Hilversumsche Golf Club
Executive summary (English & local language)
This report uses the basic information that was provided in the 2013 audit. The emphasis here is on the developments of the last three years and the improvements in GEO theme areas, measured on basis of the CIPs that were recorded in 2013. The 2013 and 2016 reports should be read together and cannot be properly used independently. I’ve tried to weed out any repetitions.
The golf course operated by the Hilversumsche Golf Club lies on the edge of the city of Hilversum, between the A27 motorway on the one hand and the vast woods of the Utrecht Heuvelrug sand hill range on the other. The course is situated on 54 hectares of privately owned grounds.
The Hilversumsche Golf Club was founded in 1910. The present location of the golf course dates back to 1922 (northern nine; Burrows) and 1926 (southern nine; Colt). The design has a high cultural historic value; the course is one of the ‘Old Nine’ in the Netherlands.
A renovation project has been ongoing since 2002, which among others includes a full restoration of the vistas that were originally designed by Colt and complete renewal of the old greens and tees. The club strives to return to the 1950s situation, when 8 hectares of heath were interspersed by tree clusters and solitary trees in the game. The renovations have been largely completed, but there’s a new, large challenge on the horizon: the building of an entirely new clubhouse. A ‘Clubhouse Project Committee’ has been created for this purpose and the Hilversumsche Golf Club aims to return to a previous historical situation here as well, in this case the situation of before the 1965 fire. Other points of focus in the coming years will be solving the water stagnation issue, preparing for the pesticide ban that will come into effect in 2020, and guaranteeing the safety on and around this ‘open’ course that is surrounded by freely accessible recreation areas.
The Hilversumsche was awarded the hallmark for sustainability in 2009. In 2010, the course went from Committed to Green to GEO based on an administrative audit After the first GEO audit in 2013, this audit is the second one that uses the principles of the GEO criteria.
Greenkeeping plays a central role in the ongoing improvements aimed at minimising the impact on nature and the environment. The basic documents used in this respect are: (1) environmental folder (registration of input and output of (raw) material), (2) bookkeeping chemicals, (3) course management plan, (4) update of the nature and environment plan, and (5) a compendium that can be considered a kind of logbook.
In dit verslag is basisinformatie overgenomen uit de audit van 2013. De nadruk ligt op de ontwikkelingen van de laatste 3 jaar en de verbeteringen ten aanzien van de GEO-thema’s aan de hand van de in 2013 opgestelde CIP’s. De verslagen van 2013 en 2016 kunnen niet los van elkaar gezien worden. Herhalingen heb ik getracht te voorkomen.
De golfbaan van de Hilversumsche Golf Club ligt aan de rand van Hilversum, tussen de A27 en de uitgestrekte bossen van de Utrechtse Heuvelrug. De baan ligt op 54 hectare eigen grond.
De club bestaat sinds 1910 en is één van de 'Oude Negen' van Nederland. De baan op de huidige locatie dateert van 1922 (noordelijke negen; Burrows) en 1926 (zuidelijke negen; Colt). De cultuurhistorische waarde van het ontwerp is hoog.
Sinds 2002 is een renovatie gaande waarbij onder andere de door Colt ontworpen doorkijkjes in ere zijn hersteld, oude greens en tees zijn vernieuwd. De club streeft naar een herstel van de situatie van de jaren 50, toen 8 hectare heide afgewisseld werd door boomgroepen en solitaire bomen in het spel. De renovaties zijn grotendeels afgerond, maar er wacht een nieuwe grote uitdaging: de nieuwbouw van het clubhuis. Hiervoor is de ‘Clubhuis Project Commissie’ opgericht. Ook hier kiest de Hilversumsche voor herstel van de historische situatie van vóór de brand van 1965. Andere aandachtspunten voor de komende jaren zijn het oplossen van de waterstagnatie, de voorbereiding van het verbod op pesticiden in 2020 en het garanderen van veiligheid op deze ‘open’ baan te midden van vrij toegankelijk recreatiegebied.
