Het Rijk Van Nijmegen
Executive summary (English & local language)
South of the city of Nijmegen, bordering on the Groesbeek residential area, lies golf course Het Rijk van Nijmegen. The terrain is enclosed by the Nijmeegse Baan and Zevenheuvelenweg regional roadways and crossed by two public roads: the Postweg and the Derde Baan. The area comprises a total of 140 hectares, housing 45 holes that allow for a wide range of games played in different loops. The course is private property and falls under the holding ‘Het Rijk Golfbanen’, which also operates three other courses. The Rijk van Nijmegen course consists of the Nijmeegse Baan course (18 holes and 9 practice holes), which opened in 1987 and was redesigned to accommodate two 18-holes after a land purchase in 1993, and the Groesbeekse Baan course (27 holes), which was built and renovated in the years 2008-2010. There are Pitch and Put and Driving Range facilities near the club house, which is located in a former farm. Course maintenance is performed out of two locations.
Due to its size – being the largest course in the Netherlands – and a design that was carefully attuned to the surroundings, this course stretches across a variety of landscapes. Large areas could be characterised as parkland course, although the degree of openness varies greatly. This course is part of the ‘Gelderse Poort’ National Landscape area, and the course is surrounded by reserves of the EHS (national ecological network) on the northern and western borders. The exploitation of the Rijk golf courses is geared towards long-term quality, which encourages a sustainable vision on nature, landscape and living environment. An orderly and compact ‘Work Plan’ forms a solid basis for making the golf course sustainable. The necessary steps and their accompanying time paths and duties are listed per ambition.
Ten zuiden van Nijmegen, direct grenzend aan de bebouwde kom van Groesbeek, ligt Golfbaan Het Rijk van Nijmegen. Het terrein wordt omsloten door de Nijmeegse Baan en de Zevenheuvelenweg en doorsneden door twee openbare wegen: de Postweg en de Derde Baan. Het terrein meet 140 hectare en bestaat uit 45 holes, waarmee allerlei combinaties van lussen gespeeld kunnen worden. De baan is particulier eigendom en valt samen met drie andere ‘Het Rijk Golfbanen’ onder één holding. Rijk van Nijmegen bestaat uit de Nijmeegse Baan (18 holes plus 9 oefenholes ), die geopend werd in 1987 en na extra grondaankoop in 1993 werd heringericht tot twee 18 holes, en de Groesbeekse Baan (27 holes) waarvan de aanleg en renovaties dateren van 2008-2010. Pitch and Put en een Driving Range zijn te vinden nabij het clubhuis dat centraal is gesitueerd in een voormalige boerderij. Baanonderhoud vindt plaats vanuit twee locaties.
Door de omvang van de baan, de grootste van Nederland, en een zorgvuldig op de omgeving afgestemd ontwerp is de landschappelijke variatie groot. Grote delen kunnen gekarakteriseerd worden als parkbaan, hoewel de mate van openheid sterk varieert. De baan is onderdeel van Nationaal Landschap ‘De Gelderse Poort’. Aan de noord- en westzijde wordt de baan omgeven door de EHS (Natuurnetwerk Nederland) .
De exploitatie van de Rijk-golfbanen is gericht op kwaliteit voor de lange termijn. Daarin past een duurzame visie op natuur, landschap en leefomgeving. Een overzichtelijk en compact ‘Werkplan’ is de basis voor het werken aan een duurzame golfbaan. Per ambitie worden de benodigde stappen met tijdspad en bijbehorende verantwoordelijke(n) genoemd.
Both courses lie on a push moraine plateau that was formed in the penultimate Ice Age, and the landscape is intersected by three dry dale formations (melt water valleys) on its east side. This creates wide vistas in the direction of Germany, with the background being formed by the forested push moraine plateau of the vast Reichswald. At almost 50 metres, the height differences in the area are unique within the Netherlands.
Due to the soil being pushed up, the substrate on the surface ranges from very course, stony soil to impermeable boulder clay with glacial boulders, which had led to the local variation in vegetation, from seepage forest to heather grasslands. There is also an abundance of fauna, with a particularly large diversity of mammals, birds and herpetofauna. Badgers, sand lizards and barn swallows feel right at home here.
