Oddur Golf Club

GEO Certified® 11/2017
210 Garðabær,
Iceland
Telephone: +354 565 9092
Oddur_club_image

Executive summary (English & local language)

This report refers to the initial GEO Certification of Oddur Golf Club, Garðabær, near Reykjavik, Iceland; including both the 18-hole championship course and the 9-hole par 3 course and practice facilities. The verification visit was carried out on 25 and 26 September 2017, preceded by desk review of the on-line application form (old version) and uploaded supplementary information. Following a preliminary discussion and familiarisation tour on day 1, the visit centred on a systematic evaluation of the application in collaboration with the golf club team, focusing on queries and issues arising from the desk review. A further site tour was then undertaken to inspect and validate key elements.

Oddur Golf Club is a private members’ club founded in 1993, initially playing over a 9 hole course which was extended to 18 holes in 1997. Covering around 65 hectares in total, the site is leased by the club from the Oddfellow Order. Oddur’s urban-fringe location adjoining the rugged lava fields and woodland of the Heiðmörk Conservation Area within a short drive of the city centre facilitates maximum access and multi-functionality. The topography is undulating, with an overall fall to the north-east away from the clubhouse towards the main lava field area. The soil substrates are derived from relatively free-draining, glacial moraine but the original surface topsoils were very thin and stony, supporting mainly low heathland and scrubby woodland vegetation. The Urriðavöllur championship course is presented to a high standard and regularly hosts tournaments, which have included the European Ladies’ team championships in 2016. The site combines diverse natural elements of high conservation value with a challenging and highly-ranked course, and features a number of very distinctive juxtapositions between green sites and lava formations. The comprehensive certification report demonstrates a consistently solid performance across all three themes, which was confirmed by the verification visit. There was also a very clear commitment to continued improvement, with the club initiating discussion on many of the points identified.

Nature

The landscape setting of the course is impressive, strongly influenced by its location on the margin of a major lava field, and its sensitive construction in two stages with minimal disturbance of the existing glacial/volcanic soils and their native heathland landcover. Although as yet there have been no comprehensive landscape or ecological surveys, overview reports on the nature conservation value of the course, and on the geological value of the adjoining lava fields, were provided. Staff and members also carried out their own useful in-house survey of wildlife and vegetation in 2017, and over the duration of the visit the golf club team demonstrated a genuine enthusiasm and sound understanding of the value of the natural systems.

In addition to the designation of the lava fields for geological value, the immediately adjoining land uphill of the course is a protected water supply area (aquifer). The club are about to benefit from the quality of this groundwater by completing the installation of an approved new borehole, to become operational later this year. Management of the adjoining heathland habitats is currently appropriately “light-touch”, and intervention is minimal, with the notable exception of successful measures to eradicate colonisation by Alaskan Lupin, which had invaded significant areas on and adjoining the site and still appears as a very prominent feature in aerial photographs.

In addition, a tree planting programme, (run by the Oddfellow Order so not the direct responsibility of the club) which follows a detailed planting plan prepared on behalf of the landowner, previously planted up to 3000 trees/year. While providing shelter and enclosure, and improved biodiversity, the programme also introduced a high proportion of alien coniferous species. This programme happily is being wound down and is now restricted mainly to a few native broadleaves. Planting within the lava field area beyond the golf course had generated some controversy in the past, with opposition from groups including the “Friends of the Lava”. Removal of the conifers is proposed as part of the new course extension project under consideration and this is strongly supported and recommended. A prominent existing conifer plantation within the course is to be softened and diversified by felling/management/additional planting with native broadleaves.

Four artificial water features on the course are generally maintained with close-mown turf right up to the water’s edge at present and considerable potential for habitat creation therefore exists. More generally, the club currently has no formal course policy document, environmental management plan, or similar, despite the obvious awareness of nature issues.

Excluding semi rough, intensively managed turf covers only around 11 hectares (15% of the site) providing a very positive overall site bias towards the out-of-play areas. Fescue/bent swards with around 30% Poa content are maintained on the greens, with a similar species composition on tees and fairways, providing a good fit with the prevailing climate. In common with most Icelandic golf courses, winter kill of turf due to ice accumulation is a key issue, exacerbated here by a number of enclosed low points in the topography of the site. Overseeding is particularly necessary after colder winters, and a regular topdressing programme is also implemented generally to all greens, albeit that some variation in the original rootzone occurs (higher quality sand-rich rootzone used for construction of the more recent greens).

Turf nutrient inputs, validated on-site from computer records, indicate very low quantities overall, with a generally stable or marginally downwards trend. (A relatively high Nitrogen application rate in 2014 relates to the need for additional winter kill recovery in Spring). Pesticide use, also validated from computer records, was minimal; limited to fungicide applications on greens, with 2016 requiring the heaviest use (three applications totalling 18kg, due mainly to Fusarium and Anthracnose infestation).

