevention measures and documented in the On-course report including: suitable storage /use areas for chemicals, clear labelling and storage, use of bunding/containment, spill kits and suitably trained staff. These were discussed and demonstrated during the site visit.
A wide range of appropriate pollution prevention measures and documented in the On-course report including: spill kits and suitably trained staff, application of pesticides/fertilisers when rain is not due to avoid runoff/minimise required application rates, use of vegetated buffer strips. These were discussed and demonstrated during the site visit.
The Club has a key role to play in the local community in terms of employment, education, recreation, landscape, biodiversity and tourism/economic multipliers. It takes great pride in this and works hard to maximise the community benefits associated from the Club and its events.
The Club employs 36 full time, 8 part time and 46 seasonal members of staff. Indirect employment is associated with its supply chain which can increase significantly during large events e.g. the Irish Open. Further employment benefits are also associated with recommendations made by the Club for local services such as accommodation and food.
The Club has an outreach programme to bring junior members into the main club as well as local schools.
Its own staff undergo extensive training and education including higher education, vocational training and general training for all relevant aspects of working at a golf club and from a large responsible employer.
A sustainability working group has been established and includes:
Goof community relationships are enjoyed at all levels ranging from its immediate neighbours, the local authority, voluntary organisations and charities, local businesses and educational establishments.
Although no formal cultural heritage assets are present on the course, it provides a significant landscape asset in terms of the expanse of well managed sand dunes. Public access across the dunes is possible, linking the coastline with a main road into the town.
Education of its members on a range of environmental issues occurs via posters in the clubhouse, the Club monthly newsletter and its Twitter and Facebook sites.
The Club makes good use of social media and other forms of communication to increase awareness of its work and activities. It undertakes significant work with Tourism Ireland and the Northern Ireland Tourism Board.
- Action Plans and Project Proposals
- Awareness Raising Materials
- Environmental Data
- Environmental Management Plan
- Environmental Policy
- External Surveys and Reports
- Internal Reports
- Register of Accidents
- Training Log
Following a thorough review of the submitted materials, information provided to me by the Club during my visit, detailed discussions with key members of staff and site inspections, I have no doubt in my mind that Royal Portrush Golf Club should be awarded the GEO Certified status.
The scale, level of effort and attention to detail given to the management of the dune habitat across the Club was inspiring. Notwithstanding the intrinsic value this habitat has for such a prestigious link club, it was really impressive to see the care given to its conservation. The use of technology and measured field data to inform water management across the course was excellent to see. The value the Club places on its local community and how it can positively contribute to the local economy and education and employment is to be commended. The positive approach to environmental best practice is led by the senior management team and present throughout the Club. Congratulations to the whole team at Royal Portrush!