Golfclub Houtrak

GEO Certified® 08/2011 GEO Re-Certified 02/2016
Halfweg,
Netherlands
Telephone: +31 (0)23 513 29 39
Houtrak_club_image

Executive summary (English & local language)

Golfclub Houtrak has finished its first three years of certification. The golf course, clubhouse and the management facility are in a good state. The greenkeeping team works with the utmost respect towards nature and the environment. This is shown in the presence of large areas of botanic grassland, indigenous trees and the careful use of fertilizers and other measures.

The past three years, the golf club has worked on their GEO activities with the management of the course. Continuing to keep on improving the management proved to be difficult. Reasons for this are diverse and can be linked to other priorities concerning the management and continuity of the business.
The management plan shows several well defined ambitions for monitoring, these have been partially executed.

Houtrak profiles itself as a golf course for the moderate golf player. The greens are fast, the fairways narrower than average, causing a challenging play. The ever changing wishes of the golf players are well received by the golf club. The get a better idea on the wishes of the players, the course commission has made a selection of players on different handicap levels who can give their feedback on the course. On several parts, the golf course has been made more accessible for a broader group of players.
The management is working on a mission statement and a work plan to tackle the current problems. They accomplish this by listening to the group of different handicap players and by inviting independent advisors.

The resident greenkeeper team executes a professional management and uses field observations and measurements to plan the needed management, instead of working ‘exactly by the book’. The golf course has a high tolerance for dry periods, causing the absence of irrigation on the fairways. Parts of the golf course are therefore barely irrigated or fertilized.

The management makes a clear connection between the wishes of the golf players and the quality and playability of the golf course. This has led to several changes that were made in the management of the golf course. As an example: the players group with a handicap of 18 to 36 is used more as the reference group.

Golfclub Houtrak complies to all the laws and rules for environmental care and safety. The golf club employs schooled personnel, the buildings comply to all legal requirements. When in doubt, an external professional is invited.

Golfclub Houtrak heeft de eerste certificeringsperiode van 3 jaar afgerond. De golfbaan, het clubhuis en de werkplaats zijn in een goede staat aangetroffen. Door het greenkeeping team wordt met veel repect voor natuur en milieu gewerkt hetgeen zich uit in aanwezigheid van natuurlijk grasland, inheemse beplantingen, het gebruik van organische meststoffen en andere maatregelen.

De afgelopen drie jaar zijn de activiteiten met betrekking tot GEO-certificering op het gebied van baanbeheer verder doorgezet. De continuïteit voor het blijvend optimaliseren is wel lastig gebleken. Redenen hiervoor aangevoerd zijn divers en hangen veelal samen met andere prioriteiten met oog op de continuïteit van de bedrijfsvoering.
In het beheerplan zijn duidelijke monitoringsdoelstellingen opgenomen. Deze zijn deels gerealiseerd.

Houtrak profileert zich als een baan voor de gevorderde speler. De greens zijn snel, de fairways soms smaller dan gemiddeld, waardoor er een uitdagend spel ontstaat. Veranderende wensen van de golfspelers neemt de golfclub ter harte. Om een beter beeld te krijgen van de spelers wensen is er voor de baancommissie een samenstelling gemaakt van diverse handicap-niveaus. Op onderdelen is de baan toegankelijker gemaakt voor een bredere spelersgroep.
Het  bestuur is bezig met het vastleggen van een visie en aanpak om dit probleem te tackelen. Dit doen zij onder andere door te luisteren naar leden met verschillende handicaps en door onafhankelijk advies in te schakelen.

Het vaste team van greenkeepers voert een professioneel beheer uit en laat zich bij het plannen van de werkzaamheden leiden door waarnemingen in het veld, in plaats van klakkeloos adviezen op te volgen. Er is een grote droogte tolerantie op de baan. Dit heeft ertoe geleid dat er geen fairway beregening is aangelegd en er bewust voor wordt gekozen om delen van de golfbaan niet tot nauwelijks te beregenen of te bemesten.

Het bestuur legt een duidelijke koppeling van de wensen van de leden naar de kwaliteit en de speelbaarheid van de golfbaan. Dit heeft tot gevolg dat het beheer van de baan zich in de afgelopen drie jaar en ook de komende tijd aanpast. Zo wordt er meer gekeken naar de groep spelers met een handicap tussen 18 en 36 dan in de voorgaande periode.