The forests in this area weren’t cleared until the early twentieth century, making room for a more open, agrarian landscape. Right at the beginning, when Rolin built the oldest part of the course – de Nijmeegse Baan –, it was decided to strive towards a course identity that is connected to the surrounding landscapes. The on-site landscape elements were always included in the plans to have a fitting function on the course. The large, old farmhouse on the Postweg road, for instance, was turned into the club house and restaurant, Rhätia manor was refurbished to house the holding’s offices, and the annex buildings belonging to another farm were cleared to make room for a modern maintenance facility with machine sheds. This policy was continued by Alan Rijks when creating the eastern expansions, which are more open (Groesbeekse Baan course). The aim is to maintain a strong landscape zoning in the area:
(1) west: landscape parkland character with scrubs (with amelanchiers and snowberries), and potential areas for heath fields;
(2) south-east: country estate character with country lanes, tree clusters, monumental buildings, rhododendrons and ponds;
(3) north-east: open, sloping landscape with hedgerows, forest edges, broom, flowery grasslands and waste area;
(4) south: deep dale with seepage forest and heath on the valley gradient.
The course management has a relatively comprehensive overview of the fauna presence, based on inventories executed over the past few years, but species are not monitored in any structural way. One of the greenkeepers is an experienced naturalist who spots and registers any exceptional species. Knowledge of flora and vegetation is less developed. The locations of seriously endangered species have been logged using GIS. This also applies to the trees the course is required to look after by law. The trees are regularly monitored for safety.
The course is dominated by trees and scrubs native to the area, with exception of the Rhätia villa (where we among others find magnificent rhododendron formations) and the snowberry scrubs on the Nijmeegse Baan course. This is not an issue, however, as it benefits the landscape diversity. The brook is enveloped by an alder seepage forest which houses characteristic species, such as the golden saxifrage. On the valley gradient, we find a family of badgers that built its sett and outlier set in a young forest nearby. The badgers forage quite actively, in particular on the Groesbeekse Baan course. The waste area, which has been created around the new holes as a game element, turns out to be an attractive habitat for the sand lizard due to the rugged vegetation. The forest plots are home to the viviparous lizard and slow worm. Farm birds such as the barn swallow and the little owl are also abundant. Common gorse, broad-leaved helleborine and rampion bellflower grow in the forest mantle. On the steep slopes, oriented to the south, we find a rich variety of plant species, such as the mouse-ear hawkweed, common heather, broom and heath grass.
The course holds several bodies of open water. The brook from the seepage forest feeds into two pools, and there are several smaller pools and a pond spread out over the area.
Agrostis has been sowed on the greens, and Poa pratensis and Festuca rubra on the tees. Fairways and semi-roughs are dominated by Festuca rubra, admixed with Lolium perenne. Except for the Lolium, the fertiliser and moisture needs of the turfgrass species applied here are quite low. Colouration is tolerated and considered a natural phenomenon.
Nature management plans have been drawn up for both parts of the course (Nijmeegse Baan: 1993, Groesbeekse Baan: 2008 and 2009). Understandably, cattle grids have been installed to keep out the wild boars, but there are no obstacles preventing badgers and smaller animals from accessing the terrain. To bring the grasslands back to their original, more oligotrophic state, the course rents a flock of sheep from time to time. The more recent vegetation objectives for the Nijmeegse Baan course focus on nature and colour, which are encouraged by planting heather and spreading heather clippings in promising zones, after removal of the snowberry scrubs. Rabbits digging in the soil pose a minor problem, but this is expected to only be a temporary issue. The spring brook valley of the Siep is a treasured natural gem where hardly anyone ever goes. This is where we find the badger family’s main sett, a spring and two natural pools. The area around the outlier sett has been declared a no-go area and hole 6 East is off-limits from 1 hour before sundown. To prevent disturbing the badgers as much as possible, the course dug badger trenches and installed tubes under the roads. There is a wealth of other facilities: 15 nesting boxes, a box for the little owl, a bat cellar and a breeding wall for swallows.
The groundwater in the push moraine lies at great depth. The stony, course sand soil is highly porous, but the areas with (boulder) clay push up spring water of excellent quality. A number of pools lie on top of loam soil, while others have an artificial bentonite bottom.
In 2008, retention basins were created along the eastern border to catch drainage water; this water is now directly infiltrating the soil and the basins are constantly completely empty. Half of the parking lot has been paved. Water streams down to the ground water sideways. Roof runoff is drained through the sewer.
The consumption of public water is high, but this is unsurprising considering the size of the course and the corresponding volume of visitors. Furthermore, the restaurant and bar serve far more customers than just club house visitors. Consumption has been significantly pushed back over the last three years (15%). Sprinkling uses groundwater that is pumped up at two sites. The course has a pumping permit for 114,000 m3 per year, which volume is never fully used. Machines are cleaned using pressurised air and ground water.
