Executive summary (English & local language)
The Nieuwegeinse Golf Club was founded in 1986 and has been playing on the current course since 2002. This 9-hole championship course is hemmed by the exits of the A27 motorway, the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal, and the Heemstede castle estate. The driving range and 9-holes pars 3 are situated on a separate strip of land on the other side of the castle. This unique set-up means that the club deals with two different municipalities: Houten and Nieuwegein. The golf club’s influence sphere does not contain any Natura 2000 reserves or areas that are part of the Dutch National Ecological Network.
The course was built on the former lands of castle Heemstede, a Medieval castle that can be seen from virtually any point on the course and that significantly affects the course identity. The course is somewhat hilly and has a parkland feel with many landscape elements. The total surface area is 31 hectares and the land is leased from the local recreation authority. In the middle of course lies an enclave: a piece of private property that is used for growing vegetables.
The club began with its Committed to Green programme in 2006 and obtained the certificate in 2008. The club became GEO-certified in 2010. The ‘Sustainable Golf’ committee comprises six members and operates in close collaboration with the Management and Maintenance committee. The committee considers it a social duty to act in accordance with the principles of sustainability, and it takes responsibility, with nature as a medium and GEO as the most important catalyser.
De Nieuwegeinse Golfclub werd in 1986 opgericht en is sinds 2002 actief op de huidige baan. De 9 holes wedstrijdbaan ligt ingesloten tussen de afritten van de A27, het Amsterdam-Rijnkanaal en het landgoed van kasteel Heemstede. De driving range en 9 holes pars 3 liggen op een aparte strook grond aan de andere zijde van het kasteel. Daarmee heeft de club met twee gemeenten te maken: Houten en Nieuwegein. Er liggen geen Natura 2000-gebieden of gebieden van het Natuurnetwerk Nederland in de invloedssfeer.
De baan is aangelegd op voormalige landerijen van kasteel Heemstede; een kasteel van middeleeuwse oorsprong dat vrijwel overal op de baan zichtbaar is en in hoge mate de identiteit bepaalt. De baan is licht geaccidenteerd en heeft een parkachtig karakter met veel landschappelijke elementen. De totale oppervlakte is 31 hectare en is wordt gepacht van het recreatieschap. Midden in de wedstrijdbaan ligt ‘de enclave’; een terrein in particulier bezit dat gebruikt wordt voor de verbouw van groenten.
In 2006 startte de club met het Committed to Green programma en behaalde in 2008 het certificaat. Vanaf 2010 is de club GEO gecertificeerd. De commissie ‘Duurzaam Golf’ bestaat uit een zestal gemotiveerde leden en opereert in nauw contact met de commissie ‘Beheer en Onderhoud’. De commissie ziet duurzaam handelen als maatschappelijke plicht en neemt haar verantwoordelijkheid, met natuur als medium en GEO als belangrijkste katalysator.
The golf course is part of a landscape that consists of alluvial ridges and pools of small rivers feeding into the Rhine. The area lies in a transfer zone from the Jutphaas alluvial ridge (3700 BCE) to the lower pool grounds around the Heemstede castle. This lower position in the landscape is why this area is part of the New Hollandic Waterline (National Landscape): during wartime, this area could be flooded within 24 hours to serve as a defence barrier. The Heemstede castle can be seen from almost any point on the course and is a defining feature of the landscape identity. Other landscape elements include pollard trees, remainders of ash coppice wood, tall fruit trees, and hedges of beech and field maple. This way, each of the course’s hole has its own visual identity.
The natural values have been professionally registered for many years now, using the Environmental Management System web application. Support and assistance for ecological research, monitoring, and management recommendations are provided by the IVN institute for nature education and sustainability and by external consultants.
The club executes an annual investigation into the 8 most important groups of species. The vegetation development is tracked by means of triennial analyses of 6 PQs (permanent survey quadrats). A group of passionate club members makes 5 bird-counting rounds a year, led by the local environmental group. A mammal survey using an infrared camera was launched in the autumn of 2016.
