Golfclub Almeerderhout

GEO Certified® 04/2017
Almere,
Netherlands
Telephone: 036-5219130
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Executive summary (English & local language)

The course of the Almeerderhout Golf Club lies in the southern region of the Flevoland province: the region comprising the province’s fourth and final land reclamation area (or: ‘polder’), created between 1959 and 1968 in the context of the Dutch Zuiderzee Works. The polder became part of the Flevoland province in 1986. A few years earlier, in 1981, the area was divided into plots that determined the contours of the present-day golf course.

The club was founded in 1986 and the current course was constructed in 1991, under the supervision of course architect Bruno Steensels. Due to the sizable forest plots, the course has over the last 25 years assumed a more or less closed, private character. The course consists of 27 holes in three 9-hole loops, a par-3 practice course, and a driving range.

The course lies on the Hoge Vaart canal – a 50-metre wide waterway used for inland shipping – and is bordered in part by the Almeerderhout forest area, which is made up from deciduous woods and marshlands. A part of the forest is a designated part of the National Ecological Network (Nature Network the Netherlands). With the projected construction of the Nobelhorst neighbourhood, the golf course will be surrounded by spacious and green residential areas on two sides. These areas will still be separated from the course by wide and natural strips of deciduous forest. Large-scale agricultural lands can be found to the east of the course. When including the forest area that holds several residences on the southern border, the club owns over 120 ha of land. The golf course proper stretches over 95 ha, with 50% of that comprising woods, nature roughs, and bodies of water.

The Golf Club Almeerderhout was one of the 10 participants in the Committed to Green pilot in 1994. Circumstances caused this process to end prematurely, but it was expertly relaunched in 2015 by the current manager, supported by the knowledge and expertise of the course committee, which was actively involved in the CtG start-up phase and is intimately aware of all GEO developments. Together with the head greenkeeper and the succeeding course commissioner, these parties coordinate the golf club’s sustainability programme, assisted by an external advisor who offers expertise in the field of forest and nature management. This group puts GEO on the agendas of all committee meetings and has taken all kinds of practical steps.

NL

De golfbaan van Golfclub Almeerderhout ligt in Zuidelijk Flevoland; de vierde en laatste droogmakerij (polder) die is aangelegd tussen 1959 en 1968 in het kader van de Zuiderzeewerken. De polder is sinds 1986 onderdeel van de Nederlandse provincie Flevoland. In 1981 werd de verkaveling uitgezet die tevens de contouren van de golfbaan bepaalt.

De club is opgericht in 1986. De huidige golfbaan is aangelegd in 1991 onder architectuur van Bruno Steensels en heeft door de aanwezigheid van robuuste bosvakken na 25 jaar een min of meer besloten karakter. De baan bestaat uit 27 holes in drie lussen van 9, een par 3 oefenparcour en een driving range.

De baan ligt aan de Hoge Vaart - een 50 m breed kanaal in gebruik voor de scheepvaart - en wordt gedeeltelijk omsloten door het Almeerderhout, bestaande uit loofbos en moeras, grotendeels aangewezen als EHS (Natuurnetwerk Nederland). Met de geplande bouw van de wijk Nobelhorst wordt de golfbaan aan twee zijden omgeven door ruim opgezette, groene woongebieden. Deze woongebieden blijven door brede, natuurlijke loofbosstroken gescheiden van de golfbaan. Aan de oostzijde strekt zich een grootschalig landbouwgebied uit. De club heeft, samen met een bijbehorend bosperceel met verspreide woningen aan de zuidzijde, meer dan 120 ha in eigendom. De golfbaan zelf is 95 ha waarvan de helft bestaat uit bos, natuurrough en water.

