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Dundonald links achieves GEO certification

“In many ways Dundonald Links sets a precedent and bench mark at such a high level creating a management regime that other golf clubs should aspire to.

The commitment, dedication and passion towards ensuring environmental sustainability and best practice working is strongly evident throughout the entire facility and in all areas of working. Indeed whilst most golf clubs would feed duly satisfied managing ecological habitats i.e. woodlands, grasslands, ponds etc. Dundonald links see this type of work as routine and have expanded their working on a far greater scale.”

Evaluation Report by Bob Taylor, GEOSA, Accredited Verifier

Community outreach is second to none a classroom has been built as a field study centre enabling teaching in nature and outdoor learning; the aim being to provide professional development and outdoor learning for local school children (5-12 years of age). The classroom also provides a collaborative practical learning facility of teachers and for local natural history groups. Dundonald Links have set aside a significant area of land for school children to develop and study all manner of nature studies; gardening and landscape development can be practiced here.

The golf club are in regular liaison with Scottish Wildlife Trust, Scottish Golf Environment Group and Scottish Natural Heritage and indeed with local businesses. The golf club have developed a partnership with local supermarkets, farmers and local industry and are working with these partners to create a large corridor of connected land from Irvine to Girvan primarily for the re-establishment and reintroduction of small blue butterflies. This has developed into a massive collaboration and undertaking for the Club and one that has brought together many different sectors, local farmers, local food stores, major food chains, golf clubs and local wildlife groups.

Dundonald Links is a relatively new facility – a nine hole golf course was established back in 1936 but was taken over and used for military training with periods of farming through to 2000 when the current 18 hole facility was constructed. The site occupies 121 hectares, 38% of which is managed as golf course land.

The site supports a predominance of acid grassland type habitats including Atlantic coastal heath, wetlands and marsh, with scattered scrub.

Dundonald Links have submitted a detailed OnCourse report illustrating the gradual reduction in fertiliser use together with the targeted and controlled use of pesticides that has been achieved as the course has established,– indeed at Dundonald; although all green staff are trained and are competent to apply chemicals only 2 people take on this responsibility and strictly follow a safe mix reporting scheme with regular hospital checks to monitor health of the operators.

The golf course is bordered on 3 sides by golf course land and supports heavy industry to the east. Part of the site lies adjacent to the Gailes Marsh Nature Reserve run by Scottish Wildlife Trust. The golf course importantly gives connectivity to the nature reserve reducing it’s otherwise isolated island position.

Supply chain practices are also implemented to an unusually high standard and with equal dedication. The club can demonstrate zero waste to landfill and are actively following standard waste hierarchy protocols.

 

Nature

It would be easy to state that this is one area where Dundonald excel but the Club excel in so many areas. The Club annually manage and monitor tree and scrub ingress as part of an on-going management plan, areas are being set aside as wild flower grasslands to encourage pollinating invertebrates. The Club within an area of wetland have created a vertical sand face to accommodate breeding sand martin.

Log piles are represented at intervals through the course where appropriate; and importantly dead wood is left lying at close spacings between the different areas to enable invertebrate movement. Dundonald clearly have a good understanding of ecological best practice.

The club’s On Course report does not in any way do justice to the biological data that has been gathered at Dundonald. The field study centre by way of posters highlights the total numbers of different species and species groups found through the facility. Records are provided by local interest groups, through phase 1 habitat survey and the management plan (all verified on site).

This golf course is a relatively young establishing course, constructed back in 2000 and opened for a preview in 2003. The grasses as they stabilise are requiring reducing inputs (fertiliser inputs have reduced from over 100kg of inorganic N on the greens to 69kg over the last 3 years). Similar reductions are evident on tees and fairways and through areas of semi-rough. The climate dictates the preference for inorganic over organic fertilisers.

It is heartening to see the extent of area being managed for nature conservation, many areas being some distance from the playing lines; however, such is the quality of the putting and playing surfaces that few people would complain of greenkeepers not spending more time through the perceived priority areas.

As the course matures and as the level of outreach grows a greater number of golfers are being encouraged to visit this very natural area. Indeed I was informed by the Club that a local committee member of Scottish Wildlife Trust has recently become a member of Dundonald, largely because of the positive way in which the golf course and its environments are being managed.

