Koninklijke Haagsche Golf & Country Club
Executive summary (English & local language)
The so called ‘Oude Dame’ (the “Old Lady”) was founded in 1893 and is the oldest golf club in the Netherlands. It started with a golf course in Waalsdorp, near The Hague. In 1938, a golf course was constructed behind villa De Wildhoeve in the village of Wassenaar, which was acquired by the club in 1947. The course as designed by the architectural firm of Colt, Alison & Morrison Ltd. The new constructions maintained the waving rhythm of the course plots, allowing the golf course to naturally transition into the surrounding dune landscape. This 18-hole links course is considered to be one of the most beautiful courses on the European mainland. The club owns 60 hectares of land. The premises also house tennis facilities and a pétanque court.
One of the club’s immediate neighbours is the Meijendel & Berkheide Natura 2000 natural reserve, which poses wonderful opportunities and great challenges at the same time, because of the restrictions that must be imposed due to the external effects. However, the productive collaboration with the natural reserve’s managing agency (the Dunea water company) has ensured smooth transitions in landscape, nature, and management.
The course is up for its second GEO re-audit (earlier audits performed in 2010 and 2013). The reason for launching a Committed to Green programme (in 2004) was the explosive growth of young scrubs and forest, which were beginning to turn the Oude Dame into an inland course. As a response, the club developed a clear vision for the future, built on the foundational principle that ‘the golfer is a guest in nature’. A lot has been invested in renovations (Frank Point) in the past few years, which included new constructions on the greens, decreasing the size of the tees and fitting them into the landscape, and restoring the open character of the area and the accompanying lines of sight. A lot of scrub had to be removed for these purposes, and a lot of abeles and poplars had to be cut down. These interventions have truly optimised the connections to the surrounding landscape. All these improvements, no matter how drastic, have garnered a lot of praise from players and members.
The coming years will see the club continuing on this path, with targeted interventions and renovations per zone. The next phase will be tree management and tree population rejuvenation along the 18th hole. An aim on quite a different level is to create an integral plan in close collaboration with the neighbours to redesign the driving range and the parking lot.
De Oude Dame - de oudste golfclub van Nederland, opgericht in 1893 – startte op een golfbaan bij Waalsdorp (Den Haag). In 1938 werd achter villa ‘De Wildhoeve’ in Wassenaar een golfbaan aangelegd die de club in 1947 aankocht. Het ontwerp is van het architectenbureau Colt, Alison & Morrison Ltd. Bij de aanleg is het golvende karakter gehandhaafd waardoor de baan een natuurlijk geheel vormt met het omliggende duinlandschap. Deze 18 holes links course geldt als een van de mooiste van het Europees continent. De club is eigenaar van 60 hectare grond. Op het terrein is ook een tennisbaan en een jeu-des-boules-baan te vinden.
Grenzen aan Natura 2000-gebied Meijendel & Berkheide is niet alleen een buitenkans maar ook een uitdaging vanwege de restricties die er zijn in verband met de externe werking. Maar dankzij de zeer goede samenwerking met de beheerder van het natuurgebied (het drinkwaterbedrijf Dunea) is er sprake van vloeiende overgangen qua landschap, natuur en beheer.
Inmiddels is de baan toe aan de tweede GEO heraudit (2010 en 2013 gingen hieraan vooraf). De aanleiding om met Committed to Green te starten (2004) was de explosieve opslag van struweel en bos waardoor de baan een inland course dreigde te worden. Als antwoord hierop is een heldere toekomstvisie ontwikkeld met als uitgangspunt dat ‘de golfer te gast is in de natuur’. De afgelopen jaren is veel geïnvesteerd in het renoveren (Frank Pont) , waarbij de greens opnieuw werden opgebouwd, de tees zijn verkleind en in het landschap zijn ingepast en de openheid met bijbehorende zichtlijnen in ere is hersteld. Veel struweel moest daarvoor wijken, abelen en populieren moesten gekapt. De aansluiting op het omringende duinlandschap is door deze ingrepen nu optimaal. Al deze verbeteringen, hoe ingrijpend ook, zorgen voor lovende commentaren van spelers en leden.