Golfclub Almeerderhout was een van de 10 pilots bij de start van Committed to Green in 1994. Door omstandigheden is dat proces gestopt, maar in 2015 weer goed opgepakt door de huidige manager, ondersteunt door de kennis en kunde van de baancommissaris die actief betrokken is geweest in de beginfase van CtG en zeer goed op de hoogte is van ontwikkelingen rond GEO. Samen met de hoofdgreenkeeper en de opvolgend baancommissaris coördineren zij het duurzaamheidstraject voor GA, inhoudelijk geassisteerd door een externe adviseur op het gebied van bos- en natuurbeheer. Deze groep zet GEO op de agenda van commissievergaderingen en is vooral praktisch aan de slag gegaan.

Nature

The last general inventory was taken in 2001, by the South Flevoland Bird and Nature Watch. More up-to-date are the flora and fauna data gathered in the context of the ecological work protocol (in 2016) and a quick scan performed for the purposes of reprofiling and dredging the bodies of water (in 2012).

The forest plots consist of native deciduous trees with ash, common oak, beech, black alder, grey poplar, and willows. Many ash trees will disappear due to the ash dieback disease. The shrub layer is quite diverse, with common hazel, elder, cherry plum, European cornel, and here and there some hawthorn or blackthorn (these two are not great appreciated because of their thorns). The roughs do not contain that many species and are mostly home to nitrogen-loving plants, such as nettles and hogweed. The sheep-grazing project, which will commence in 2017, may be able to stimulate some more variety in this area. The bodies of water together form one, large, interconnected eutrophic water system. The omnipresent grass carp has made the water rather murky and has eaten most of the embankment vegetation. This limits the development of a balanced and varied ecosystem. The area shows a lot of potential for development of nature connected to water, with a lot of opportunities for amphibian species and the grass snake, which is native to the area.

The greens consist of red fescue (festuca rubra) and a lot of bentgrass (agrostis), but poa annua is certainly present as well with a share of about 30%. The tees are covered by a mix of turfgrass species, with ryegrass (lolium perenne) as the dominant species. The fairways have been sown with festuca and lolium. Lolium perenne fares well on this rich and moist soil and requires no fertiliser. The turf quickly restores itself after periods of draught; discolouration is hardly an issue here. The club does want to replace the ryegrass with a fine-leaved species, because the rugged flowers, not at all appreciated by the players, are becoming dominant. Consistently continuing with the sowing of this fine-leaved cultivar is a perfect solution. Meadow grass is found all over the course (20-35%).

The forest management plan was launched in 2017. This 5-year plan involves the phased thinning-out of dense forest stands and the replacement of unwanted species. A first step in the winter of 2016-17 was to clean the waste collection site for the wood that is collected during the thinning actions. This site was turned into a forest clearing surrounded by mounds of stumps and branches. A plot of coniferous forest to the south of the golf course was cut down and planted with deciduous trees.
The ecological coherence here is quite strong because of the bordering with (mostly) extensively managed strips of forest, the large forest plots, and the omnipresent water. The northern edge of the premises, for instance, is bordered by a wide forest strip running along the water; there is no monitoring or maintenance here, allowing this strip to function as a fully-functioning buffer zone and an ecological bridge (area is property of the Forestry Commission).
A lot of energy goes into protecting and stimulating (aviary) fauna: 3 owl boxes, bat boxes, and a stork pole. Barn swallows are breeding in some of the shelters. A greenkeeper and a volunteer maintain the nesting boxes, which are replaced annually, if necessary. Every year, before commencing work in the forest plots, the areas are checked for nesting boxes, in accordance with the ecological work protocol (2016).

Water

The regional water authorities maintain a summer water level of -80 ground level and a winter level of -100 ground level in this area; this water level ordinance is attuned to the agricultural activities in the surrounding areas. Water flows in from the Hoge Vaart canal on the western border, and flows out of the area on the eastern side. During long draughts, water can be retained in the area using a little dam in the outflow ditch along the Kievitsweg road. There is hardly any drainage here; the drainage network from the reclamation days has been used locally. In case of flooding, the wettest game loop (the Markermeer) is closed; 18 holes are then still available for play.

The consumption of tap water is rather high, which is not surprising considering the great number of guests that the course attracts. More details on consumption are not available because there is only one water gauge. The ground water level lies significantly below average, especially for a course of this size.

