The Royal St George's Golf Club
Executive summary (English & local language)
Founded in 1887 Royal St George’s Golf Course is an 18 hole links course covering a distance of 7204 yards. It is an established Open venue approximately 2 miles from the town of Sandwich in the county of Kent. The site, itself lies within a coastal dune system which is designated as a SSSI and an SAC and is adjacent to the coast line which forms part of the Pegwell Bay NNR a designated RAMSAR. The course covers an area of 494.2 acres. The facility comprises the clubhouse; pro-shop; practice facility; half way house and maintenance facilities. . It was clear that everyone involved with club recognises that they are custodians of a very special site and they are all clearly committed to management which supports and maintains the pristine nature of this site.
Royal St Georges has provided evidence of significant good practice within the GEO framework. The club works hard to conserve and maintain the mosaic of rare habitats upon which it’s SSSI and SAC designations are founded. Regular surveys are undertaken of the rare flora and fauna that are found on the site e.g. the lizard orchids and the Bright Wave Moth are surveyed every year. Indeed it is because of the golf course rather than despite its presence and because of the management provided that it remains the only stronghold for lizard orchid, The bedstraw broomrape and the bright wave moth, the later supporting a very local distribution almost wholly concentrated on the golf course.
There is a clear determination to reduce chemical use, manage the grasslands to maintain and reinstate the native indigenous flora as well as work closely with key stake holders including English Nature and Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory. The club house itself is a very fine building but is of an age that there are key maintenance issues related to its original construction. The club has instigated energy efficiency protocols where appropriate but accepts that there is an opportunity for improvement of the building and has set up a Sustainability Committee in order to produce a 30 year plan with a view to upgrading and improving the current facilities in a way that is both more energy efficient, cost effective but also in keeping with the needs of the members and the local environment. Use of pesticides is exceptionally low for a club with such a prestigious record of hosting major events and there have been significant reductions over the course of the last three year records.
There is also evidence of significant good practice with regard to the use of inorganic Nitrogen, the levels of which have also fallen on annual basis over the last three years. The staff involved in the day to day management of the course clearly take a pride in their custodianship of the environment and were well informed and understood their roles within the framework of managing for environmental sustainability.
There had been a significant investment of time in to the production of new health and safety guidelines and risk assessed protocols for dealing with the chemicals used on the course. These protocols covered all the key areas of chemical usage from storage, application/usage and disposal.
The club has a clear vision or its role within the community and has a strong record of liaising with external bodies such as English Nature and the Sandwich Bird Observatory. In addition, there is also clear communication between the club and Canterbury University. Work experience placements are offered to local schools and last year the club held a major fund raising event, the first of what will become an annual function, to provide much needed funds for the Kent Community Fund, a local charitable organisation.
Staff recognise the value of their input as custodians of a site with high conservation value. They regularly have professional surveys, reports and management plans undertaken.
Staff recognise the need to manage the course with respect to its designations and have a developed a good, positive working relationship with key stake holders in the area e.g. Natural England and The Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory. Close liaison with Natural England helps ensure that the course is managed to maintain and improve the conservation value whilst maintaining the mosaic of habitats so unique to this particular area.
Annual surveys are undertaken to monitor the populations of some of the more rare and unique species’ found within the site e.g. Lizard orchid surveys are undertaken on an annual basis by Kent Wildlife Trust and the club has records of these surveys going back for the last decade. Surveys for the bright wave moth are also undertaken on an annual basis by the Butterfly Conservation Society (Natural England) and the club also has historic records safely stored for reference. The club recognises the importance of its stewardship of these rare species and welcome requests to visit the site from interested groups.
The club has developed close links with Canterbury Christ Church University and have had a number of students, both undergraduate and postgraduate conduct surveys across the course including an eco-hydrological report which covered the sand dune system of the South East of England.
The site itself has 494.21 acres of sand dunes of which 425.56 acres constitutes rough ecological grassland which is valued and supported by the management practices of the course staff. The greens, tees and fairways are dominated with Fescue and Poa with occasional perennial rye grass through areas of the carry and other ain play areas. The club have a current and ongoing programme of reducing the perennial rye grass on the course replacing it with the more indigenous fescues. The club are cordoning and rerouting paths (alternation of wear) in order to reduce erosion and reduce the need for more hard wearing turf grass species such as perennial rye grass. Management of the sward involves practices recognised as facilitating the reduction of invasive species and encouraging the establishment of those species more in keeping with the local environment. A regime to limit fertilizer use is in place to favour and promote indigenous species and reduce the invasion of the coarse, mesotrophic grasses.
In addition to the work involved in producing a sward more in keeping with the native habitats, the club have been looking towards reducing the management of the rough areas and associated the out of play areas. This has involved extending the areas of fringing and ecological rough which has reduced amenity grasslands, associated fuel costs as well as labour. Several holes are notable for the prevalence of orchids within the fringing rough, which were seen just starting to grow during my visit, these areas have limited management in order to maintain the orchid populations and surveys of these populations are undertaken each year. It was noted from previous surveys that the lizard orchids are thriving within the course and their range is evidently expanding beyond their current stronghold on the site. Indeed prior to any invasive management works being undertaken of the scrub areas, the club surveys the flora and fauna within the targeted area to ensure that protected species are not present.