Ground water is pumped up from a depth of 175m. The pump is frequency-controlled and pumps water to the large pond, where it is collected for sprinkling. A second pump, at a depth of 50m, is only used in times of long droughts. The system is fully computerised (attuned to the air and soil moisture levels) and can be adjusted manually when needed. The work plan also discusses ways to further decrease consumption by customising the sprinkling for the greens. Due to their highly porous soil, the fairways do need sprinkling. The Nijmeegse course needs a relatively high degree of sprinkling. The turfgrass species used on the greens and tees are tolerant to drought.
Water-saving sanitary facilities have been installed everywhere and signs remind the visitors about water-consumption awareness. Leaks are instantly spotted and fixed.
A rather unique feature of the Rijk van Nijmegen operations is that the existing buildings have been included in the plans, have been updated to comply with contemporary wishes and requirements, and are now used for a fitting function. During reconstructions, the energy efficiency and optimal levels of insulation were taken into account. An energy audit was performed in 2012. Several of the ensuing recommendations have been implemented, but there are still several possible points of improvement.
The high levels of energy consumption can be explained by the large club house and restaurant, which are used intensively. Electricity consumption has dropped 30% in one year; an achievement made possible by replacing the regular light bulbs by LED lights. This project has not been completed yet, meaning that consumption will drop even more. The driving range heaters do require a lot of energy, but these are only turned on when the range is used.
Heating uses natural gas boilers. A 1987 boiler was recently replaced by a tankless heater; a second boiler is a high yield condensing boiler installed in 2015. Fuel consumption for the maintenance machines is normal considering the surface area that needs to be maintained. Gasoline consumption is rather high.
The Work Plan includes a plan to switch to renewable energy, in collaboration with the energy supplier. Electric buggies, for instance, can be charged using solar panels installed on the roofs around the course. The exposition and angle of the roof of the new machine shed make it an ideal spot, but the municipality objects to this site because of traffic safety.
The former agrarian buildings have been expertly repurposed, using modern techniques and skylights. Many conventional lamps have already been replaced by LED lights. Lighting has been connected to movement sensors, meaning that lights never burn unnecessarily. The kitchen is new and superbly outfitted. Installing the cooling and freezing units in the basement has resulted in great energy savings. Maintenance machines are parked at two sites, which has decreased the driving distances. Alternatives to car travel are promoted in a number of ways.
Increasing awareness is a high priority and is communicated to the members and the supplier network. This does not only pertain to energy consumption, but also to the purchasing of equipment and materials. The incoming and outgoing flows of materials are properly registered.
When new machines and vehicles need to be purchased, sustainability is an important criterion. The suppliers have been awarded sustainability certificates. The multi-year planning lists several diesel/gasoline machines that are due to be replaced by hybrid machines. The technological developments are fast and are closely followed.
Over the last few years, the restaurant has started using regional produce, such as asparagus and strawberries. The aim is to expand this, while properly communicating this pursuit to the customer. The size of the restaurant and bar facilities means that the economic impact on the surrounding area can be quite large (exemplary function). The restaurant suppliers are all within a 40km radius.
The turfgrass species used on the courses require little nutrients, making it possible to keep the fertilisation levels low. Leaving clippings on the fairway and the semi-rough also contributes to this. The greens and tees require less and less fertiliser. The course is gradually switching to organic fertilisers, and the experiences have been positive.
The crop protection plan is set up pro-actively. A lot of areas have already been made organic with the Green Deal in mind. Until 2014, herbicides were still used to fight clover and dandelions. The aim is to completely stop using insecticides, although cockchafer larvae forced the club to use merit turf in 2015. Requiring 1500 m2 of new sods a year, the damage done by badgers is too great. Not all possible alternatives have been fully explored: such as garlic, wild carrots to attract parasitic wasps, nematodes.
Separated waste flows are centrally collected and recycled, although this hardly takes place on the course itself, even though there are possibilities to do so. It is better to process for example green waste internally, especially considering the size of the course.
The club has a concise environmental care plan. Fuel tanks and impermeable floors are frequently inspected for human and environmental safety. The facilities meet the legal requirements and the club has all necessary permits.
The water quality is properly tracked and there is an annual chemical check. Waste water is not analysed.