De komende jaren zet men de ingeslagen weg voort, waarbij doelgericht per zone wordt aangepakt. Als eerste is boombeheer en bosverjonging langs hole 18 aan de beurt. Van een andere orde is de wens om in samenwerking met de buren een integraal plan op te stellen waarin de driving range en het parkeren wordt heringericht.
The golf course lies 4 km from the North Sea in a dune landscape that is dominated by high parabolic dunes with blow-outs, bordered on the land side by a steep inner dune edge. The course is spread out over three distinct landscape zones: (1) a wide natural zone that transitions into the Natura 2000 reserve with scrubs and open dunes; (2) a middle area which alternates between holes and a dry dune landscape; and (3) a wooded zone along the boundary with the neighbouring villa park and the Groot Haesebroek estate. The soil is made up from calcareous sand that becomes more decalcified as you move inland. There are no wet dune valleys.
There is an ambition within the club to restore and maintain the open character of the area; experiencing the landscape is considered quite important. The aim is to create an ecological and visual unity with the surrounding dune landscape. Work is underway to remove scrubs on both borders between the golf course and the nature reserve, to be followed by sodding and grazing. On the side where Dunea manages the area, there is some room for so-called white dunes (drifting sands); on the golf course’s side, so-called grey dunes (grazing) are dominant. The high level of landscape diversity and the extraordinary location of the course have led to a great biodiversity. All kinds of species are abundantly represented, also with many rare and protected species.
Late in the previous century (1985-1994), the natural values on the golf course were investigated intensely, which yielded a treasure trove of data. A lot of studies have been performed in the last few years as well, although these have generally been more specific and targeted at practical outcomes. The core habitats of several protected species (bats, sand lizard, squirrel) were mapped in 2012. An absolutely unique survey feature is that birds have been monitored here since 1958. This monitoring is part of the entire Meijendel dunes area survey. In the period 2007-2016, the habitats of the red-listed species have been recorded and compared to natural trends. The barn swallow jumped from 0 to 19 nests, and this bird now breeds under the clubhouse roof, in the greenkeeping shed and in nesting boxes. Other extraordinary yardsticks are the nightingale, the woodlark, the common linnet, and the European stonechat. But not only birds have benefited greatly in this area: the landscape is also home to mammals (approx. 30 deer), reptiles (sand lizard), butterflies (23 species), crickets and grasshoppers (blue-winged grasshopper) and mushrooms. The inventories are headed by professional volunteers who are very active in the surrounding areas as well, allowing them to situate these observations into a broader, regional context, which means that such results have direct practical applications, for instance with regards to nature management.
The dune landscape is a mosaic of white dunes, grey dunes, dune scrubs and dune woods. The dune scrubs are characterised by English oak, spindle, hawthorn and buckthorn. In the inner dune edge, we mostly find Austrian pine, field maple and beech. There is an ongoing battle in this zone to restore and maintain the openness of the landscape and to battle rough grasslands and uniformity. The greatest antagonists of this goal are wood small-reed, spindle, abele and poplar. Process management is kept on a small scale because of the relatively small size of the remaining areas between the holes, but there are quite some opportunities in the outer edge. Non-native species hand (black cherry, Canada goldenrod, mahonia) are combatted by cutting them down, digging out the roots and removing young growth by. Longer tree species such as the Austrian pine are tolerated because of their characteristic silhouette and the ecological value they add to the landscape.
Festuca rubra and Agrostis tenuis/capillaris are dominant on the greens, while the fairways are characterised by Festuca and Poa pratensis. These drought-resistant turfgrass species require very little nitrogen. The greens have been reconstructed over the past few years; they had initially been built on eutrophic clay soil which had grown very compact. Near the end, the greens were 100% Poa annua. The greens have now been constructed on sand. In 2013, some greens still showed a lot of meadow grass. The recommendation at the time was to apply less nitrogen, which had an added environmental benefit.