Significant good practice was also demonstrated in the creation of a bare sand area and new dune. Bare sand is Annexe 1 habitat and the creation of bare sand habitat is a valuable resource for mining bees as well as providing an area for reptiles to bask. The green keeping staff were clearly and justifiably proud of this and were very keen to show us this valuable habitat resource they had created.
The course is currently using the data from an eco-hydrological survey in order to help inform decision making regarding their use of water.
The club has an abstraction licence from the Environment Agency to draw water from the North Stream, which is a tributary of the river Stour. The club rarely uses more than 75% of its allowable volume to irrigate the course.
The club has recently achieved planning permission to create a reservoir within former pasture grassland under the ownership of the club. The reservoir has been designed and planned with a full consultation with Natural England and the Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory. The plans also include the creation of a wetland which will provide an invaluable habitat for invertebrates, wetland birds and other associated fauna such as amphibians and rodents.
A leak detection report was undertaken by the Water Audit Services. Identified leaks were repaired.
Irrigation is only undertaken at specific times of day to reduce evapotranspiration and only when necessary. Soil moisture is regularly analysed to inform the watering regime and seasonal and meteorological variables are also taken into account.
Within the club house, the refurbished dormy accommodation and newly appointed ladies changing room have been fitted with the most efficient showers and toilets in order to reduce water consumption.
There is a significant reduction in the quantity of diesel being used from the 2012 to 2013 period for the clubs maintenance vehicles. This may in part be due to the major investment of more modern technologically advanced machinery with more fuel efficient engines as well as the club’s in-house mechanic maintaining them in the best condition and thereby ensuring they remain fuel efficient.
A long term planning committee has been set up to produce a 30 year plan for the club house buildings with regard to their redesigning as well as reviewing ways in which improvements in the building’s energy efficiencies can be made. This was seen as crucial by the chairman in order to protect the club’s future and produce a more sustainable and efficient club overall. Current discussions on the sources of energy used by the club focus on the potential for investment in both solar and photovoltaic technology. A feasibility study of their use was initiated during my visit with a specific view as to how these may be best implemented for use at the maintenance sheds.
The club has actively promoted the government’s bicycle scheme whereby employees have been given the opportunity to buy a bicycle at a reduced cost and an onsite survey revealed that several staff do indeed cycle to work.
The club have benefited from a reduction in their fuel bills as a result of the relatively recent replacement of the boiler (2011) coupled with the replacement of traditional incandescent light bulbs with low energy bulbs.
New appliances are only purchased if they have an A+ energy rating whenever possible again helping to reduce fuel consumption.
Fish and meat supplies are all locally sourced and where possible, organically certificated foodstuffs are favoured. The club sources all of its supplies from companies within a 100 mile radius and therefore reduces the club’s overall environmental impact by limiting such factors as transport and ‘food miles’.
RSGCC has recently planted its own herb garden within the clubhouse gardens to provide its own organic herbs for the clubhouses kitchens.
Royal St Georges Golf Club is a shining example of what can be achieved to reduce inputs and reduce environmental impacts in the management of greens, tees and fairways. With regard to the application of inorganic Nitrogen there has been an annual reduction over the last three years in the quantities being applied to both the greens and tees falling from 50kg to 20kg. It should be noted that 50kg is generally considered to be a low level application rate for links courses. The minimising of inputs is a key part of the course’s management plan to facilitate the reduction in the coarse, rank grasses such as perennial rye grass and encourage the more indigenous grasses such as the Fescues.
The club has adopted a policy of using seaweed derivatives as a form of organic Nitrogen which helps the club limit and manage nutrient inputs.
Pesticide use is reactive rather than preventative which coupled with regular monitoring by staff has ensured that applied rates are kept to a most desirable minimum. The application of herbicides to the fairways and tees is of particular note as there has been a reduction in the applied rate on a year by year basis over the last three years. It should also be mentioned that no insecticides at all have been applied over the last two years of the report and hand-weeding is encouraged whenever possible.
The use of a shrouded boom spray helps to significantly reduce the risk of the spray drifting and contaminating a nearby water course.
The club recycles all materials that it is possible to recycle with the exception of wood and timber which is used as fuel.
RSGCC undertakes weekly chemical monitoring of the water quality on site. Water leaving the site is monitored on a quarterly basis by the Environment Agency.
The club has made a significant investment in an on-site treatment plant in the form of a waste water recycling unit to treat the water used to wash the machinery. This not only limits the potential for pollution entering the water courses whilst reducing the club’s overall water consumption.
RSGCC has an eco-hydrological report which they use to inform decision making regarding their water management planning in order to give consideration to the connectivity and flow rates between surface run-off, groundwater and the local water courses.
All potentially hazardous materials are subject to a rigorous risk assessment audit and the production of risk assessments and handling guidelines for each individual chemical. Staff have been trained in these risk assessments which have all been produced using COSHH guidelines.
Specialist equipment involved in the usage of hazardous materials is regularly inspected and maintained as well as operated by suitably trained personnel.
