Golfbaan Zuid Drenthe
Executive summary (English & local language)
The Golf Course Zuid-Drenthe is part of the Resort Zuid-Drenthe, which also comprises the Hampshire Hotel Zuid-Drenthe and the meeting and conference centre De Fijnfabriek. The owner of the combination is Griendtsveen, a company that began as a peat cutting business and is now involved in project development and agriculture stretching over 300 ha of land. After the peat cutting stopped in 1999, the company looked for more sustainable uses of the area, which include the resort, a golf course and a wildlife park (development temporarily halted). The estates are nested in the raised bog extraction landscape of the Amsterdamsche Veld nature reserve.
The golf course stretches along the Dommerskanaal canal and lies 5 km from the cross-border natural reserve Bourtanger Moor, which the Bargerveen (Natura 2000 area; national Forestry Commission) is part of. The golf course is an A-status inland links course (design: Jol Golf Design). The golf experience is deeply enhanced by dramatic vistas with gorgeous skies, elongated bodies of water and bunkers with a splendid natural design. The sparse population in these border areas endow the course with a unique atmosphere of silence. Besides the 9-holes course (2012, 2013), the club offers a 3-holes Par 3 course (2010) and a driving range. The total size amounts to 38 ha. A master plan is currently steering the realisation of an expansion, aimed at a total of 27 holes and a new clubhouse.
The objectives of the GEO fit seamlessly into Griendtsveen’s ultimate vision, with quality, uniqueness, and sustainability as core concepts. The GEO goals are implemented by a motivated team: an English golf professional/green keeper who was raised on golf and green keeping, the resort manager, the steward, and an external consultant who safeguards the progress and the substantiation of the project. There is no fixed deliberations structure, but the lines of communication are short. The contractor providing course management is very interested in sustainable golf course management.
Golfbaan Zuid-Drenthe is samen met Hampshire Hotel Zuid-Drenthe en het vergader- en congrescentrum De Fijnfabriek onderdeel van Resort Zuid-Drenthe. Het geheel is eigendom van Griendtsveen; een bedrijf gericht op projectontwikkeling en landbouw met 300 ha grond. Dit bedrijf is voortgekomen uit een verveningsbedrijf. Na het beëindigen van de vervening is vanaf 1999 gezocht naar een duurzame bestemming voor het gebied, waaronder het resort, een golfbaan en een wildlife park (tijdelijke stop). De gronden liggen in het hoogveenontginningslandschap van het Amsterdamsche Veld.
De golfbaan strekt zich uit langs het Dommerskanaal en ligt op 5 km verwijderd van het grensoverschrijdende Naturpark Bourtanger Moor, waarvan het Bargerveen (Natura 2000-gebied; Staatsbosbeheer) deel uitmaakt. De golfbaan is een inland links course met A-status (ontwerp: Jol Golf Design). Vergezichten met schitterende luchtpartijen, langgerekte waterpartijen en natuurlijk vormgegeven bunkers versterken de golfbeleving. Uniek is ook de stilte in dit dun bevolkte grensgebied. Naast de 9 holes golfbaan (2012, 2013) beschikt de baan een 6 holes Par 3 baan (2010) en een driving range. De totale omvang is 38 ha. Gebaseerd op een masterplan vindt realisatie gefaseerd plaats met als eindbeeld een 27 holes baan met een nieuw clubhuis.
Het volgen van het GEO traject past naadloos in de visie van Griendtsveen met als kernbegrippen: kwaliteit, uniciteit en duurzaamheid. Een gemotiveerd team draagt zorg voor het GEO-traject: de golfpro/greenkeeper uit Engeland die met golf en greenkeeping opgegroeid is, de manager van het resort, de rentmeester en een externe adviseur die zorgt voor de voortgang en inhoudelijke ondersteuning. Er is geen vaste overlegstructuur, maar de lijnen zijn kort. De aannemer aan wie het baanbeheer is uitbesteed heeft affiniteit met duurzaam beheer van golfbanen.
The course is located on the transition of the Drentsche Hondsrug ridge – a push moraine dating back to the penultimate ice age – into the raised bog extraction area of the Amsterdamsche Veld. On average, the sand layer is between 1 and 2 metres thick, with a boulder clay layer of varying thickness underneath. Interlinked bodies of water and some hills of sand were created when the course was constructed. The overall balance of excavating and applying soil is even. In some places, the quagmire has been preserved.