 

Water

Dundonald Links relies on a mix of slightly saline ground water diluted with mains water. The average consumption was estimated at around 6-7million litres, the amount being totally dependent upon annual rainfall figures. Water management is controlled by a fully computerised irrigation system incorporating individual head control on the greens (2 heads on fairways) a portable hand held controller and variable frequency drive pumping system allows water to be used in the most efficient and effective way reducing both water and energy consumption. Over 500 heads are controlled in this way.

The system is serviced on an annual basis to prevent leaks and to maintain efficiency of working.

The need for irrigation is determined using soil moisture probes, water management involves and integrated approach of data collation (particularly rainfall and soil moisture data collation) together with aeration and the on-going use of wetting agents all tied in with the establishment of more drought tolerant grass species.

The Club use dedicated teams of interested individuals to monitor and manage the water systems on both the golf course and within the Club house. Irrigation water use is recorded and verifiable.

Several water saving measures have been practiced within the Club house including low flow urinals, use of efficient shower technology and constant monitoring to ensure maintenance to a high level.

 

Energy

A formal energy efficiency report has been provided through the Energy Savings Trust, providing a number of recommendations for improvement that are gradually being adopted by the Club. The Club has undertaken a number of initiatives regarding energy conservation including upgrading appliances, exchanging light bulbs and appointing energy monitors. An energy monitor has been set up with the role being to champion energy efficiency, record usage and improve staff awareness. A very novel approach at Dundonald is that all new staff agree as part of their contract of employment to remain committed to energy conservation, it forms part of the staff’s contract of employment and includes consideration and commitment to general energy efficiency principles including physically tuning off lights when not required.

Over the course of the next 2 years the Club house and maintenance facilities will be upgraded where upon new energy efficiency measures will be taken on board to include the greater use of renewable technologies including the proposal of a wind turbine, which will contribute greatly to lowering Dundonald’s grid requirements for clubhouse operation and pump systems that are a necessity for good drainage on the golf course.

I was able to assess the energy consumption reports over 3 years, the reductions evident are through greater awareness of staff, better housekeeping and greater recognition from the Club house side which has been gradually brought into the programme.

 

Supply Chain

Waste is a particular concern to Dundonald who now operate a zero waste to landfill programme. Annual transfer notes for all sited waste were inspected; these cover all possible waste streams within the facility. The Club recognise and understand the waste hierarchy and follow the principles of the hierarchy closely. All staff are given induction training on waste management protocols, several have completed Zero Waste Scotland’s – On Course for Zero Waste Certification.

The Club have been extremely successfully in educating local businesses into adopting similar best practice procedures this is a role that continues as the expertise within the club is recognised by outside organisations.

A major incentive at Dundonald is to ensure nonessential packaging and other wastes are returned on delivery as this important waste stream is often doubly paid for i.e. through the provision of the item and thereafter through disposal.

 

Pollution Control

The Club recognise and are working towards reducing inputs on the golf course which in turn will reduce pollution potential. The Club recognise the need to discard all wastes appropriately, annual waste transfer notes available as evidence to support this. Grass clippings are where possible prevented from entering ditch systems.

A series of ditches (burns) support general land drainage most are closed, through one burn; The Montgomery Burn is open to the coastline, water quality of this burn is interestingly and again somewhat surprisingly monitored on a daily basis with checks also made for any visual anomalies. An action plan and reporting procedure is in place and would be followed if issues were picked up. All tests data etc. is verifiable with evidence being readily made available.

 

Community

Community outreach is by far the predominant area in which Dundonald excel, the level of commitment here is second to none with considerable effort being given to engaging and assisting local businesses including Nestle and the large industrial paper mill both of which are situated within the local area. The Club works closely with Scottish Wildlife Trust and Scottish Golf Environment Group in all aspects of nature conservation.