RSGCC has invested in the use of chemically resistant paints where hazardous chemicals are handled to help contain spills and assist in their rapid and effective removal should accidental spillage occur.
There are two registered contractors who are employed to uplift waste hazardous materials and their associated packaging. Cooking oils, lubricants, pesticide containers; fertiliser bags; oil filters and batteries are all collected.
All potentially hazardous materials have recently been subject to a rigorous risk assessment audit as well as the production of risk assessments and handling guidelines for each individual chemical. Staff have been trained in these risk assessments which have all been produced using COSHH guidelines. These risk assessments include the correct protocols when dealing with any potential accidents and spillages. The club has invested in ‘spill kits’ to minimise any potential pollution risks in addition to restricting certain activities to appropriately bunded and painted areas.
Spray booms are always inspected and tested by suitably qualified staff prior to every use to ensure their efficacy in accurately delivering the minimum amount required.
The club has worked very hard and demonstrates a high level of commitment to reducing the potential for leachate and run off when applying fertilizers and pesticides on the course. Meteorology reports are used in addition to the eco-hydrological report and applications are timed in accordance with a management plan which has a focus of being minimalist in the level of application being used. Operators are trained in monitoring the spray patterns carefully during the applications and protocols are in place to rectify and correct any problems arising. Pesticide use is kept to an absolute minimum and never used as a prophylactic treatment but only for an extant problem.
As an Open Championship venue the club generates a significant amount of revenue for the local economy and the local chamber of commerce has estimated that this is in the region of 70 million pounds in an Open Championship year. The club employs twenty five full time members of staff as well as 43 part time and seasonal staff thereby it is a significant local employer.
The club has a positive relationship with Hadlow College who provide training for the green staff in the safe use of hazardous materials. Checks that standards are being adhered to are regularly made by the Club Health and Safety advisor who visits on a quarterly basis.
RSGCC has a positive relationship with schools within the local area which is facilitated by it regularly offering work experience placements to learners. The club has also had undergraduate and postgraduate students from Canterbury Christ Church University undertake research across the course in order to facilitate their studies. The club has welcomed these activities and used the research produced to guide and inform their decision making regarding best practice for their ongoing ecological management thereby ensuring that they are acting upon the most up to date research available for the habitats that they are custodians of. This clearly demonstrates the club’s desire to learn and improve and listen to others with regards to promoting best practice policies and I felt it was a key strength of the club’s staff during my visit.
A long term planning committee has been set up to produce a 30 year plan for the club house buildings with regard to their redesigning as well as reviewing ways in which improvements in the building’s energy efficiencies can be made. This was seen as crucial by the chairman in order to protect the club’s future and produce a more sustainable and efficient club overall.
RSGCC has a very positive working relationship with both Natural England and the Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory. Staff were very positive about the useful advice and information that they receive from Natural England and recognise the importance of this advice in assisting them to manage the golf course in the best possible way for the advantage of all key stake holders.
The club has recently become a key player in actively supporting and promoting a local community charity by its hosting of a high profile fund raising event at the club. This proved incredibly successful as a major fund raising event and provided a significant contribution to much needed resources for the Kent Community Fund, a local charitable organisation.
There are two well used footpaths running across the course and the club view it as their responsibility to maintain these footpaths in a good state for the wider benefit to the community.
RSGCC owns significant tracts of land around the golf course itself. Cattle and sheep grazing is carried out on one of these sites over a 75 acre area and it is noted that this traditional management technique is entirely in keeping in with the local geomorphology and the need to conserve the dune grasslands by halting the ecological succession and invasion of scrub species.
The Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory Group have access to the site on request and have been given use of some of the adjacent land to build bird hides.
Members receive a bi-monthly newsletter which communicates management plans regarding the sustainable management of the club. This is seen as crucial so that members feel fully informed and educated about decisions that have been taken regarding the conservation of the habitats that they enjoy.
- Action Plans and Project Proposals
- Certification Report
- Emergency Incident Plan
- Environmental Management Plan
- Environmental Policy
- Internal Reports
- Minutes of Meetings
- Training Log
RSGCC has clearly demonstrated a strong commitment towards its environmental obligations. There is a clear focus on providing management on the course that will protect the delicate balance of the mosaic of habitats that are found there. In addition, new policies and procedures have been adopted in order to ensure a safe working environment for all employees as well as investment into reducing the potential environmental impact that the club’s use of resources and production of waste may have. The club clearly has an excellent relationship with local environmental groups and organisations and in return the club uses information from these organisations to inform its management decisions with regard to best practice conservation methods. There is evidence that the club has the desire and the ambition to improve even further with the formation of the committee for the long-term sustainability of the club house and other facilities.
The clear determination to reduce chemical use, manage the grasslands to maintain and reinstate the native indigenous flora as well as work closely with key stake holders including English Nature and Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory.
The conduction of regular surveys and monitoring of the populations of rare species as well as the more recent eco-hydrological report. These reports being integral to inform positive management decisions on the course.
A comprehensive and inclusive health and safety policy which is proactive rather than reactive and has enabled planning for the unexpected and to try to reduce the risks both to the staff and the environment.