Groundwater for sprinkling is pumped up from a depth of 30 metres (using a self-regulating pump with a capacity of 27 m3/h). The provincial government has decreed a ban on extracting deep groundwater, which will come into effect in 2025. The golf club will therefore gradually transition into using the on-site surface water for sprinkling; water extracted from the bodies of water on the course, supplemented with phreatic groundwater (groundwater that lies above the dividing clay layer).
The sprinkling volumes and duration are determined on basis of soil moisture measurements, combined with weather station data. Sprinkling is limited to the tees and greens, using full-circle sprinklers that can be adjusted individually. These sprinklers will be steadily replaced by sector sprinklers, which will save on water consumption and will make maintenance a lot easier. The water consumption will be pushed down even further by the changes to the turfgrass composition.

All sanitary facilities have been fitted with half-flush buttons. Machines are cleaned using groundwater, instead of tap water.

Energy

By far the most energy is consumed in the clubhouse and restaurant. The building dates from 2006 and was erected after the first clubhouse burnt down in 2000. The building is spacious, properly insulated, and the architecture uses the available daylight to great benefit. The clubhouse is not used for any other purposes. The final delivery of the building was somewhat problematic and not all elements were finished as they should have been. There are plans for renovating the greenkeeping facilities. The primary objective there will be to expand the covered parking spaces, which will create a large roof surface which will be suitable for a substantial number of solar panels.

The energy consumption levels must be considered in the context of the intensive use of the course. The consumption figures are relatively high. The heating system uses 4 boilers: 3 for the hot-water taps and 1 for heating the building. Heating is done with floor heating, which is on all the time because of the long time it takes the building to warm up. There is a small patio heater to accommodate smokers; it is fitted with a time-switch and is hardly used.
Fuel consumption is high as well, which can be largely explained by the large premises and the long driving distances. An energy-saving survey was performed in 2016, which showed that 48% of the electricity is used for permanent purposes: cooling installations, climate control, and – to a lesser degree – outdoor lighting.

100% of the club’s electricity comes from providers of renewable energy, and the club has begun to generate power on site as well: there are now solar panels for charging the golf cars, and a Smartflower solar panel installation to supply power to the electric car charging station. Although wind turbines would fit in perfectly in this young polder landscape, the club prefers solar energy, and there are plenty of opportunities for this.

A new thermostat was installed which allows the club to equally divide the heat per individual unit, thereby saving energy. The club started replacing light bulbs with LED lights in 2016 and this project will continue into the future. The driving range is lit using gas-discharge lamps, which use a lot of energy but are only turned on for brief periods of time. It is currently being considered to replace these with LEDs. Light motion sensors have been installed in the dressing rooms.

Supply Chain

The club strives the make its business operations as sustainable as possible, which means that environmental factors are taken into consideration in purchasing, consumption, and waste disposal. The club does not have a purchasing protocol providing guidelines with regards to nature, the environment, human rights, animal welfare, and fair trade. The club is familiar with the waste flows, but there has not been a waste scan.

Virtually all suppliers are regional businesses. Because of the club’s location in a remote area, this often still means a driving distance of 10-50km. Greenkeeping purchases in bulk wherever possible. The club is keeping an eye on the developments in hybrid mowing machines, but the distances on the course are simply too great, in addition to which the heavy machines could easily damage the sensitive soil.
The machine shed is compact and full. The club owns a great number of machines and equipment, which are almost all maintained by club employees. Several specific machines, such as the overseeder, are exchanged with the neighbouring Zeewolde golf club. Greenkeeping has an in-house mechanic and a properly-equipped workshop with a machine lift. This allows the club to keep the machines in perfect condition and it does away with any need for additional transport of machines or the hiring of specialists.

The restaurant ‘Grand Café ‘t Hout’ has been leased out to a third party. 2017 saw a new entrepreneur take over the business, which is a good opportunity for putting sustainability on the agenda. This happens every day. The owner is certainly open to making the restaurant run more sustainably. The menu often features seasonal and regional produce, and the kitchen uses only fair-trade and organic products.