Op het gebied van milieuzorg en veiligheid voldoet de golfclub op alle eisen. Er wordt gewerkt met geschoold personeel, de gebouwen voldoen aan de wettelijke eisen en bij twijfel wordt de hulp van externe professionals ingeschakeld.

Nature

Golfclub Houtrak is characterized by a alternation of open polder-holes and holes in a park-like woodland setting. The golf course has its own management plan, in which the different types of terrain are described and what kind of management is fitting. The management plan dates to 2010 and needs to be revised.

The golf club has executed several measurements during the past three years for a better structured rough. The rough is locally depleted from nutrients and the development of the vegetation is closely monitored. To do so, one of the machines has been adjusted.
De golf club wishes to improve the playing qualities of several holes and looks for ways to do so. Reason for these adjustments are the wishes of the players. On several locations, the golf course has changed throughout the years caused by the land sinking of the peat soils.

Before the desired adjustments to the golf course are made, the golf club invites a golf course architect for a professional opinion.
The golf club conducts no frequent or scheduled monitoring of flora and fauna. In the management plan, however, a monitoring plan has been inserted. This plan is not complied actively. The golf club has let us know that they conduct an annual monitoring on the birds, fishes and orchids. The golf club can improve this monitoring by following the schedule in the management plan and centralise the registrations. With this data, conclusions concerning the course management can be done.

Golfclub Houtrak owns an 18-holes golf course which is designed in an unusual pattern. One part of the holes runs like the fingers on a hand towards the borders of the terrain, centred by the club house. A golf player never has to walk more than 50 metres to reach the next tee. The mowing lines of the fairways, semi-rough and rough are determined each year at the start of the season by the head greenkeeper and course the course commission. The choices for the mowing management are not written down on a map.
The golf club states that the woodlands on the golf course deserve a more active management, to prevent them from overgrowing. This, however, asks for more capacity of the greenkeepers and a good vision on the desired species per location. The first 4 metres of the woodlands is kept free from low branches to improve the playing quality. On several locations magnificent bush thickets are present. The golf course is good suited for birds.

The greens of the golf course are seeded through with fescue grasses to increase the percentage of the fescue. This ambition of the golf club is related to the fescue’s high tolerance for drought and the forming of mildew. The golf club has professional support by an external advisor. Each year, 9 holes are monitored on the root growth, thatch levels and nutrition levels by taking soil samples.

The high rough is management with a special Trilo-mower (with both normal knives and scarifier knives), and the clippings are collected to deplete the soil of nutrients. As a result, the rough has a better structure and golf balls can be found easier.
Because the soil exists of both clay and peat, decreasing the nutrient levels is a difficult task. The greenkeepers have sanded large parts of the golf course in order to improve the soil structure and monitors the vegetation development.
Trees that are not near the holes are cinctured in order to gain more dead wood in the woodlands. Woodpeckers from the nearby Spaarnwoude, profit from this measure. The greenkeepers make microhabitats for small critters by making long strips of branches in the woodlands after pruning trees.


Water

The usage of tap water is registered by the employees of the secretary. This data is collected in one place. The golf club has stated to have taken several measures in order to lower the use of tap water. Golf players can clean their shoes with compressed air, and the showers have been adjusted to minimize water usage. Part of these measures had already been implemented during the past audit. The golf club stated to find it difficult to find new actions to lower the water usage even more. They wish to keep a close eye on the water usage during the next years.

An important development is the way the golf course deals with the water quality. Salinization of the ground and surface water is an increasing problem. Recently, a connection with the Catstocht, a freshwater lake nearby, in order to improve the flow of water on the golf course. This measure also works positively on the fresh water provision.
As stated before, the golf club has no irrigation on the fairways. By using deep rooting rye grasses, the application of water on the fairways can be kept to a minimum.