Water

Water consumption data is an estimate based on invoices. At Oddur, prior to 2011 all water for irrigation was sourced on-site from a groundwater borehole: an improved borehole has been formally permitted and partly constructed which should be operational by next playing season. This will supply 100% of the irrigation demand but in the interim period the municipal potable supply has also been used for irrigation. Notwithstanding the national context, where the superabundance of supply negates the need to quantify use, Oddur have agreed to install meters for future use by clubhouse and maintenance area (municipal potable source) and the new borehole. Course irrigation is controlled by conventional computer system (Rainbird); this is due for upgrading and will be considered in conjunction with the supply from new borehole coming onstream. Water quality testing is not currently undertaken but is to be established for the new borehole supply. (Initial tests prior to construction of the borehole indicated a very high quality of supply, consistent with the location immediately downstream of the water protection area).

Energy

Oddur uses electricity solely from renewable sources, via the local/national grid (certified generated 100% via hydroelectric plant). The current consumption (stable at around 210,000 kWh/annum average) will be reduced very significantly following the finalising of an agreed connection to the municipal geothermal heating pipe system, which will heat the clubhouse and maintenance buildings. The electricity consumption records currently do not allow breakdown between clubhouse and golf course/maintenance area use. These were validated on-site and it was reported that the recording for the GEO certification process had facilitated switching to a cheaper tariff. Another notable feature is the recent installation of two vehicle charging points, with dedicated “green” marked car-parking spaces in the members’ car park. Use of fossil fuels is limited to some utility vehicles and mowers – interestingly the club have switched to hybrid greens mowers and the head greenkeeper reported no reliability or performance issues. A satisfactory level of energy conservation measures is in place but no formal energy audits have been carried out to date.

Supply Chain

A concise procurement policy is in place which refers to environmental factors and to a wider environmental policy. This latter has yet to be prepared but is understood to be in preparation in conjunction with the GEO certification process. It was also agreed that a more comprehensive Ethical Procurement Policy would be prepared subject to approval by the Club. Full records of all suppliers were available for review. For Iceland generally, high transport costs inevitably favour local suppliers and the records indicate that from a total of 134 suppliers, all but 4 are located within 10km of the club, the exceptions relating to maintenance equipment and course supplies. The waste management procedure was recently upgraded and full data are now available for waste streams via the local uplift company which is used, separated by Clubhouse and Maintenance Area. Cardboard and organic waste represented the two largest categories from either location recycled in 2016. The use of waste bins on course is complemented by “adoption” of individual holes by groups of members for litter removal and general tidiness.

Pollution Control

As noted above, existing water features currently have close-mown edges (with the exception of “out-of-play” side on hole 9): enhanced buffer strips/habitat creation measures should be considered to improve interception of any nutrient/pesticide run-off. Waste water discharges are to septic tanks from clubhouse and maintenance facility buildings, and to subsoil soakaway (via oil separator) from the wash-down area. These have existing permits from the municipality. Expansion of the maintenance facility to include a new machinery storage building and improved wash-down facility was under way during the visit, scheduled to be completed by end of 2017. It is understood that the wash-down facility will not be of the full recycling “waste to water” type, but will have an improved filtration and disposal function. Grass clippings on fairways are returned and there is currently no composting of greens and tees clippings which are disposed to an off-site dump. Composting is to be re-introduced in conjunction with the expansion of the maintenance facility which will free-up additional space.

Community

Oddur Golf Club clearly demonstrates very strong links with the local community of Garðabær and the wider Reykjavik area. The urban fringe location with proximity both to residential areas and an extensive greenspace network maximises the multiple uses of the site beyond golf; including informal recreational and nature conservation activities. A direct path link between the golf club and the greenspace system is in place and discussions are ongoing regarding integration with a wider regional network of paths, the “Green Scarf” project. The course and immediate surroundings are rich in archaeological features, seven of which are formally listed, including several prominent walled enclosures. There is a healthy emphasis on junior coaching covering a wide catchment area (facilitated by the high standard of practice facilities and floodlit range), with PGA-qualified staff paid for by the club. Collaboration with The Icelandic Institute of Natural History on a vegetation monitoring project is being pursued in conjunction with the course extension proposals, linked to lupin eradication. Weekly meetings of an informal sustainability group were held during the GEO certification process – to be formalised – with an overall Management Plan/Course Policy Document recommended as a priority task (See also Nature above).

Documentation Reviewed

Conclusion

I, Mike Wood, independent accredited verifier, recommend Oddur Golf Club be awarded the GEO Certified ecolabel.
The key strengths as highlighted by the verification process include:

• good all-round awareness of the nature conservation and landscape value of the site
• new groundwater borehole to provide 100% of irrigation demand
• very limited use of fossil fuel energy resources
• connection to municipal thermal water supply will significantly reduce electrical energy demand
• strong community connections include a prominent contribution to junior coaching in the Reykjavik area
• important strategic role in the greenspace network of the municipality and the wider region
• proposed new course extension project provides significant potential for further sustainability gains

Certification Highlights

See above