A classroom has been constructed as a field study centre for teachers and students to develop a broader collaboration and outdoor learning experience. This has led to greater collaboration and interest from teachers; it is helping to teach teachers by showing land management in action and by offering advice with lesson plans. The project has been developed in partnership with SNH and is the first site out with a national park to use this programme for teaching a nature course. It provides professional development, outdoor learning, enabling teachers to work together (in collaboration) and practical learning experiences for teachers and pupils. Local wildlife groups have found the classroom of value enabling them to collect from the course and identify it back in the classroom. The data collation is of direct relevance and interest to the club

A major project being directed and managed by Dundonald Links now up and running is the Irvine to Girvan small blue butterfly reintroduction programme, which developed by the golf club in partnership with the Statutory Consultees aims to engage golf clubs throughout Ayrshire including; Royal Troon, Turnberry and nine courses within Ayrshire Councils management remit to develop wildflower grassland, particularly for the small blue butterfly which has in 2013 been reintroduced onto the Dundonald Links. This project is in recognition of the need to provide wider ecological connectivity for the butterfly to ensure its long term survival and expansion. Kidney vetch (the butterfly’s main food plant) is to be introduced through 2014 on all agreed and participating sites along the Ayrshire coastline using volunteers and financial support from a number of secured interested parties. This clearly is a very ambitious undertaking and one that demonstrates outreach on a grand scale.

In other areas the golf club work with Enable Scotland in youth mentoring and regularly engage with charities to encourage litter picking, tree planting etc. The Club work through Scottish Business in the Community, one of the Princes Trust Charities to develop a much wider community network.

 

Documentation Reviewed

  • Action Plans and Project Proposals
  • Environmental Data
  • Environmental Management Plan
  • Environmental Policy
  • External Surveys and Reports
  • Internal Reports

 

Conclusion

The vision of Dundonald links is to provide golfers with an authentic and distinctive Links land experience backed by the very best environmental practices and policies with the direct aim of minimising waste, protect and enhance biodiversity, minimise energy consumption; whilst maximising the golf clubs role to provide the public with knowledge of on-going environmental issues and Inspire others to pursue sustainable resources.

Dundonald Links is an exemplar in many aspects of its working and readily satisfies GEO Certified evaluation criteria. Overall environmental management is underpinned by continual learning, through data recording and through consultation and outreach. The golf club shows a demonstrable improvement in habitat conservation management over the 10 years of the Clubs existence and in the way in which primary inputs are being reduced. Importantly all of the staff are engaged in energy and waste efficiencies, this being highlighted at the induction stages and part of the staffs contract of employment. Energy and waste considerations are thus built into, and are, part of each employee’s normal contract of working. Regular workshops and discussion meetings are provided to ensure best working practice from all staff.

The club’s OnCourse report was thoroughly discussed during the verification process and I can confirm that the application submitted provides a true and accurate reflection of the work being carried out and that this more than adequately covers all areas of interest; moreover the work undertaken is being carried out with skill, dedication and to a level of understanding and commitment.

Further improvements will be made through the Club house and maintenance facilities as these are upgraded over the next 2 years which with the high degree of commitment shown through golf course working, understanding of the supply chain procedures and given the very high level of community outreach will all come together to set this club on a very high pedestal indeed, therefore I have no hesitation in recommending that this club be awarded GEO Certified accreditation.

 

Certification Highlights

It is difficult to pick out one or two highlights from what clearly is a very impressive management structure at Dundonald, the most obvious highlights relate to a highly unique projects forming part of the community outreach. The provision of the classroom, the set aside land to encourage outdoor learning “Learning in Nature”, enables school children, teachers to collaborate and work closely; it brings together the statutory consultees and other interested naturalist groups and has little to do with the direct business of golf. Such projects demonstrate the golf clubs commitment rather than that of a few individuals (greenkeepers). Furthermore the close working relationships with the statutory consultees including the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Scottish Natural Heritage is exemplary helping to expand the nature conservation interest over and outwith the site. These achievements again have the complete cooperation and backing of the Club.

Other highlights relate to the way in which the Club engage with the local volunteer groups to engage locals in tree planting, litter picking and other management operations.

The Club also comply fully with sustainability principles and are working to reduce the consumption of water, fertiliser and other inputs. Significant investments have been made over the last few years to include the bund of the diesel, petrol and chemical mixing facilities. Provision has resulted in reduced daily costs, reducing spillage and reduced potential for pollution.

 

About GEO
GEO is a stakeholder-funded, non-profit organisation, dedicated to helping golf become a leader in sustainable sport and business; universally valued for positive environmental and social contributions. GEO Certified™ is the most credible, comprehensive, constructive ecolabel for golf.

GEO works with golf, government and environmental organizations worldwide, including The European Tour, UNEP, The R&A, EGA, EGCOA, BIGGA, FEGGA, PGA of Europe, EIGCA, the Club Manager Associations of America, Europe and China and numerous golf Federations.  For more info see www.golfenvironment.org