The flora is native to the area and solitary trees are interspersed with scrubs. The common hazel, glossy buckthorn and guelder rose are dominant. Blackthorn and hawthorn are deterred for the players’ benefit. This was also the reason for removing a number of scrubs. Bodies of water with kilometres-long gradients from wet to dry are lined by natural vegetation that supports a wealth of different species. Characteristic are the omnipresent (sown) flowery grassland and mantle vegetation, alternated with lower, more oligotrophic and herb-rich roughs (extensive hayfield management). This guarantees a highly diverse insect universe with remarkable species of butterflies, bees, and dragonflies. Another fascinating feature are the four species of orchid that continue to spread. There are also a large number of bird species: long-eared owls, sand martins and green woodpeckers feel right at home here.
The greens consist of acrostic varieties (20%) and festuca rubra (60%). Poa trivialis and poa annua are not welcome here. Restrictive sprinkling keeps these grass species with their superficial roots in check. The fairways are made up from the same species, although acrostic varieties are dominant there. The tees consist mostly of poa pratensis.
A nature management plan and a terrain type map support the management in both parts of the course. The club has codes of conduct in place that determine the work methods. The ecological cohesion here is practically perfect: bodies of water, hemmed by embankments and rough grasslands, are connected to the surrounding drainage ditches. To retain the open sense of the landscape and to make sure that golf balls can be retrieved easily, the dense scrubs have been removed in some places and the dominant reeds are mown from time to time. The sand martin wall (2012), which is clearly visible from the other side of the water, greatly impresses visitors and has made a substantial contribution to the experience of and involvement in nature. The members clean the wall every August.
The local water authorities (the “Hoogheemraadschap Stichtse Rijnlanden”) ensure the quality and quantity of the water. The winter and summer levels are set in deliberation with the authorities. The western and central parts are kept at a few decimetres higher. Water from the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal enters at the northern edge and flown back into the canal on the south side of the course. The larger bodies of water are mostly found along the area’s edges and between the entrance and the restaurant.
Water consumption in the clubhouse and by greenkeeping is below average. The figures over the last 6 years show a slight decrease. Surface water is buffered in the large pond at the entrance and used for sprinkling. The club uses an average of 7000 m3, which is quite normal for a 9-hole course (between April and September, the club sprinkles a surface area of 5.7 hectares).
Machines are cleaned using compressed air and surface water.
The greens are sprinkled in the early morning (and in the late evenings in case of extreme droughts), to prevent deterioration through mildew. Tees and fairways are sprinkled late at night, limiting the evaporation and thereby pushing down the water consumption levels. Sprinkling is fully computerised and attuned to the current weather conditions and the moisture levels in the topsoil, allowing for less watering and creating a resilient turf with a root zone that goes down to 20 cm deep. Meadow grass and poa trivialis only root superficially and die out in case of dry soil, making room for the desired turfgrass species. The irrigation system is being replaced in phases (ethylene pipes and nozzles that can be calibrated more precisely), which cuts down on the total water consumption even more. Besides the greens and tees, the fairways are sprinkled on a weekly basis as well.
Savings in the field of sprinkling are complemented by a reduction in public water consumption. The sanitary facilities, showers and kitchen installations have all been fitted with water-saving features.
The club is generally very aware of energy consumption issues. Lighting is used sparingly. Modern isolation techniques were applied during construction of the clubhouse restaurant, which dates back to 2002. A firm specialised in corporate consumption reduction strategies performed an energy scan quite recently (Energy Services, 2015).
Electricity and natural gas consumption levels are average. The figures over the last 6 years show a slight decrease. Diesel consumption is average as well. There are two separate metres: one for the practice facilities and one for the competition course. The golf carts are electric. Gasoline consumption is unknown (because the green management company takes care of filling the tanks).
The club made the switch to 100% green energy from a certified supplier in 2012. Part of the energy audit was installing additional meters, as well as investigating the possibilities of generating electricity on site. The greenkeeping shed now has 80 m2 of well-oriented solar panels on its roof.