De Hilversumsche draagt sinds 2009 het duurzaamheidskeurmerk. In 2010 is de baan van Committed to Green omgezet naar GEO aan de hand van een administratieve audit. Na de eerste GEO-audit in 2013 is deze audit de tweede die gebaseerd is op de GEO-criteria.
Greenkeeping speelt een centrale rol in de voortdurende verbetering om de inpakt op natuur en milieu te minimaliseren. De basisdocumenten die daarbij worden gebruikt zijn: (1) milieumap (registratie van input en output van materialen), (2) boekhouding chemicaliën, (3) baanbeheerplan, (4) update natuur- en milieuplan en (5) compendium, te beschouwen als een soort logboek.
Ecologically and location-wise, the course is part of the woody area ‘Utrechtse Heuvelrug’, the centre of which consists of a lateral moraine that was formed in the next to last Ice Age.
The Kievitsdel is a shallow depression formed in the Ice Age which has filled with water and is now a forest pool.
The course is located on the outskirts of the lateral moraine, characterised by the drift sand relief. The design has been perfectly arranged in line with this natural relief. The large variety of tree species and rich structure of heather vegetations is remarkable. In its present location there is still a distinct difference between the northern and southern nine. The level of openness differs. Also, the influence of the lateral moraine causes a climatic difference.
The course is gradually being restored to its state of the 1950s, when the view was dominated by heath that was interspersed by clusters of Scots pine. One will find a solitary oak or a beech tree here and there. After their renovation, the tees also become a more integrated part of the course landscape.
The course shows a vast biodiversity and is the habitat of a number of rare species, including the sand lizard and crested newt, both of which breed on the course. Badgers and foxes also regularly visit the grounds.
Flora and fauna inventories were drawn up in 2006 and in 2011, offering a great overview of the natural values. A bird inventory is held each year in May. Since 1997, the Toad Workgroup of the Natuurmonumenten natural society has performed amphibian inventories for the Kievitsdel forest pool and the fire pond every six months. Inventories are performed under professional supervision and members are very welcome to participate.
In 2018, at least 95% of the trees in the area must be native trees, with an emphasis on coniferous trees. The club strives to create a natural and varied native forest that is bordered by highly structured, species-rich heath. The transformation of the ‘fat’ [i.e. dense] rough into heath lands is proving to be very successful. The total heath surface area (including partially overgrown heath) has grown from 6.2 to 7.4 hectares in 3 years. The club aims to have 8 hectares of non-overgrown heath by 2026 – the former level of the 1950s. The new planting of heather plants (local, genetic material provided by the Haalboom company) – necessary to involve the members – has been ceased. Heath has been transplanted from the drive range edge here and there. A highly successful project in October has been the deep flail mulching of the top layer of the overgrown rough, down to the lead layer, followed by sowing seeds from the neighbouring, older heath. The combination of flail mulching and sucking means that one can mow and remove clippings in one motion. Members enjoy helping with sowing, removing dead leaves, raking the moss, and removing young forest growth. Now, the club is finding heath where it didn’t even expect it.
The new greens have been sowed with festuca rubra and agrostis (50/50). The old greens still consist of 30% meadow grass, which is a result from the 1970s and 80s when meadow grass was very popular because of its short mowing length and because the balls could roll perfectly on it. However, this did require the use of a lot of fertiliser, pesticides and water. All policies are aimed at reducing poa annua. This is achieved by creating conditions that are unfavourable for poa annua, e.g. minimal fertilization and irrigation and plenty of aerification. Agrostis canina is sowed where the turf goes bald. The Agrostis offers a lot of advantages over Festuca: it can be mowed at a short length, can easily resist people walking on it, is drought resistant and doesn’t allow for growth of the thatch layer. Greenkeeping operates a nursery where they do specific studies into cultivated, modern turfgrass species that offer a natural resistance.
The central tenets of the management of the natural habitats is formed by the combination of a professional forest management plan and a heath management plan. The club is working towards a new course management plan. The Austrian pine is gradually replaced by the black pine in the forest layer. In the end, the aim is to have 95% native trees. Oaks are often close together, and their arching crowns can cause an excess of shade and leaves. The forest edges that keep the morning sun from the greens require an elegant solution. Ecopiles have been built along the boundary shared with the neighbours. The relative shortage of natural tree cavities is supplemented by a score of nesting boxes that are cleaned every year.
