Heemskerkse Golfclub

GEO Certified® 02/2014 GEO Re-Certified 10/2017
Heemskerk,
Netherlands
Telephone: +31(0)251 250088
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Executive summary (English & local language)

Introduction:
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 continual improvement recommendations that were made in 2013. The 2013 and 2017 reports should be read together and cannot be properly used independently.

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Since being expanded with 9 par-3 holes in 2010, the Heemskerkse Golf Club (est. 1997) offers players a ‘meadow loop’, a ‘park loop’ and a ‘polder loop.’ The grounds stretch over 200 acres in the transition zone between the Heemskerk village (bordered by the A9 motorway) in the west and the open polder landscape of the Laag Holland National Landscape in the east. The course lies within the perimeter of the Defence Line of Amsterdam National Landscape, bordered by two historic roads: the Genieweg and the Groenedijk. The Kil, a historic creek, has been designated an ecological connecting zone (part of the Netherlands Nature Network).

In 2007, the Heemskerkse GC was the tenth course in the Netherlands to be awarded the Committed to Green certificate, which was converted into the GEO certificate in 2010. The first full GEO audit was held in 2013.
The follow-up audit in 2016 was delayed because of uncertainty regarding the golf course’s very survival, due to a planned link road that is to connect the A8 and A9 motorways by cutting straight across the grounds. The golf club has joined forces with other stakeholders to prevent construction. There are many strong arguments against this road, especially in its current ‘golf course version’: the project would mean further deterioration of the integrity of the historic Defence Line of Amsterdam (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), would increase the particulate matter and noise pollution in the Broekpolder residential area, and would endanger the continued existence of the largest golf course north of the North Sea Canal. Moreover, the cumulative effect of all the large-scale projects in this area will completely fragment the National Landscape and would exceed all environmental norms and standards. The club has formulated its stance and views and submitted these for the Environmental Impact Assessment procedure. A final decision is expected to be announced in 2018.

Due to this uncertainty, it is quite understandable that any plans requiring major investments have been put on hold for the time being. These plans include course improvement, species-specific ecological surveys, and on-site energy generation.





ter introductie:
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 2017 kunnen niet los van elkaar gezien worden.

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De golfbaan van de Heemskerkse golfclub (opening in 1997) beschikt sinds de uitbreiding met 9 pars 3 holes in 2010 over de ‘weidelus’, de ‘parklus’ en de ‘polderlus’. De totale omvang is 81 hectare. De baan ligt op de overgang tussen de door de A 9 begrensde bebouwing van Heemskerk aan de westzijde en het open polderlandschap van het Nationaal Landschap Laag Holland aan de oostzijde. De baan overlapt geheel met het Nationaal Landschap Stelling van Amsterdam, die begrenst wordt door twee historische wegen; de Genieweg en de Groenedijk. De Kil, een historische kreek, is aangewezen als ecologische verbindingszone (onderdeel Natuur Netwerk Nederland).

In 2007 behaalde de Heemskerkse als tiende baan in Nederland het certificaat Committed to Green, dat in 2010 is omgezet naar het GEO certificaat. In 2013 vond de eerste uitgebreide audit plaats volgens de GEO criteria.
De daarop volgende audit van 2016 raakte vertraagd als gevolg van onzekerheid over het voortbestaan van de golfbaan in de huidige hoedanigheid door de dreiging van de aanleg van een grote verbindingsweg tussen de A8 en de A9 dwars door het terrein. Samen met andere belangenorganisaties wordt er alles aangedaan om dit te voorkomen. De argumenten om deze weg niet aan te leggen en zeker niet in de gekozen ‘golfbaanvariant’ zijn sterk: de verdere aantasting van de Stelling van Amsterdam (Unesco werelderfgoed), de verdere belasting van het woongebied Broekpolder met fijnstof en geluidshinder, het voortbestaan van de belangrijkste golfbaan ten noorden van het Noordzee Kanaal, en tenslotte het cumulatieve effect van alle grootschalige ontwikkelingen in de omgeving die bij elkaar het Nationaal Landschap sterk zullen versnipperen en milieunormen zullen overschrijden. De golfclub heeft een zienswijze ingediend op de planMER. In februari 2018 wordt een besluit verwacht.

Vanwege de hierboven genoemde onzekerheid zijn plannen die grote investeringen met zich meebrengen om begrijpelijke redenen uitgesteld. Denk daarbij aan het baanverbeteringsplan, soortspecifiek ecologisch onderzoek en energiewinning op eigen terrein.