The club has implemented a powerful three-pronged course management approach: (1) a course management plan developed into a professional plan for bringing the landscape back to its original, more oligotrophic state; (2) work protocols for compliance with environmental protection legislation; and (3) a grounds management evaluation report 2013-2016 that serves as a guideline for future management. Virtually all interventions and measures are implemented with supervision from an ecologist. The move towards a more oligotrophic landscape includes mowing and grazing dense and uniform grasslands to stimulate dryer and more open dune grasslands (“grey dunes”). The quick succession caused by continuous atmospheric nitrogen deposition continues to be an issue. The club has accrued a lot of experience with all possible kinds of management, such as mowing, chopping, sodding, all-year-round grazing with cows and sheep, and intense grazing with a herd of 300 sheep. The grazing on the steep slopes was particularly successful. This stimulates a more oligotrophic landscape while simultaneously – due to trampling – creating open sand areas. The nature surface area has increased in the last few years thanks to the narrowing of the fairways and the reconstruction of the tees. Forest rejuvenation on the inner edge of the dunes has seen poplars being replaced by beech trees.
The Fauna committee has been working with a hunter to adjust the rabbit population when necessary. Just like deer, rabbits can help in drying out the landscape, but they don’t damage the turf while doing it. There is no maximum landscape support level for this species (the maximum number of animals of a species that can live in a certain area before becoming harmful to the landscape) and the club does not need a permit for shooting rabbits. Entry and exit spots enable exchange with the surrounding areas. The club has hung some nesting boxes and a specific inflight zone has been created for the barn swallow.
The golf course lies within the Dunea company’s water extraction area. This area is part of the infiltration zone with deep ground water. There are no moist dune valleys or any dune lakes. Salinisation is not an issue at the moment, but this risk will slowly increase, which will affect the quality of the sprinkling water that is pumped up. Currently, the quality of the water is excellent.
Public water consumption is relatively high here due to the large number of members (1250) and the fact that these measurements also include the consumption from the course manager residence. There are 4 water taps on the course, which have been fitted with drinking bowls for animals. Ground water is pumped up from a depth of 15 metres at two sites on the course, tapping into the shallow groundwater table; there is a separate log for pumped-up water. Ground water consumption has been cut in half since the greens were renovated and the level is rather low for a sand-soil course. Machines are cleaned using ground water and air.
The Koninklijke Haagsche golf club’s sprinkler system has been automated since as far back as 1970. The installation was replaced in phases by a completely new system between 2004 and 2012. Sprinkling on the green is determined by the relative moisture in the top layer. The volume percentage is between 18 and 27; the minimal water requirement of the turfgrass species used here. Sprinkling is used as a preventive measure to keep meadow grass from invading the area after the first rains following a dry period. Sprinkling before its absolutely necessary prevents any possible ‘holes’ in the turf, which could be occupied by this invasive grass species. Fairways are only sprinkled during long droughts that threaten to permanently damage the turf.
The club has implemented all possible water-saving measures, such as half-flush buttons on toilets, sector sprinklers, wetting agents, and sprinkling in the evenings/at night, when the evaporation rate is at its lowest. There are no obvious measures to further cut down on the consumption of public water, but it couldn’t hurt to regularly communicate this topic to members, visitors, employees, and hospitality personnel.
The are several buildings spread out over the club’s premises, representing a significant building volume: a large country house that serves as the club house/restaurant, greenkeeping sheds, and several buildings housing golf bag storage, the golf school and the course manager residence. These buildings are generally old and not very energy-efficient. After burning down in 2002, the villa was reconstructed in its original style with insulation and double glazing. It was completed in 2004. The spatial layout was updated as well. No energy audits have been executed.
Levels of energy consumption are just slightly above average and do not change very much in the last years. There are several monitoring points where one could keep track of the energy consumption; unfortunately, it proved impossible to install a separate measuring point to monitor the kitchen. The data over the past few years shows a stable consumption, comparable to that of similar clubs. Consumption of natural gas is rather high, which is understandable because of the old and spread-out buildings and the intensive use by the large number of members.
The club has been using renewable energy sources since 2007. Wind turbines and ground source heat or heat storage are not permitted here due to the high natural and landscape values. Solar panels are not an option for the listed, thatched-roof villa, but they could be installed on the greenkeeping shed or the roof of the driving range. Use the opportunity of repairs or reconstruction to install the panels.
After the 2013 renovation of the greens, which took a lot of effort, the club’s attention has been turning toward reducing energy consumption. A lot of initiatives have been implemented, such as motion sensors, LED lighting, insulation, and heat recovery. The kitchen equipment belongs to the club itself, is properly maintained and replaced in time.