The forest around the Kievitsdel pool is thinned out in several phases to allow for more light on the ground. The pool requires frequent cleaning to prevent it from being covered by plants and to make sure that the pool consists of marsh areas as well as deep water. Because of the combination with the surrounding land biotope, this area is a perfect home for amphibians. A series of five pools connects the area with the Wasmeer lake (managed by the Forestry Commission).
A herd of sheep that roams the national park area visits the golf course annually, thereby helping to keep the lands in a more oligotrophic state and furthering the exchange of seeds. This brief, intense grazing can be supplemented and fine-tuned by means of the 20 sheep that the club owns itself (Kempen heath sheep).
Damage to the turf caused by badgers, crows and foxes is less urgent because the pests have been under control for a few years now. The barbed wire that topped the double electric fence was replaced by smooth wire because it was detrimental to birds of prey. The rabbit population was beginning to climb to alarming levels, but a new strain of VHD began thinning out the herd in 2014. Shooting the rabbits will only be necessary if the population grows out of control again; the head greenkeeper recently acquired a hunting licence.
There was never any open water present. The culture-historical pool of Kievitsdel (on clay ground) and the fire-extinguishing pond (on foil) are exceptions, fed by rain water. The water levels fluctuate heavily with a 1 m difference between the summer and the winter levels. They presently extract groundwater in two areas at a depth of 14 m; each area falls under a different district water board. The figures of extraction are reported once a year. The Vitens water company monitors the ground water levels.
Water maintenance continues to be a cause of concerns. In some places, water stagnation is a crucial issue, in particular on the old greens but also on some of the fairways. These remain soft because they retain water, meaning that they can’t offer the desired run. There is still a 20-centimetre layer of clay on the old greens, which has become highly compact after 70 years. Deep piercing (35 cm) and installing gravel columns would be effective measures. The parking lot drains well (mine rubble and open bricks). The club is preparing for a more extreme climate with brief, heavy showers in spring and summer.
Public water consumption in the clubhouse and the greenkeeping shed is not very high. Ground water is used for sprinkling and for hosing down machines. The ground water consumption fluctuates heavily, depending on the weather, but it is generally very low for a sand-soil course.
From 2012, the water supply is calculated based on the percentage of moisture in the ground. The wilting level is 14% on the greens. Sprinkling is done manually and is based on need. A green keeper is specifically responsible for sprinkling. The water consumption levels are dropping thanks to the application of drought-resistant grasses and acceptance of discolouration, wetting agents (retaining and distribution of moisture) and single head control sprinklers that can be operated individually. In wet years, the course may require just a single sprinkling episode.
The changes to the composition of the turf will push down water consumption levels even more. Water-saving technologies will be implemented during the construction of the new clubhouse.
New constructions of the clubhouse and cart shed will commence in 2017 and are expected to be finished in 2018. The new clubhouse will be built on the site of the current clubhouse. The design was heavily inspired by the clubhouse that stood here before the 1965 fire. The club strives to build sustainably and to reduce the energy consumption as much as possible by using the right materials and technological possibilities. A temporary building will be used during the construction period. Electric fences and in-house machine maintenance and repairs are the largest energy consumption clusters.
Despite large energy consumers such as the electric fences, machine management, and the old buildings, the overall electricity consumption is in fact average. The high consumption levels in the last three years cannot be explained when compared to the levels in the years of the KLM Open (2010, 2011 and 2012). The diesel consumption is low, gas and gasoline consumptions are relatively high. All figures will be somewhat higher when the course is kept in ‘Championship condition’, when all maintenance is performed more frequently. This for instance applied in 2015 (National Women Open).
The club has switched from gas to Aspen for the hand mowers, which is more people and environmentally friendly. There is a charging point for electric cars. On-site energy generation is a possibility, for instance by means of soil warmth, heat exchanger, solar panels, or solar boilers. The roof of the driving range, the roofs of the greenkeeping sheds and the flat roof of the future clubhouse are all suitable surfaces. Limiting factors are the sun orientation, the shadow caused by trees, and the ideal of a retro structure. The club is open to all options and wishes to investigate them.