Nature

The Heemskerkse golf club lies in a particularly unique landscape context. The ancient Oer-IJ river used to run here, forming a tidal landscape that was reclaimed in a number of phases. The landscape – which will become a Geopark in the near future – was built by wind and water, sand drifts and flooding.
The course itself lies on clay on top of thick peat layers. No external soil was used during construction, and the soil from digging new bodies of water was used to model the landscape and create relief in the terrain. The course comprises three distinct landscape zones: (1) Olmerhout – confined core with thicket and surprising views; (2) the Defence Line of Amsterdam – half-open area with views on the former fortifications; and (3) the Kil – open outer ring with views on the open polder landscape.
The intense biodiversity is made possible by the area’s mosaic of vital elements: healthy, clear water, varied embankments, and peaceful wooded areas with dense shrubs and a well-structured forest edge, rows of pollard willows and groups of trees. The most striking feature is the wide variety of bird species.

The course has been tracking the bird populations for over 20 years now, in close collaboration with the Bird Protection Society. As the lack of flowery vegetation led the Butterfly Society to deem the area not promising enough for butterflies, the club does not participate in the National Butterfly Monitor efforts. Investigations into protecting the Kil embankments to stimulate the biotope requirements for species such as the water shrew and the tundra vole have been put on hold because the area’s uncertain future; after all, such investigations come with significant costs.

The trees in the forest plots are all native, but the solitary trees are predominantly non-native because of the views or the lovely autumn colours. Examples include the sweetgum and the bald cypress. The rows of willows are pollarded annually, making them ideal spots for nesting oystercatchers. There is not a lot of variation on the rough, due to the highly eutrophic soil. The southern marsh orchid has invaded the strips of swamp along the water where the reeds are mowed in phases. The water is very clear and provides a suitable habitat for all kinds of animals thanks to the properly-balanced vegetation of floating plants (a lot of fringed water-lily and frogbit), and submerged plants such as Characeae plants. Pike and Gyrinus natator beetles attest to a very healthy water system. The club is justifiably proud of the wide array of birds that can be found here, with over 50 species of nesting birds every year. These include wonderful (red-listed) species such as the long-eared owl, the western marsh harrier, hawks, the European green woodpecker, and the nightingale. Finally, the area is home to many bats and several rare, shore-bound mammals (water shrew and tundra vole).

No major changes have been effected in the composition of the turfgrass since 2013. There are no particular issues with meadow grass. The rough is somewhat greasy and consists of sturdy grass, but this is very difficult to ameliorate and the club simply tolerates the situation. Clover growth is the only difficulty here.

The 2011 Management Plan still guides all efforts and the workplan 2016-2021 was based on this foundation. Codes of conduct have now been integrated into the management plan. Forest management is currently focused on catching up with the thinning targets, on age distribution, and on increasing the diversity. An update of the tree inventory (2015) allowed for quicker evaluation of the management efforts. There have been visible improvements in the spread of species and structure in the planting zones. The situation of the trees in the Par-3 course (2010) is less positive: mistakes were made during planting. The forest is developing naturally, for instance with oak seedlings in the highest parts of the course (Olmerhout). One of the club’s priorities is to maintain more space for sustainable species: in the long run, beech, elm, and maple trees are going to replace the poplars and white poplars. It is remarkable to see that several tree diseases that are currently plaguing the Netherlands have not gotten a major foothold on these premises. Such diseases include the watermark disease in willows, bleeding disease in alders, and ash dieback disease. The limited impact may be due to the generally high tree vitality.
The club has begun a more extensive management approach to two or three larger forest plots characterised by scrubs, rough grasslands, sloping forest edges, and clearings. The object is to enhance the opportunities for sensitive species (kingfisher, bittern, water rail, nightingale, green woodpecker, mustelids). Several sites have been designated for this extensification, including the plots around the parking lot.
The core nature areas on the golf course are eco zones, where one finds dead hedges, dense scrubs, rough grasslands and upright dead wood. Peace is preserved here with “Treads Carefully” signs. Five kingfisher mounds were built in collaboration with the Castricum Bird Workgroup. Kingfishers forage above the water now but have not been observed nesting on the course. There is a wish to construct a sand martin wall. Several plots of marshlands between the golf course and the Linieweg road fall under the club’s management as well and the western marsh harrier has been seen nesting here.

Water

There is plenty of surface water to be found here; this water is used for sprinkling the course. The embankments of the different bodies of water are left almost completely without reinforcements. Once a decision has been made with regard to the link road, the club and the regional water authorities will look for ways to combat the crumbling of the Kil’s shoreline. The crumbling is countered on the club’s premises by using bundles of local willow branches installed between shore poles.

Using the irrigation pump’s operating hours, we can estimate that the club consumes about 20,000 m3 of irrigation water. Greenkeeping requires 225 m3 of surface water for hosing down machines and other purposes. The 1,000 m3 tap water consumption level is comparable to that of other clubs. A breach caused a lot of tap water to drain away in 2015, but otherwise water consumption has been stable.