The kitchen was renovated in 2013 and fitted with all new equipment. Energy consumption was an important selection criterion. The two boilers (high-yield, natural gas) used for heating the buildings are new. All the facilities use (tube) LED lighting. Lights are turned off in unused spaces as much as possible, in part facilitated by the installation of movement sensors. The club does not use outdoor terrace heating or driving range lighting, but the practice greens are fitted with lighting. The use of bikes is encouraged, among others by plans to erect a new bicycle parking. The new bicycle bridge crossing the canal helps to give motorists that final push to start cycling.
There is a lot of awareness regarding acquisition of raw materials, resources and equipment. There is a gradual evolution underway towards certified products and suppliers. All inflow and outflow of materials is tracked and registered.
The supplier list is highly limited because both course maintenance and the restaurant and bar are outsourced to third parties. Both of these partners were selected on basis of sustainability, mandatory certificates, and ethical criteria. Course maintenance was subcontracted to a large, professional greenkeeping company, meaning that the course does not own machines. This company subscribes to the principles of corporate social responsibility and meets the requirements of sustainable policies pertaining to recruitment & selection, energy & waste, transport & machines, and using resources. Sustainable manufacturing, energy labels and maintenance requirements are important criteria when purchasing new machines.
The effects of this purchasing policy and these collaborations with certified companies have had an effect on the local economy. Although organic or local products do not feature on the menu yet, the owners of the restaurant and bar are open to it, and they are very willing to discuss any changes that will benefit a sustainable society. Besides organic and fair-trade foodstuffs, this also involves transport distances, packaging, and production energy consumption.
Greenkeeping goes according to a visual quality plan and therefore does not adhere to any predetermined frequency, which yields savings on costs, time, disruption, and energy. Meadow grass is battled with a careful and properly underpinned management plan. Fertilisation is 100% organic and is properly attuned to soil analyses. Flora protection is executed mechanically if possible and focuses on prevention (for instance to prevent thick layers of thatch from forming). Biological pest management is implemented where necessary and chemicals are used as minimally and selectively as possible. Weed control (clover) requires particular attention. Consumption figures show a strongly downward trend. Management is prepared for the Green Deal (a total pesticide ban for the sports and recreation sectors, projected for 2018 with possible postponement to 2020).
The Management and Maintenance committee is currently performing a waste audit; the volumes and processing routes have been mapped in detail. All waste is separated and recycled. Sand and wood are reused or processed on the course. Fairway clippings are left on the field, other clippings are stored temporarily in an impermeable trench silo and removed and composted as quickly as possible. Swill is turned into biogas and fertiliser elsewhere, through fermentation. Corporate waste constitutes about 50% of the total volume and is the most expensive to remove; it is taken to an incinerator. A push for minimal or recyclable packaging or volume packages has been reducing the total waste production.
The club’s environmental care plan functions properly and all legal requirements are met. Regular inspections of management, storage and processing of hazardous materials and waste water guarantee safeguarding. The environment is protected to the greatest possible extent.
The surface water inflow and outflow is gauged every year (calcium, iron and magnesium levels). The drainage pipes are also gauged as of 2016.
All sanitary facilities and sinks are connected to the public sewer. The same goes for the wash pad. The water drainage systems of the kitchen and maintenance facility are fitted with fat and grease traps. The club uses a high-grade lubricant that cuts consumption with 50% compared to regular lubricants.
Hazardous materials are stored and registered in accordance with all regulations, and they are checked on a regular basis.
The impermeable floors in the greenkeeping shed and on the wash pad have been fitted with sludge and fat traps before water is drained to the sewer. Kitchen waste water is treated in the same way. All operations follow the relevant regulations and take place on impermeable floors or in closed rooms.
Three-metre wide buffer zones were established around the bodies of water, although the restrictive club policy regarding chemical products means that these buffer zones have little to add. Course sanitary facilities are connected to a septic tank, after which the bacteria-purified water is drained to the neighbouring waterway. There are trash cans at every hole, virtually invisible.
An open attitude towards society is a matter of fact for the club and good relationships with the neighbours and other stakeholders receive constant attention. The principle is that parties are aware of the added value offered by a golf course, especially in an urban fringe which such levels of user functions and pressures on the space. The club has a communication plan in place.