The Dommerskanaal waterway with its climbing flora constitutes the Amsterdamsche Veld’s cultural-historical landscape carrier. The tracks of the narrow-gauge railway and the nearby Fijnfabriek factory are other reminders of the history of the peat industry. The course has been neatly fitted into the rational land subdivision. Save for near the resort, there are no trees in the area. The absence of disrupting factors and climbing vegetation creates a great sense of vastness on the grounds.
A team of professionals performed the first general inventory in 2014. Vegetation PQ’s are combined with hiking trails. The inventory covered vascular plants, birds, mammals, butterflies, dragonflies, grasshoppers and crickets. The plan is to make regular inventories, using a monitoring programme.
The only trees in the areas are in sparse clusters around the resort. Scrubs have been planted in the areas between the holes, including broom and common gorse, and all plants are native. There are some extraordinary biotopes, such as the oligotrophic, wet pioneer biotopes, sandy banks where waders forage for food, pools that are home to 6 species of amphibians – including the rare moor frog and the great crested newt –, steep sand slopes with solitary bees and digger wasps, and rough grasslands with butterflies. There were several sightings of the viviparous lizard.
Except for on the tees, the turf consists of festuca rubra. The tees have been sowed with a mixture of a fine-leaved kind of lolium perenne. Festuca rubra requires little moisture and nutrition and creates a closed turf with a natural look. The vitality is good, which means there is little need for pesticides. Colouration only occurs in enduring droughts and actually feels like a natural constituent of this link course. It is completely accepted by the club. There are no issues with meadow grass. Core aerators are used to improve the soil structure.
The manager’s core tasks include: combating encroaching woods, limiting rough grasslands, maintaining the diversity of the vegetation structure, and developing a balanced water system with the accompanying embankments. The proposals from the nature management plan have been translated into work protocols linked to the work planning included in the contractor’s agreement. Management of the nature zones consists of mowing and disposing of cuttings, sodding and seasonal grazing by 35 sheep (breed: Drenthse Heideschaap), in cooperation with a shepherd from Bargerveen. Heath cuttings were scattered over the pars 3 area, and in 5 years the heath developed rather well, among others along the edges of the bunkers. The heath is expected to enter the 9-holes course as well.
The management plan includes a map with areas of nature potential. Exploiting these potentials will definitely support the biodiversity. This will encourage the development of strong sub-populations that can support the rich but environmentally vulnerable Bargerveen area, and furthermore strengthen the regional environmental network. This will especially benefit those species sensitive to habitat fragmentation, such as butterflies, amphibians and reptiles.
Water is a dominant feature on this course. It isn’t only a prominent presence in the form of surface water, but is also used as sprinkling water within a closed system that also recycles wastewater. The golf course discharges into the Griendtsveen neighbourhood to the north, crossing a weir before it is drained into the Dommerskanaal water way. Using four small dams, the water can be contained longer in periods of drought. A drainage system ensures that there are no drain issues, despite the fact that the substrate consists of poorly permeable boulder clay.
The groundwater is never deeper than 40 (winter) to 80 (summer) centimetres below the surface. The groundwater is closer to the surface along the canal due to a seep. The water is very rich in iron, which causes residue build-up in the sprinkler pipes
Public water consumption in the resort and clubhouse is quite low, although comparing consumption is rather difficult. Showers and toilets use public water; recycling the water is problematic (for now). Machines are cleaned using compressed air and sprinkling water. All sprinkling is done with on-site water and treated wastewater. A groundwater well was drilled during the 2010-2011 construction phase, but this well is no longer used.
Water from roofs and paved areas and wastewater is drained through two treatment tanks (biological purification) to a treatment marsh lined with shells (to combat calcification). The plant roots further purify the water, making it suitable to be used as sprinkling water, which is buffered in the ponds. The water consumption is very low due to the composition of the turf grass, coordination with a local weather station, and the application of wetting agents. This combination of factors allows the club to sprinkle the course with its own buffered water for up to 6 months.
The toilets and showers in the resort have been fitted with half-flush buttons and sensors. There are no individual water meters.
The club plans have been very ambitious from the beginning. All options for sustainable energy and building materials that were available at the time were used during construction. The manager residence was constructed in an energy-neutral fashion (certificate for Passive Construction). The resort–clubhouse combination is an energy saver in itself. No energy scan was performed and there are no individual measuring figures per separate unit.