The water in the pond in front of the club house is used to sprinkle the course. There is a constant supply of high-quality water. Due to the history of the area, the water starts out brackish, but that has not caused any problems. Sprinkling is computerised, based on the expected evaporation rates and the soil humidity. In lasting droughts, the fairway is sprinkled by hand, but this occurs only rarely as the turfgrass species are highly drought-resistant.

In all areas , water consumption has been pushed back as much as is possible without causing hygiene issues. The showers and toilets, for instance, have been fitted with water-saving measures.

Energy

The club house has an energy-efficient design, laying out rooms around an open, light hall. Energy consumption and increasing awareness are important areas of focus. The club has not ordered an energy audit, but does keep an excellent record of the monthly consumption figures.

The club registers the consumption figures on a monthly basis, providing great insight into consumption trends per individual sector and allowing the club to focus its adjustment efforts. The figures show that consumption is average and quite stable. The 15% drop in natural gas consumption over the past three years can be largely explained by the recent mild winters in the Netherlands.

100% of the club’s power comes from a green energy supplier. In order become energy-neutral, the club will have to generate a lot of power on site. The only real candidate for this is solar power, and the club currently does not have suitable surfaces for this. Once the future is more certain, the club can consider installing solar panels on or along the driving range. The club can furthermore benefit from investigating ground source heat that can be used instead of natural gas.

Over the past few years, the club has invested heavily in replacing regular lights with LED lights. These efforts are concentrated into several phases, for instance replacing all fluorescent lights in the greenkeeping workshop with LEDs. Only low-traffic areas still use regular lightbulbs. The club encourages the use of bicycles, for instance with the large, covered bike parking.

Supply Chain

The Heemskerkse Golf Club observes a clearly-defined purchasing and waste management policy (see 2013). Greenkeeping tries to reuse as much material as possible.

No major purchasing policy changes have been implemented over the past few years. The current contractor will cease operations per 2018 and the club is currently investigating new contractors. This choice will affect the management methods, the machine fleet that will be used, and purchasing.

The club has little and only indirect influence over the purchasing and operations of the restaurant. However, there are regular deliberations between the parties and the restaurant has sustainable business practices on its radar.

A lot of attention is paid to the condition of the turfgrass and the top soil layer. Adding sand keeps the fairway topsoil in peak condition; the greens are kept healthy by applying sand that is rich in humous. All fertilisers are 100% inorganic. A fine fertiliser mist is distributed over the greens and tees. The volumes of fertiliser are below average.
Management does use glyphosate (1% dilution rate) incidental to combat weeds on the trails but the volume has been pushed back from 300ml to almost nothing. There is a tenacious presence of clover, which is either tolerated or combatted locally with small doses. This has reduced the amounts of chemicals used with 30%, compared to when entire areas were sprayed all at once. Mildew on the greens is not tolerated.

Waste separation is observed to the fullest extent possible and staff members are well-informed about the issue. The waste collection facility has separate containers for every kind of waste, and the containers are locked to prevent illegal dumping.
Virtually all of the waste from course management is reused on site. Clippings from the greens and tees are stored on an impermeable floor and, after conversion, used for mounds. Dead hedges are omnipresent here and are built with a lot of care; one of the greenkeepers has become particularly skilful in this area. Clippings and wood chips are no longer deposited in the forest plots, noticeably reducing overgrowing.

Pollution Control

The club filled out the NGF environmental care tool to gain more insight into the environmental aspects. Most of the ensuing action points have now been executed. Greenkeeping was very positive about implementing these action points and contributed greatly to their realisation. One significant result of this tool was that more people became aware of the club’s great diligence when it comes to environmental issues. The annual municipal reviews are supplemented by the club’s own monitoring, guaranteeing proper environmental safeguards.

The surface water used for sprinkling is sampled on an incidental basis, whenever there are indications of changes to the water quality.

All waste water drains into the main sewer: water from the sanitary facilities (club house and on-course), kitchen water, and wash pad runoff. Oil and grease traps have been installed where necessary.

The storage and disposal of hazardous materials follows all applicable rules and regulations. Aspen, for instance, is kept in a fire-resistant cabinet.

All actions such as mixing, refuelling, and cleaning take place on top of an impermeable floor. Processed oil is kept in a drum placed in a drip tray. The double-walled tank meets all applicable conditions and is kept in a locked sea container to prevent theft.

The lubricating oil and hydraulic oil used for machines are biodegradable. Management observes generous buffer zones around bodies of water and around forest plots.