There is a limited number of permanent employees. Course maintenance and the restaurant and bar were outsourced to certified companies that value people and the environment. The employees of the club and the supporting companies are properly trained and licenced and have received health and safety education.
The Sustainable Golf committee has six members and convenes six times a year. The committee is in close contact with the Management and Maintenances committee (12x a year). The committee has the necessary know-how of all relevant aspects and the tasks have been divided accordingly. The head greenkeeper has been the first point of contact for many years. Specialist advisors are consulted regularly with regards to tree and nature management. The committee employs a future-proof reporting method that has resulted in a constantly growing GEO document. Projects have been defined for the next 3 years.
Despite the possibility of closing off this area between waterways with a simple fence, the course has a welcoming atmosphere for golfers and non-golfers alike. The course is intersected by a public walking path and the club has created a ‘golf course tour’ with information signs. Alliances have been forged with other golf clubs in the immediate region (6) and the Netherlands as a whole (20), which has led to some spin-off.
There are structural collaborations with the water authorities, recreation authorities, the municipality and the provincial government. The relationships with the immediate neighbours (residential farmhouses and castle with restaurant) are good. The castle and the castle grounds have been put up for sale, which constitutes a potential growth opportunity.
The entrance and the beginning have been pleasantly designed and outfitted with information signs. Old ash and fruit trees refer to the historic land use (ash coppice wood on the wet clay soil and tall fruit trees on the dryer, sandy soil). The embedding in the cultural-historical landscape is always the point of departure for all changes, new elements, and the choice for materials.
There are currently no active legal disputes or planning procedures. The widening of the A27 motorway has caused potential ‘view-blocking measures’ and an application for a protected country estate status has been submitted.
The Nieuwegeinse Golf Club is a members’ club of regional importance. About 30 members feel a certain level of involvement with GEO and participate in cleaning mornings (ecopile, martin wall) or partake in the Dutch Birding Day. The committee does everything in its power to increase member involvement. There is a large panel display in the clubhouse foyer, offering plenty of information on the local natural values. Information about the environment can be found at several sites along the holes. The signs are restrained and were all designed according to the same graphic style. Nature and environment are fixed topics in the club magazine as well. A ‘second home’ project was launched in 2016, encouraging members to fund a nesting box, making their participation in the nature of the course very tangible.
All nature observations and the management plan can be inspected on the website. The club is represented in Green Deal and Innovation Network project groups.
- Action Plans and Project Proposals
- Awareness Raising Materials
- Certification Report
- Environmental Data
- Environmental Management Plan
- External Surveys and Reports
- Internal Reports
The Nieuwegeinse Golf Club has been active in sustainable management and increasing the natural values for 10 years now and the club has been using a professional registration system (Environment Management System) for many years. Combined with a passionate GEO committee, this makes for a sound and thorough safeguarding. The club furthermore uses all possible means to increase involvement.
When it comes to nature and landscape, water and society, this club ranks among the best. Additional gains could be made in (alternative) energy opportunities and the input of resources and outflow of waste materials. One of the challenges for the coming years will be to make the golf club and golf course CO2 neutral and free of all chemicals.
The most distinctive and unique feature of this landscape, in particular considering the limited space, are the flowery grasslands and the mantles with a great variety of species and vegetation structures. These grasslands lie on the gradient between wet and dry soil and are a determining factor in the natural values and the views of the course.
The golf club and course have a very open atmosphere, as is attested to by the information panels, the public walking and cycling routes, professional digital information at the reception, and the open publication of the management plan (in 2015, a first in the Netherlands), as well as by the nature observations. The Sustainable Golf committee does everything it can to increase involvement among the members, and many a golf club could take a page from their book.
The golf club has a particularly strong identity due to two remarkable characteristics that visitors can experience everywhere on the course: the wealth of native flowers around the bodies of water, and the views on castle Heemstede. Within this shared context, every hole has its own unique character, with tall fruit trees, hedges or old pollard willows.