All sanitary facilities are connected to the public sewer, including the kitchen and greenkeeping waste water. Oil separators are installed under the wash pad and the kitchen is fitted with an oil and grease separator.
The chemicals cabinet meets all legal requirement. Hazardous materials are stored in a safe manner. These materials are only kept in small quantities and always handled by experts. The stocks are properly tracked.
The two diesel tanks are fitted with impermeable trays and tanking is done above an impermeable floor. This storage uses drip trays. The greenkeeping sheds are new and spacious.
The Rijk van Nijmegen course wants to set an example for Dutch golf when it comes to banning all pesticides (the ‘Green Deal’). The greenkeepers study the subject closely and draw up plans for post-pesticide maintenance. The new environmental legislation guidelines are applied to the fertilisation and protection of the grass. Virtually all treated zones are outside of the buffer zones surrounding the vulnerable natural areas. Buffer zones have been created around the springs. The switch to hybrid machines has significantly decreased the risk of oil leaks.
Rijk van Nijmegen has about 1800 members, more than half of which live in the immediate area. This also applies to the employees. The club’s ambition is to actively cooperate and communicate with interest groups for nature and sustainable entrepreneurship. A cooperation plan is under development.
The employees have the necessary licences and degrees, and every department has at least one emergency response officer. The greenkeeping staff attends refresher trainings every year, among others to properly prepare for the pesticide ban. The Rijk van Nijmegen has been offering employment opportunities for people with occupational limitations for years, in collaboration with the municipality and the ‘Breed’ social workshop. A labour analysis is currently underway in the greenkeeping, hospitality and administration departments to expand these opportunities.
The GEO committee comprises the head greenkeeper, the assistant head greenkeeper, the president of the four Rijk golf courses, and a naturalist (also a greenkeeper). The committee’s expertise is supplemented by external nature and landscape consultants. The course aims to further strengthen the ties with the local nature associations. The ties with the National Forestry Commission and the Bird Workgroup Nijmegen are already close.
The contact with the neighbours, including the National Forestry Commission, is good. There is an open attitude toward the local government and businesses. There are annual nature walks that non-members are welcome to attend as well. The course does not have any fences and is crossed by several public paved roads and a field road (used by cyclists and equestrians). The restaurant is accessible to all and is used for much more than just a club house, giving it a broad social function. Local organisations are more than welcome here.
The former farms and the villa have been incorporated and are used for fitting purposes. The historical lanes and rhododendrons surrounding the villa are expertly maintained by specialists. The course furniture is restrained and paths are paved using shells.
There are currently no active legal disputes or planning procedures.
The course publishes a monthly digital newsletter. Members are invited to participate in thematic nature tours, guided by one of the greenkeepers.
The course exploits Facebook, the website and regional papers efficiently. The website shows a respect for nature and the landscape, which is largely thanks to the passion of one of the greenkeepers/naturalist. There is a strive to communicate the course identity, for which an identity plan will be drawn up and implemented in the short term. At least one extraordinary location is promoted.
- Action Plans and Project Proposals
- Awareness Raising Materials
- Certification Report
- Environmental Data
- Environmental Management Plan
- Environmental Policy
- External Surveys and Reports
- Internal Reports
In an area of 140 hectares, one can expect a great landscape diversity. And this is exactly what one finds on this largest golf course in the Netherlands. But treating this diversity in the right way is a different story altogether. This course has found its way to do this, in a conscious and careful manner. Both the management and the greenkeepers are highly pro-active. They use the opportunities of the Green Deal and accept the responsibility of caring for nature, landscape and the environment. This course scores above average on a great number of points. There are some things to be gained in the areas of energy (with the quickest gains always made by further reducing consumption) and decreasing the water consumption.
Its extraordinary size, combined with its location on the flanks of a push moraine, endows this course with a strong landscape identity, and the course capitalises on this in an excellent way. Special elements, abiotic, biotic and artificial, have been utilised well. The villa, surrounded by gorgeous rhododendron formations, the lanes, the dry dales, the spring brook valley, the badger setts, the heather vegetation and many more elements are in good hands and are carefully and expertly maintained.
The work plan and its 10 ambitions, worked out into attainable and practical steps with clear descriptions of the results, the time path and the persons who are responsible for their execution could serve as an example to many other courses. The 6 GEO themes have been seamlessly integrated into the work plan.
The work protocols ensure that environmental legislation is translated to the site itself and the protected flora and fauna present there. Linking the species by means of a GIS application allows for a perfect implementation of the laws and regulations