Community

The club has sought closer ties with the surrounding communities over the past three years, partially motivated by joint interests such as the projected link road, environmental care, water management, and protection of the National Landscape. Communications are working fine in practice but the club is looking to gain more insight into the communication structure and the lines of communication between the club’s committees. Greenkeeping has been in regular contact with six other golf courses for about a decade now and the club’s board also exchanges experience and information with other clubs. The golf club has a professional marketing committee and uses many different media. The golf course is highly approachable and open to everyone.

The club and course are maintained at an excellent level by over 25 employees and 140 volunteers. The agreement with the current maintenance contractor, a very reliable partner, will not be renewed after 1 January 2018. Maintenance has been outsourced on basis of highly-detailed specifications. The CtG committee and greenkeepers attend meetings pertaining to the Green Deal and GEO.

The CtG is at least as active and involved as it was in 2013 and the committee closely works together with the other committees, such as the course committee and marketing committee. No fewer than ten people attended the audit, which was illustrative of the commitment to GEO. Two greenkeepers play an important role within GEO: the head greenkeeper and a greenkeeper with a particular focus on environmental issues. Whether these employees can remain with the course to safeguard the expert management depends on the negotiations with the future contractor.

The involvement with and openness toward broader society was already quite strong, and the threat of the link road has significantly enhanced them. The club is designing strategies and executing actions together with the Heemskerk municipality, residents of the Broekpolder district, the regional recreation authority, UNESCO, and several environmental organisations. Another collaboration has been forged with the Hollands Noorderkwartier water authorities to combat the crumbling of the Kil’s shoreline. Finally, there are intensive collaborations with the North Holland Landscape Foundation, the Heemskerk historical society, and the local bird-watching association. The golf club is furthermore a partner of the Handicart Foundation for temporarily or permanently disabled golfers.

The course lies within the Defence Line of Amsterdam National Landscape (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and borders on the Laag Holland National Landscape. The Heemskerkse golf club is listed as a country estate under the 1928 Dutch Estate Act. The club respectfully works to maintain and manage the local landscape values. Unavoidable facilities such as shelters (with lightning rods and instructions) and benches have been discreetly embedded in the landscape. Only the main access road has been paved with asphalt; the access to the holes has been semi-paved with Nobré Cal – a 100% natural limestone product that completely arrests weeds.

The club has submitted its position for the Environmental Impact Assessment procedure regarding the projected link road between the A8 and A9 motorways. The provincial government is steering toward the ‘golf course version’ which will cut the course in two, threatening its very existence.

Most players come from the IJmond region but there are also many visitors who travel longer distances, as there is no real alternative between the North Sea Canal and the city of Alkmaar. The acquisition of new members is all but guaranteed thanks to the Par-3 course, where one can play without a Dutch golf licence. The club currently has about 850 members. The professional and active marketing committee maintains the perfect and much-used website, and there is the monthly, popular paper newsletter Par. There is room for current events in course maintenance and developments surrounding the link road in the newsletter and in the club house lobby. The annual GEO competition will continue. The club has been involved with the national ‘Committed to Birds’ bird-counting day since 2003.

Nature-related subjects such as the kingfishers and the bird-counting day are discussed regularly. The website also provides plenty of background information.

Documentation Reviewed

Conclusion

The Heemskerkse Golf Club continued its efforts to make the course and its business operations greener and more sustainable with a lot of energy and in a positive, professional manner. The continual improvement points suggested in the 2013 audit were taken up as a guideline and most of them have been completed or put into motion. Despite the looming link road that will cut the golf course and the surrounding landscape (UNESCO World Heritage Site) in half, with all unforeseeable consequences this will have, the CtG committee and the club board bravely and optimistically continue to stimulate the beautification of the landscape, a richer biodiversity, and a clear environment. This positive attitude is worth commending. The course furthermore meets all GEO requirements.

Certification Highlights

(1)
Just as last time, the CtG committee was well-prepared for the audit. There is tremendous involvement with sustainability, landscape, and society. Together with other organisations, the club is fighting to protect an open and healthy landscape. The Heemskerkse golf club is open, accessible, and reaches a lot of people: the club is visited by over 3,000 people every year.

(2)
The landscape identity has not lost any of its grandeur since last time. The lines of sight are kept open, and each of the three zones has its own plans and projects with regard to planting. This enhances the course’s strong identity and its deep connection to the surrounding landscape.

(3)
Nature has continued to develop and is carefully attended to by committed, experienced, and expert greenkeepers. Maintenance of the forest plots has become increasingly intense over the years. Almost all clippings etc. are reused on site: a highly experienced greenkeeper supervises the building of dead hedges everywhere, and in several forest plots (eco zones) interventions are kept to an absolute minimum. The club also carefully attends to its properties that are not part of the golf course.