Gas-discharge lamps are used for lighting the driving range, but these don’t burn redundantly thanks to a time switch. There is a wish to make new investments here, but not before the driving range has been renovated; when the range needs replacing, the outdoor lighting will be made green, animal-friendly and energy-efficient (parking lot and lane). The number of traffic movements has been cut down by centralising the club’s purchasing as much as possible and opting for local suppliers.
The GEO committee is properly aware of the impact on people and the environment and communicates this to the board and the members. They are properly familiar with the in- and outflow of materials.
Energy consumption, efficiency and safety are important criteria when purchasing new machines. The club is aware of the many advantages of electrical machines: less leaking, less fuel consumption, decreased noise pollution and – in the long term – using electricity that was generated on site. Unfortunately, there have not been any positive experiences with hybrid machines (cutting units do not meet the expectations) which means that the club still opts for diesel (Torro). The challenge to innovate now lies in that supplier’s corner.
The club has a large network. By widely broadcasting the GEO certificate and through its purchasing policy, other parties are stimulated to make their production and delivery processes more sustainable as well. The restaurant has been leased and uses some local products. The club can only make recommendations with regards to the menu and sustainability, although it has been agreed upon to separate waste materials in collection and disposal.
The turfgrass species used by the club require little nitrogen and are not very vulnerable, although the situation on the greens is of course quite unnatural. Meadow grass is kept out by keeping the turf dense, meaning no drying out and a limited degree of fertilisation. Nitrogen consumption (inorganic) is low with approximately 100 kg. Agrostis is being re-seeded.
The committee members are intimately involved with the Duurzaam!Golf sustainable golf network, keeping them updated about developments with regards to the Green Deal and grass resistance studies in the Netherlands and the USA. The central question is: Why do plants get sick? Followed by the query whether a chemical-free approach will actually work in an unnatural situation in which the soil system is disrupted in any case. Iron phosphate is used preventively.
At the moment, fungicides are only used on the greens and the foregreens. Pesticides to combat cockchafer larvae are applied locally and only incidentally, using only the least toxic and persistent options. As long as there are no proper alternatives, herbicides are used locally on the fairway to keep away the daisies.
The club has a proper overview of the waste flows. Waste is collected and disposed of separately. There is a test underway for collecting plastic (from the course) by means of a central plastic collection container. Grass clippings are reused on the fairway and the paths. After the large-scale restoration of the open dune landscape, there is only a limited volume of prunings. Using prunings for ecopiles is only an option along the border with the villa district.
The environmental care plan version 2016-2019 serves both as an assessment to test whether goals have been realised, and as a pro-active plan with clearly-described point of actions. All vulnerable spots are checked during the annual company audit, which is supplemented by regular external environmental audits, which have had positive results.
The ground water at a depth of 40 metres is sampled chemically and biologically by the water company every quarter. Water pumped up by the club is also tested, in particular to check for signs of salinisation.
Waste water from the kitchen and the greenkeeping facilities goes through grease traps and is drained to the sewer. The on-course sanitary facilities (2 sites) are connected to the sewer as well. An impermeable wash pad floor was installed in 2016 after defects had been found.
Hazardous materials are logged in registers. The club has an incident management plan in place. There are sealed, ventilated cabinets for two categories of hazardous materials. The cabinets have been certified and are subject to inspections.
The greenkeeping shed has been fitted with an impermeable floor. A double-walled diesel tank was set up in 2012. Storage of materials (fertiliser, pesticides) follows all applicable rules and regulations. Filling, repairing, etc. is always done on impermeable floors and in dripping trays.
Pesticides are only incidentally and locally applied on the fairway. Fertilisation is also kept to a minimum, meaning that the natural zones are hardly affected. The Aspen alkylate-based petrol that is used is 99 times cleaner and healthier than gasoline, as it contains hardly any harmful materials.
The Koninklijke Haagsche golf club has drawn up a sound communication plan which was updated in 2016. The plan is constructed around target audiences and the tools to be used. Carefully maintaining contacts with members and stakeholders is considered very important. The club also pays a remarkable amount of attention to safety and education.