The fertiliser and pesticides inventories are constantly monitored. Resources are purchased when necessary. Fertiliser, for example is delivered twice a year, and larger volumes would be inadvisable as the product composition can always change. Fertiliser is only used on the greens and tees, applying inorganic fertiliser granulates.
The golf club has a pesticide programme in place. Preventive measures, such as sanding and aerating the soil, are preferred over curative measures. Fungicides are always in stock to allow for swift action, although these are only rarely necessary, and always only on the greens. Herbicides are applied to the greens, fairways, roughs and tees to keep away the dandelion, plantain and thistle. The paved areas around the buildings are kept weed-free by controlled burning.
The golf club is prepared for the upcoming Green Deal, which will ban the use of pesticides. The course commissioner is a board member of NGA Dutch Greenkeeping Association, meaning that the lines of communication are very short and the club is informed about all developments and alternatives.

Plastic and general waste are not separated. Waste is collected by a certified processing company every other week. Paper is collected on demand. Organic waste is collected together with the general waste to prevent any odour nuisance. 2017 will see the launch of a new campaign, which will include removing all waste bins from the course and collecting and separating all the waste (plastic, paper, glass, general) at the clubhouse.
Forest management waste is processed internally: proper logs are sold, but a lot of wood is simply left where it falls. The course houses a great number of well-constructed ecopiles. A part of the wood is shredded for application in path paving. Clippings from the tees and greens are stored in a container for a while, and collected for composting several times a year. Leaves on the fairway are blown into the adjacent forest plot.

Pollution Control

The club is very aware of environmental legislation and treats nature and the environment carefully. The club does not have a specific environmental care plan in place, but the GEO document provides a full overview of all relevant facets, including environmental themes such as registration, consumption, and volumes of hazardous materials, pesticides, and fertiliser. The GEO document also contains a list of smart objectives and actions for the 2017-2019 period.

The groundwater is frequently tested and the quality is sufficient and stable. The high bicarbonate levels are no cause for concern. Iron and especially chloride levels are also high, but no problems are expected here since the groundwater is not used excessively and upkeep is good. There are not data on the surface water quality.

All waste water drains into the sewer: clubhouse, on-course sanitary facilities, wash pad, and also the rainwater runoff from the paved surfaces. The drains in the kitchen and the work shed are fitted with grease and oil traps, which are checked and emptied on a regular basis. All cleaning materials are bio-degradable.

The club’s register of hazardous materials is carefully kept. The hazardous materials are stored and processed in accordance with all legal regulations.

The maintenance area will soon be expanded with additional covered area for machinery
and a large, impermeable floor, creating more space for the storage of clippings and for washing machines. Diesel is stored in a double-walled tank (with installation certificate and KIWA inspection), which is placed outside on an impermeable floor, at a proper distance from the buildings. This is also where we find the container for the temporary storage of grass clippings. The old diesel tank, in a drip tray, in now used for storing waste oil. This tank is placed against the wall of the greenkeeping shed, which houses the machines, fertiliser (in bags), gasoline (200 l tanks), and the sealed pesticide cabinet.

The collection site for waste materials from the forest management was cleaned in 2017 (in compliance with the Decree on the Ban of Waste-Dumping). On the eastern end of the area, we find a depot for soil and sand, placed on an asphalt slab; this site can be accessed by a separate entrance. The push mowers and leaf blowers are fuelled with a special engine mix that is less damaging to the environment and the health of employees. The buffer zones around the water are at least 6 metres wide.

Community

The club commands a very strong network. In particular within the golfing world, there are many lines of communication and exchange that are actively being used. External contacts within the region are predominantly functional. The club has approx. 1400 members, a part of which is involved in the club as volunteers. There is no communication plan. There are, however, a Marketing committee and a Corporate committee, which together handle the external contacts.