The 2014 energy audit had positive results; the club considers it to have been a very meaningful investment. The club switched to LED lighting and motion sensors in the restaurant, the cart shed, and for the parking lot and the driveway (with minimal lighting hours). There is no terrace heating – instead, the club uses blankets. The machine room was recently renovated and energy-saving lighting that works with motion control was installed. Additional energy-saving measures will be implemented during the construction of the new clubhouse.
Since 2008, all incoming and outgoing raw materials are registered in an environment folder. All chemicals are carefully registered as well. Every mutation provides an update, meaning that those responsible always know the current situation at any given time. The club is generally open toward what the market has to offer and has a healthy curiosity about these matters. The club is properly prepared for the Green Deal and the upcoming complete ban on chemical pesticides.
There is a list of all the suppliers and waste processing companies. Many suppliers are local, especially those used for the catering. The modes of transport and the distance are assessed critically.
Starting 2017, the greenkeeping department wishes to make the switch to electric push mowers as soon as these are technologically feasible and the old machines need replacing. This will yield only positive results: no more emissions breathed in by employees, no more noise (which is better for employees and players, and is also safer because one can hear a ball coming), and such mowers do not add to CO2 emissions as long as the club generates its own power.
The club is critical about suppliers in view of origin and packaging. The use of organic and fair-trade products is on the rise but completely depends on the willingness of the operator, who acts independently. There is regular contact between the board and the operator. The greenkeeping department is completely self-sufficient. The department has its own sharpening machines, meaning that the (reel) blades are always superbly sharp. Repairs are also performed in-house: machines are always fixed in an instant and require no additional transport. The fairway mower is a hybrid machine with an electric reel blade. This eliminates the risk of leakage and sthe amount of noise. The GPS-enabled handycars and the ball picker are electric as well.
The head greenkeeper is an expert with a lot of experience. He observes, investigates and experiments constantly. Fertiliser and pesticides have been perfectly attuned to need and necessity; a matter of timing and customisation. The greens’ soil composition is analysed at least once a year. The club uses both organic and inorganic fertilisers.
The turfgrass policy can be summarised as follows: (1) providing air and light (in particular morning sun); (2) the greens receive compost tea; (3) sowing Agrostis canina; (4) always use sharp blades; (5) frequent topdressing; (6) remove dead leaves from the greens every day during autumn. Together, all these measures make the grass less sensitive to fungus. The effects of the compost tea (humus acid tea or fulvic acid tea: miniscule components in humus that act as nutrient transporters) are further investigated in collaboration with a specialist company. Fulvic acid increases the root growth threefold. It has been established that with artificial turfgrass, there are hardly any fungi in the soil that can regulate the nutrient intake, which then causes a need for over-fertilisation. To use as little fungicides that are detrimental to the environment but still legal as possible, the club is investigating whether there are any other and more natural means to prevent bothersome outbreaks of pathogenic fungi and other infestations. Alternatives would be adding natural microorganisms and fungi, as well as administering immunity-boosting nutrition. Iron sulphate will also increase the turf grass’s fungi-resistance.
The use of insecticides is as minimal as possible but cannot be fully eliminated. After failed experiments to keep the badgers out, the club has now gone back to using Merit Turf to combat Melolontha. Parasitic wasps are encouraged by sowing wild carrot. Leather jacket is caught on the greens by covering it with agricultural plastic.
Nest boxes are used to encourage foraging starlings to breed on the course. Since 2014, the parking lot is kept weed-free by steaming it 6 times a year. The club still smears the stumps of large cut-down prunus trees with glyphosate.
Waste is separated in two recycling centres and collected by certified companies. Managing the forest typically leads to an overdose of wood trimmings, which is stored in containers and regularly collected for biomass energy. Leaves are composted externally by a local company and then repurchased to be used as an organic fertiliser on the fairways. In 2015, the club installed waste bins on the course that can be used to separate plastic and other waste. The members are happy with this. The newsletter is sent out digitally, the club magazine is published as a paper glossy.