Something that caught my eye during the audit is that the water usage numbers fluctuate strongly over the past three years. In 2012, for example, there was a strong drop in the water usage for irrigation. This is caused by a very wet summer. On the contrary, 2013 was a very dry year, forcing the greenkeepers to irrigate more, even on the fairways. Sprinklers are only present on the tees and greens.
The club house has a lower water use than three years before. The golf club thinks golfers take shorter showers, or even shower less frequently. They have also installed water saving shower heads.
The greenkeepers have used more water than the years before. This is caused by the changing quality of the surface water that is normally used to dilute chemicals and fertilizers. The quality of the surface water has changed negatively, forcing the greenkeepers to use more tap water to dilute their products.

The greenkeeping team conducts several measures to improve the soil’s health. By pricking and vertidraining they increase the oxygen in the soil. This causes thatch levels to decrease and a better soil structure.
Water levels on the golf course and the surrounding polders are regulated by the Water Regulation Authority. When the water levels drop to much, the golf course can request the authority to let in more water.
During the winter days, the greenkeeping team maintains the drainage, or partially replaces parts of the drains when needed.

To guarantee an efficient irrigation, annual maintenance is planned for the irrigation system. Broken sprinklers are replaced by sector sprinklers. This way of working has been the best way for the past years. The greenkeeping intends to keep on working this way.
The fairways show discoloration during the summer days. Members of the golf club have inquired for irrigation on the fairways. The golf club has let them know that applying no to little water on the fairways, causes to strengthen the grasses, so that on the long term, even less water is needed.

Energy

During 2010, the greenkeeper accommodation has been renovated and isolated, during the first audit, a part of these changes were already made. Floor heating was installed in the canteen and the head greenkeepers office, causing the energy use to become more efficient. The purchase of energy is managed by the secretariat. Ways to save on energy are mainly done for cost-containment.

The employees of the secretariat collect the energy usage numbers. This way, the golf club knows when there are any fluctuations in the energy usage. With this GEO theme as well, the golf club knows which ways there are to save on the usage. Since the renovation of the club house, no additional actions were taken on saving more energy.

The club house has been provided with energy saving lighting and the heating program was adjusted to save energy. The changing room and toilets, in both the club house and the greenkeepers accommodation, have motion sensors. The energy usage has clearly lessened by these actions.

The golf club has not yet conducted any research on the possibility of renewable energy sources like solar panels. The golf club has stated to take a new look at this the next years. They also wish to stay up to date on the new developments of the energy market.

The golf club uses hybrid hand mowers. They have used hybrid sit-on mowers, but don’t use them anymore since the mowing result was less than expected. All golf carts are electric.

Supply Chain

Because of a change in the tenant for the catering, data on purchasing policy and product certifications were lost. The golf club wishes to write down new purchasing policies with the new catering tenant.
The golf club further states to use chemical products as little as possible. Not only are these products expensive, most of the times a good and structured management is a better solution. This also goes for the purchase of fertilizers.

The greenkeepers use fertilizers less frequent than is prescribed by the advisors. By using fertilizers less during the years, the usage is kept low through the years. The usage of chemical products is kept in a log and is digitised once a month by the head greenkeeper.

The greenkeepers have the ambition of using as less chemical products as possible. By applying specific management on the problem areas, they keep the turf grass healthy. Chemical products are only used when normal management is insufficient, but never as a prevention. The golf club uses Merit Turf sporadically against white grubs when they have a problem keeping them under control. The greenkeepers also purchase biological products based on garlic and extracts from seaweed to keep the turf grass healthy.

The greenkeepers use less fertilizers than prescribed. They share the vision not to ‘spoil’ the grasses too much to make it stronger.
Purchases by the greenkeepers are made at local suppliers as much as possible.

Fertilizers used are partly organic and sprayed on the grass leaves to provide the needed nutrition. The plant protection products are often combined and mixed to apply it to the grass in one action. Extracts from algae are used to provide the turf grass with additional protein. Also, the greenkeepers work intensively with seaweed in order to give the turf grass enough resistance against plagues and diseases. Weeding is done locally and as much by hand as possible.

The golf club has several waste streams that are separated at the club house and the greenkeeper accommodation. To prevent the golf players to leave behind their waste in the golf course, they are addressed by the marshal when he is making his rounds. Grass waste is collected, composted and mixed with soil to use as a substrate for renovations in the golf course.