Together with the hospitality services and the golf pro shop, the Almeerderhout Golf Club employs over 30 people. There are many volunteers active in a range of committees, each of which has its own responsibilities. The employees are aware of the environmental rules and regulations. They periodically take part in trainings, such as the annual Emergency Response training. The greenkeeping department is following NGA courses, among others with regards to the Green Deal. Employees and members can attend an annual AED/resuscitation training.

The club does not have a separate GEO workgroup, but there are three permanent representatives that put CtG on the agenda for committee meetings. These members meet regularly. All the important GEO information has been recorded in a convenient GEO document. The head greenkeeper is a key party in the implementation of measures; he is an experienced employee who has worked at the golf club for 25 years. He is in direct contact with the neighbouring golf club in Zeewolde (which shares many characteristics with Almeerderhout). The course commissioner has direct contacts at the NGF (Dutch Golf Federation), COGO (Committee Development Golf) and the NGA. The commissioner will be succeeded in 2017 by a member who has been involved in the club for many years and who has a great affinity with nature – she’s a beekeeper herself, and keeps bee colonies on the course. The manager has the final responsibility for GEO decisions.

The club is quite private. The course and the restaurant are not open to passers-by. A part of this is due to the location – there are great, accessible natural areas all around the club –, but there also simply isn’t really a need for it. All plans or proposed activities are properly communicated beforehand, for instance to the neighbours or the relevant authorities. One example is the adjacent forest plot (0.6 hectare), which is golf club property and is being replanted in close consultation with the neighbours. The Watersnipweg road was recently repaired by the municipality, and there are deliberations on how to prevent illegal use by freight traffic in the future.

This young polder landscape is not rich in cultural and historical values, save for the joyous feeling of expansiveness. The course furniture is made from wood and is kept sober. The same goes for the shelters, which have been fitted with lightning rods. Here and there, the paths have been paved with shells and woodchips. Asphalt has been used in some vulnerable spots.

There are currently no legal disputes or active planning procedures. There are no plans to expand the course.

Most members hail from the Gooi region or the city of Almere. The group of members from the city is growing and now amounts to about 50% of the total. Unfortunately, member involvement is not very high. It is difficult to find volunteers, and the annual volunteer day, where members assist in greenkeeping, attracts about 10 members. The members are kept informed about the club affairs through the website, the digital newsletter and the general members’ assembly.

The Marketing committee takes care of external communications, such as for the annual Open House event. At the moment, the extensive website does not provide any information about nature, the environment, or CtG.

Documentation Reviewed

Conclusion

Golf Club Almeerderhout has been around for almost 30 years and it has built a rich tradition in these years, also as an environmentally-aware club. Characteristic was the club’s participation as one of the 10 pilot clubs in the first years of Committed to Green. The club is deeply rooted in the world of sustainable golf, which is a great basis for further development. GEO has turned out to be a great tool for this; a small contingent of devoted and experienced people has been energetically implementing the GEO objectives. A particularly fascinating feature of this course in the youngest landscape in the Netherlands is that there are so many possibilities, both when it comes to saving energy and generating it on-site, and when it comes to increasing the natural values. With some outside stimulation and expertise, this club is heading toward a green future.

Certification Highlights

1
The club has a huge area with plenty of room for developing a natural forest. Due to the eutrophic clay soil, the growth potential is enormous, although not uncharacteristic for Flevoland forests. After the club’s 25th anniversary, this is the right time to make big choices. In many forest plots, the green management is aimed at a guided development into a natural forest with a lot of dead wood or ecopiles.

2
The quiet and the space on the course provide a unique golfing experience in the Netherlands. The city feels very far away and the surroundings consist of appealing forests and marshlands. When cycling from Almere, there are some beautiful routes to the golf course.

3
The site has some considerable potential for developing nature and generating energy. There are large swathes of border areas between the forest and the fairway and between the nature rough and the water; many of these borders are still relatively hard, but they could easily be turned into gradients housing many different species. There is also a lot of potential for generating and saving energy.