Since 2010, the guideline for environmental care has been the natural and environment plant which is updated every 3 years. Based on the goals the course committee draws up an action plan and brings out reports in an annual report, all of which is collected in a compendium.
The club duly observes all laws and regulations pertaining to the use of pesticides, to water and fertiliser, to waste, as well as to the use and storage of fuel. There have been several environmental audits, including an unannounced audit of the chemicals registration and storage, which led to the club receiving compliments for its diligence.
The course committee was complemented with a specialist who, together with the head greenkeeper, will delve into the consequences of the upcoming pesticide ban and the related ‘Green Deal.’
A quality measurement for the ground water in the pumping wells was performed in 2016. In that same year, Prograss measured the quality of the sprinkling water (this was a one-time measurement). The measurements showed that the quality of the water is good and that there are no particular issues.
All water drains into the sewer, if necessary after passing through a grease trap. There is one on-course sanitary facility site, right next to the greenkeeping shed. This facility is connected to the sewer.
Plant protection products are accurately recorded in a log. They have exact records of the products on stock. The products are stored in a locked cabinet for hazardous materials.
Next to the manager’s facility there is a covered recycling centre. The double-walled diesel tank was installed in 2013 and placed on a certified impermeable floor with sealed rims. The oil and fat separator is regularly emptied and a certified company removes the residue.
Pesticides are used only when and where necessary. A lot of contaminated grass and soil was remover by a certified company. The club has only used organic lubricant since 2009. Electric machines are the best method to prevent any contamination and pollution on the course.
The focus of the club’s communication strategy lies on the immediate stakeholders: members (this is a true members’ course), neighbours, and policy-makers/auditors (there is a plethora of government bodies involved in the area). The club concentrates on these groups and is not very interested in (nor does it see the point of) providing information to passers-by or external interested parties.
Members are involved in the club’s affairs and in the course management. Safety of the members is an important topic. Hardening prevents balls from bouncing away, there are three on-course shelters with first aid kits and lightning rods, an AED at the greenkeeping shed (members can attend an AED course), and the warning system at blind holes has been improved.
The golf club has an active policy for employees. It entails holding annual appraisals and performance interviews plus they have an individual planning for training. Each year the inhouse emergency service staff follows refresher courses. The Dutch Health & Safety Act and the employees’ safety is considered very important. Machines are also checked every year to ensure employee safety.
The green keepers have a clear-cut responsibility. They attend additional trainings every year. These trainings always discuss a different theme, such as heath management or grass recognition. The greenkeepers are generally very motivated.
The GEO committee comprises 6 course committee representatives who were appointed by the board. Management, the head greenkeeper and the hospitality operator provide additional input. The committee has plenty of knowledge on nature and the environment and is supported by volunteers with experience regarding amphibians and birds. Where necessary, the committee procures professional external advice (management expert, landscape architect, and grass).
Due to the location the club has to deal with the policy of two provinces, national government (Nationaal Landschap Groene Hart), two district water boards, three municipalities and three organisations for nature preservation and the owner of a country estate.
The course has a particularly open look: the grounds are intercut and surrounded by heavily used recreational routes and there are no fences anywhere. This implies that safety and vandalism require and indeed receive a lot of attention. Cameras are installed in and around the clubhouse to prevent vandalism and burglary. The course is closed to recreational visitors for safety purposes.
Two intersecting, unpaved roads are property of the club and the club takes its responsibility here. The roads are maintained to make sure to provide the neighbours (residents and the Boschoord restaurant) with a proper level of accessibility. The beech trees along these roads must be subjected to annual tree assessments (VTAs) as the situation can be quite bad due to the strongly fluctuating ground water levels. Cutting them down and replacing them will be inevitable.
The entire course is part of the Nationaal Landschap Groene Hart. It has been advertised as the ‘Kievitsdel Country Estate’ since 2013. They pay a lot of attention to the maintenance and restoration of scenic characteristics: the Kievitsdel forest pool, the historical beech lanes along the Black Road and the Dutch Ditch, the boundary posts between Holland and Utrecht (1356), the old caddy master house. New elements fit into their surroundings perfectly and are manufactured by the club itself: wooden waste bins, signs, benches, and nesting boxes. The paths are semi-paved with dolomite and have a natural look.