The facilities are powered by renewable energy sources. Energy consumption is low if one takes into account that the total consumption includes wellness, electric cooking and electric mowing machines. There is no connection to the natural gas network. Diesel and gasoline consumptions are slightly below average for a 9-holes course.
The buildings are heated with geothermal heat, combined with subterranean heat storage units, and solar panels on the roof. The club is currently considering a trial with a wood-burning boiler for additional heating.
Unfortunately, the resort roof exposition to the sun is not ideal for generating solar power. This factor could be taken into account when renovating the green keepers’ shed. The current shed lies in the shadow of a tree line for most of the day. Erecting wind turbines in the zone around the Bargerveen is prohibited.
The green keepers’ shed is housed in a former agricultural hangar; an example of reuse.
Several machines are used in course maintenance, including hybrid and electric vehicles. The number of mowing phases has been reduced; the greens are now mowed 4x per week instead of 7x.
The entire resort has been fitted with LED lighting. Equipment is energy-efficient and shuts itself down when it’s not being used. Lighting on the driving range is fitted with a timer, and is used as little as possible. Guests, members and employees can use the roofed parking area for bicycles and electric bikes, and there is a charging station for electric cars.
Environmental awareness has been an integral part of course management from its very conception onwards. Before purchase, materials are checked for their origin, certificates, the ecological footprint of their production, and recycling. A lot of raw materials are managed externally by certified companies. The club is aware of the inflow and outflow of raw materials to a certain extent.
The products used are all certified and preferably local. Deliveries are combined wherever possible. The golf course management is executed centrally for a total of 8 local golf courses; this includes the purchase of fertiliser and pesticides. This saves storage space, transport and packaging, and it is a lot safer. Foodstuffs are also delivered through a central distributor, yielding the same advantages.
The combination of resort, museum, tourist stopover and conference centre is an economically fecund combination. The facilities reinforce each other, and there are plans for future development. The restaurant offers only ecological, seasonal and local products – some of them very local.
The dominant festuca requires little fertiliser and water and is not very sensitive to mildew. The washing of nutrients is slowed down by the application of zeolite. Sweeping further reduces the risks of mildew. Seaweed extract improves the turf’s vitality. A vital turf prevents rodents and diseases. Pesticides are already applied very sparingly and are currently being phased-out altogether, to make sure that the turf won’t experience any shock when pesticides are outlawed in 2017. Combating unwanted influences is done using 85% ecological materials, and at the most suitable moments. Clover is controlled ecologically; other weeds are removed mechanically.
The advance in waste processing depends on the regional developments. Plastic, for instance, is still not separated because the municipality does not recycle plastic. Developments are closely monitored. Household waste is currently picked with large trucks, which reduces the frequency to a few times per month. The ReFood company uses food scraps to generate energy.
Clippings from the greens, tees and the treatment marsh are collected in a storage with an impermeable canvas floor and regularly transported to the central compost facility. The club is considering reusing its compost; a fertiliser pilot will be launched in the fall of 2015. There is no trimming or thinning timber (yet). In the long term, this could be used for additional heat generation.
The course management plan (2015) includes a chapter on environmental care. Before commencement of the course construction, there was an environmental impact report (2009) for all recreation developments in the Amsterdamsche Veld (master plan). This is the core document for the golf course and the resort. All permit and legislation requirements have been met. The most important ones are the Environmental Management Act (1993), Act on Water (2009), and the Flora and Fauna Act (1998), which manage the environmental legislation in the Netherlands. The golf course is assessed under these acts on a regular basis, but also unannounced now and then.
The Regional Water Authorities test the surface water quality every year, at four fixed points.
There is no connection to the sewer and water is treated on-site. After treatment, the water quality is of such a level that is can be drained to the surface water; primarily to the bodies of water on the course, which is used for sprinkling. Wastewater from the kitchen and the machine wash pad is led through oil and grease separators. The wash pad is fitted with an impermeable canvas floor.
Fertilisers and chemicals are stored centrally at the contractor’s facilities and are only supplied in small doses when necessary.
Diesel is stored in an aboveground double-walled tank in a drip tray. The tank is located in the shed to prevent theft. Machine maintenance and repairs are done externally. The lubricant used is biodegradable.