Pollution Control

All facilities function according to the Dutch legal requirements. The greenkeeper accommodation and the clubhouse have been renovated the past years and provided with the necessary modern instalments. By doing this, the golf club complies to the legal requirements in order to prevent pollution and prevent fires.

Personnel is instructed and schooled in managing emergency situations. Machines are cleaned on an impervious floor with a oil and grease interceptor. Simple maintenance on the machines is done by the greenkeepers, heavy maintenance is put out under contract.

The Water Regulation authority conducts a yearly audit on the inflow water on the golf course. This data is send to the golf course. Whenever changes in the quality of the water are noticed, this is discussed with the golf club.

Legal agreements for discharging waste water are made.

Chemical products are stored in two locked cabinets with air extraction. The fuel tank is provided with a leakage container and is audited several times a year. Only personnel with a spraying license is allowed to use chemical products.

After the renovation, the fire safety devices and legal requirements for environmental care, were audited by the municipality and the fire department. Emptying the grease interceptor is done by specialists. The leaking containers of the fuel tanks are emptied by the same specialists.

The spraying devices are only two years old and provided with anti-drift nozzles. The greenkeepers keep a 3 meter buffer around water features when applying chemical products. Only the parts of the holes are fertilized.

Community

Towards members, the golf club is not actively communicating about sustainability and nature. Houtrak makes sure that local papers and golf business magazines are supplied with enough articles about the golf club and has a strong professional profile.
The biggest challenge for this theme is to collect all data for GEO centrally from all the different parties involved in GEO. The goal is to join the different committees and secure GEO for the future generations. As the head greenkeeper mentioned during the audit, whenever the board changes, the visions may change as well.

The most important advice we might give is to organize a gathering of the committed once or twice a year to discuss GEO. A joint vision on the different GEO themes most be written down and provided with several goals for the future which can be implemented in the golf club.

The greenkeepers have their own education policy. The board thinks of it as important to keep the management quality is high as possible. Often, young greenkeepers are brought in to make sure they are educated the right way of management for this golf course.

The sustainability work group is occupied by one person at the moment. To ensure the continuity of a sustainable organization, it is advised to gather more member for the sustainability work group. Preferably these are people from different committees to discuss the GEO themes together.

The golf club has a good co-operation with Landschap Noord-Holland (a regional nature and landscape management organization). The local Water Regulation Authority is contacted for maintaining the water levels in the polder.

Golfclub Houtrak is a private club, making it difficult to find ways of varied land use. The golf club is in contact with a group of specialists to remove parts of their fish populations, to prevent a surplus of fish in the ponds.

None

The club magazine contains articles on the nature on the golf course. The website has a special page for flora and fauna. This page, however, has not been updated since 2012. The golf club has two computers near the entrance on which club members can view news and updates on the golf course status.

The club has good contact with the press of the Haarlems Dagblad. The golf club takes part in the annual Open Golf Days to invite non-golfers to the golf course. Sometimes, teams are exchanged with golf clubs in the surroundings.

Documentation Reviewed

Conclusion

Developments in the golf business have made it necessary for adjusting the golf clubs vision and policy. Houtrak works hard to implement a new profile as a club and sell a unique product. This has caused that activities on GEO have been postponed. When the golf club manages to implement the vision of GEO to the different committees, the certificate will gain more value and support from the club. At that point is will show the benefits of a sustainable management in reducing costs and an improved golf course quality.
The board of the golf club has stated that they see GEO as an important addition to the clubs profile. They wish to work the next years intensively on implementing GEO in the golf club policy for the next generation of golf players. Therefore thay have stated that per January 1st, the ambitions of the GEO-program are fully implemented in the new course commission in which to members of the GEO-comission take part.

Certification Highlights

Clear lines of communication with members to improve the playability of the course.
Out-of-play rough management plan to deplete nutrients and allow more finer grass and native species to develop.
Deliberate lower use of fertilisers than advised to ensure no overfeeding and leaching of nutrients.
Policy of minimal, preventative chemical use and introduction of biological turf products to reduce synthetic chemical and fertiliser use.
Recent audit of energy use will dictate management efficiency actions in 2016 with maintenance facility switching to energy saving lighting.