There are no current legal or other conflicts.
The Hilversumsche Golf Club is a private members’ club that welcomes guests and day players. There is a conscious emphasis on internal communication. The digital newsletter ‘Fore’, the club magazine and the biannual general members’ meeting are important communication methods. The strategy of continuous explanation works perfectly and encourages acceptance, even of sensitive topics such as the cutting of trees to promote the heath. Members are involved in their course and enjoy assisting the club during the October volunteer days, led by the greenkeeping department. Participation in the Bird Watching Day has been somewhat disappointing.
In line with the private character of the club, the external outreach programme is quite limited. The website provides no (public) information about GEO and the underlying topics. The ‘Natuur in beweging’ (‘Nature on the Move’) publication for the club anniversary (private publication, 2015) was made for members as well as relations and provides a complete overview of the themes surrounding history, landscape, nature and environment. It is a beautiful little book that was written, designed and illustrated by members.
- Action Plans and Project Proposals
- Awareness Raising Materials
- Certification Report
- Environmental Data
- Environmental Management Plan
- Environmental Policy
- External Surveys and Reports
- Internal Reports
- Minutes of Meetings
The Hilversumsche Golf Club does what needs to be done, the committee has a highly practical attitude and takes up external recommendations with energy and confidence. Virtually all of the points of improvement provided in the previous audit have been picked up successfully. Some issues did not work, always understandably so. The club is also keen on new developments, both on the market in general and on its own grounds. The head greenkeeper is tremendously capable and loves his work. He investigates the soil ecology and does tests aimed at finding the most balanced soil system possible, despite the limitations posed by the artificial nature of the turf.
The clubs recognises its chances and its limitations. Based on this knowledge, the club takes clear choices after exploring the subject matter at length, whether it pertains to soil fungi or to building a new clubhouse. One interesting characteristic is that the club prefers to do and make things in-house, from sharpening (reel) blades and building waste bins to manufacturing compost tea.
In the past few years, the club invested a lot of energy in restoring the Colt course with its nice vistas in the middle of a heath landscape, with the situation in the 1950s as the main inspiration. The forest and the forest edges are opened up, heath is gaining ground faster than expected, and native trees are granted all the room they need. Even the turfgrass composition harks back to the time before sprinkling, fertilisation and chemical pesticides. Simultaneous with this interest in the past, however, the Hilversumsche club also has its eyes firmly on the future. Steps in sustainability will have to wait until the new clubhouse is ready, when the focus will be on minimal energy consumption and (re)using sustainable materials. In the meantime, greenkeeping has begun to prepare for a non-chemical, or at least low-chemical, course management.
And just as in 2013, the final conclusion has to be:
This might be the biggest strength of the Hilversumsche: their clear focus on an idealistic, yet realistic final goal with plenty of room for varied nature; nature that both players and passing holidaymakers can widely enjoy.
The club does a lot of things in-house and is highly innovative and inquisitive. Great examples abound: manufacturing compost tea, designing and building course furniture and nesting boxes, (large-scale) machine maintenance, and designing the clubhouse.
The Hilversumsche Golf Club has become an expert in the field of heath management; all imaginable measures have now been taken to allow for the most effective measures to be deployed with even more tenacity. A particularly interesting feature is the combination of intensive grazing – by a herd that moves from one heath area in the Utrecht Heuvelrug area to the next – with small-scale grazing by the club’s own herd of 20 sheep. This combination allows for maximum finetuning.
Some compliments should go to the meticulously documented GEO dossier. Just as in 2013, the 2016 audit was properly prepared and besides the Compendium, the club provided clear updates that included evaluations and resolutions.
In the ‘Nature on the Move’ book (2015), the Hilversumsche club shows its colours to members and relations. Texts, photographs and illustrations, editing and design: everything was provided by the members. The result is a highly legible little book filled to the brim with information on nature, landscape, course management, environment, and GEO.