The club employs 30 people, making it a medium-sized company. The employees work in a safe professional environment with education opportunities. Greenkeeping is instructed by experts in the fields of environmental legislation and GEO themes
Nature, environment and sustainability are the joint responsibility of the board, the Committed to Green (CtG) Committee, the Grounds Committee, the Clubhouse Committee, the secretariat, and the head greenkeeper. The Fauna Committee is a CtG subcommittee. This situation is characterised by good collaborations and a relaxed atmosphere. The participants represent a large pool of expertise and involvement. The head greenkeeper knows the grounds better than anyone. He doesn’t have a fixed approach and welcomes innovation. He is supported by a senior ecologist employed by Dunea. CtG members take part in the Duurzaam!Golf network and are in contact with the Wageningen University (Dutch Turfgrass Research Foundation chair). During the annual meeting of dune courses, participants exchange experiences regarding shared themes such as roughening the landscape, ground water salinisation, and wildlife management.
The club maintains excellent contacts with government bodies, the water company, local nature societies, the neighbouring country estate, and local residents. A virtually invisible but highly functional safety net has been installed between the trees along the 18 hole for the protection of the residents in the neighbouring villa park. The grounds are closed in by a fence to combat vandalism and to clearly demarcate the grounds as a grazing unit.
The course and the club house are basically part of the cultural heritage; the development of the course was documented in 2013. The course is a listed country estate. A lot of attention is paid to the aesthetics of the course, to attuning the course to the environment. When the fences need replacing the new fences will be green, to limit visual disruption. Structures and bins are made from wood. The paths on the course are made from Latexfalt (a synthetic material with shell gravel) and fit into the landscape naturally. This material requires a lot less maintenance than actual shell paths. The club strives to create grass paths wherever possible; this is limited to the flatter areas.
There are currently no legal disputes or active planning procedures.
The club uses a wide variety of tools to involve members in GEO themes. This way, the club succeeded in turning the initial resistance against cutting down trees into praise from members and visitors. Besides the ‘Approach’ club magazine, a lot of energy is directed towards practical approaches and experiencing the area. Winter work days, Birding Days and youth days organised with the flock of sheep and its shepherd have been annual success stories. Other options for member participation are the forest group (which removes young growths) and the bird counting days, preceded by lectures. On top of that, there is a course beekeeper who sells honey.
Local nature societies such at the Stichting Duinbehoud foundation for dune protection are kept up to date about the developments on the golf course. The attitudes are open. The club informs the local media about interesting events.
- 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
In the past few years, the Koninklijke Haagsche Golf and Country Club has made tremendous efforts to maintain the links course character. Not only has the openness been restored, but the landscape integration and utilising the ecological potential have received above-average levels of attention as well. These efforts have greatly benefited from the excellent contacts with the area manager of the neighbouring Natura 2000 natural reserve (also a water extraction area). The Koninklijke Haagsche club has become an expert in dune restoration, having acquired extensive experience with all possible kinds of management methods.
The aim should now be to stabilise the management efforts and focus on decreasing the ecological footprint. The club is closely involved in investigating the use of chemical versus biological/organic products, among others by participating in the Duurzaam!Golf network and maintaining close contacts with the Wageningen University. It continues to be a difficult choice, but the club is of the opinion that minimal disruption of the ecosystem is the first priority, regardless of what path one is following.
The course has a strong identity that the club has poured tremendous effort in over the past few years. At the Koninklijke Haagsche club, the phrase ‘golfers are guests in nature’ is far more than a hollow ideal: it’s a principle that is implemented on every level. The transition from the course into the surrounding dune landscape is so gradual and natural that one hardly notices it at all.
The club deserves a great deal of praise for its efforts with regards to communication. A sound communication plan ensures that everything runs smoothly and the club uses a variety of tools and options to reach every single audience. Of special note are the interactions with the nature societies and the range of efforts to involve members and their (grand)children in the dune landscape management.
Water management has been prioritised for years now. After renovation of the greens and the implementation of a restrictive sprinkling policy, the volume that is pumped up has shrunk considerably.
The GEO trajectory is properly documented and filed. The CtG Committee keeps itself informed, the tasks and specialisations have been divided well and the members work together in a pleasant manner to create a sustainable golf course. Thanks to the extensive network, the Committee is kept up-to-date about developments in the fields of course management, machines, environment, legislation, and nature management. With its pro-active approach, the club sets a great example for our society.