The pesticides used on the course are predominantly ecological. Any spraying is attuned to the weather conditions and does not approach the legal buffer zones around the bodies of water. On-course sanitary facilities use a septic tank, which is emptied on a regular basis.
The golf course presents itself as the Resort Zuid-Drenthe together with the Hampshire Hotel. The resort’s market differentiation is focussed on sustainability. There is a lot of internal cooperation to further sustainability initiatives, and the staff contributes to it as well. A key strength is the complete package the resort can offer, comprising golf, outside activities, a hotel, wellness, holiday cabins, conference halls, a tourist stopover, and museums. The silence and vastness of the area, near the border-crossing nature reserve, is one-of-a-kind in the Netherlands. The golf course and hotel have a joined communication plan.
The combination of facilities in the resort greatly contributes to local employment opportunities. The golf course works with a regular staff and offers 6 FTE, as well as several internship positions. Course maintenance has been contracted to a renowned local company that manages 8 golf courses. There is a great store of knowledge and regular additional trainings are provided. The licenses are taken care of. There are certified emergency response officers among the employees.
The resort does not have a work group structure (yet), meaning that there is no formal GEO committee, but the golf professional/head green keeper, manager and steward know how to find each other. Due to the short and clear lines of communications, many issues and tasks are tackled immediately and practically. An external consultant provides the necessary comprehensive overview. Layout and management advice are obtained (also before course construction) from the knowledge and expertise association Bosgroep Noord-Oost.
The resort has a relaxed and open atmosphere and functions as a tourist starting point for cycling trails in the region. The course has no public paths itself, but the website lists the hiking and cycling routes in the surrounding area. There is small self-service ferry over the canal, which guests can use to explore the region.
Initially, the neighbours and adjacent farmers were not positive about the plans, but this relationship has improved over the years. The club works closely together with the Bosschap Noord-Oost, the municipality, the regional water authorities, the national Forestry Commission, and the narrow-gauge railway museum. The club participates in the annual national neighbour day. Sports are used to involve schools in the club.
Before construction of the resort, a choice was made to have clusters of buildings, instead of one large mass. The roof ridge aligns with the local building structure. The Fijnfabriek factory from 1912 is a Dutch national heritage site and is used appropriately. This is the last remaining peat granule factory in the Netherlands. The climbing vegetation along the canal and the narrow-gauge railway are the most distinctive historical landscape elements. The club opted for discreet and inconspicuous on-course shelters (some of which are even underground), course furniture and paving.
There are currently no legal disputes or planning procedures.
The internal lines of communication are very short and informal, but will be further elaborated in the future. The website is the main communication outlet. A hallway banner and a scorecard clearly communicate the sustainability goals.
The main communication tool concerning sustainability and related developments are the website and external deliberations. The club will begin participating in Dutch Birdwatching Days in 2016.
- Action Plans and Project Proposals
- Awareness Raising Materials
- Certification Report
- EIA Statement
- Environmental Management Plan
- Environmental Policy
- Internal Reports
There is only one possible conclusion after visiting the golf course Zuid-Drenthe and the resort: in many of its facets, this course is a pioneer, a frontrunner. This does not ‘merely’ include the implementation of striving for sustainability, but also the embedment in the landscape and opting for an identity unique to this region. Naturally, a new course has some advantages compared to older courses that could only reach such a level after severe renovations at great financial costs. The other side of the coin is that this is a young course that will have to develop over the years, among others in the areas of nature and landscape. This is the course’s greatest challenge for the coming years: to pre-empt any risks of uniformity and to capitalise on ecological opportunities.
Griendtsveen, that the golf course is a part of, aims to contribute to a more sustainable society. Attention for the original environment is a core guiding principle. From the very beginning, the materials and techniques used were the most sustainable available. The golf course strives to be the most sustainable golf course in the Netherlands.
Visitors can use the complete range of facilities that strengthen each other in a location that is perfect for further exploration of the region. A combination of facilities is always more sustainable than separate services, and they reinforce each other.
The club uses a closed water system that eradicates the need for a connection to the sewer and allows the club to sprinkle the course with on-site (purified) water.
Space and silence are becoming rare commodities in the Netherlands. The Golf Course Zuid-Drenthe offers both. The design has been meticulously attuned to the raised bog landscape and the accompanying flora and fauna. The course and the immediate surroundings tell the tale of this less-known landscape type and its inhabitants, which already inspired Vincent van Gogh.