Golfbaan Het Rijk Van Sybrook
Executive summary (English & local language)
On June 29th I visited Het Rijk van Sybrook. This golf course is situated in the province of Overijssel and started working towards the GEO certification in 2016.
After the golf club explained their process and the working plan and the 6 GEO subjects, the head greenkeeper and director gave me a tour of the golf course. We looked at some of the ecological and landscape highlights, and also the maintenance facility. Through this visit I got a good impression on the current situation of the golf course and the ambitions that Het Rijk van Sybrook has for sustainable golf course maintenance.
The following persons were present during the audit: Ton Falkmann (director), Rick van de Beuken ( head greenkeeper SBA Golf en Groen).
Op 29 juni 2017 bracht ik een bezoek aan Het Rijk van Sybrook. Deze in de Provincie Overijssel gelegen golfbaan is in 2016 gestart met het GEO certificeringstraject.
Na een toelichting te hebben gekregen op het proces en het werkplan en we de 6 thema’s hebben doorgesproken, heb ik samen met de hoofdgreenkeeper en de directeur een ronde gemaakt over de
golfbaan. Hierbij zijn diverse landschappelijke en ecologische hoogtepunten getoond, alsook de werkplaats van de greenkeeping. Door dit bezoek heb ik mijns inziens een goed beeld gekregen van de huidige stand van zaken en ambities van Het Rijk van Sybrook ten aanzien van duurzaam golfbaanbeheer.
Aanwezig namens Golfbaan Het Rijk van Sybrook: Ton Falkmann (directeur), Rick van de Beuken (hoofdgreenkeeper SBA Golf en Groen).
Golfbaan Het Rijk van Sybrook is situated on the borders of the municipality of Enschede. Sybrook is part of Het Rijk Golfbanen and makes up for one of four golf course in this enterprise. In 1990, the first 18 holes were constructed and in 2005 the golf course was expanded with an additional 9 holes. To do so, the club has purchased additional grounds east of the original holes. The northers holes still has the same layout since it was constructed. The original south holes were adjusted when the additional holes were constructed, to form a combination with the eastern holes. Since the expansion of the golf course, there now are woodland holes and ‘outside’ holes. The woodland holes are, for a large part, part of the national ecological network. Pine woods and deciduous forests, open fields and water features alternate and provide a rich diversity for both landscape and species. The species present have only been researched partially.
In 2016, the golf course was surveyed for the presence of protected animals and plants under the law of nature protection. The result was a list of protected species and an overview of locations with a high potential of presence of these species. Based on the habitats and presence of the protected species, like the northern crested newt, the need for careful maintenance was stated. As a result, the greenkeepers use a set of guidelines. These guidelines refer to several official codes of conduct, but are not implemented fully in the organization. This means that this way of working is not in line with legislation, so that the club has no exemption to work without a permit of the law of nature protection.
The golf course is for the greater part designated as part of the national ecological network of the Netherlands. This way, it is part of a larger natural area. The golf course was granted a status under the Nature Conservation Act. This means that several locations of woodland and nature need to be preserved in order to profit from the financial benefits of the conservation act. At the moment, the terrain is (too) roughly divided in different habitats. There is about 32,28 ha. rough, 30,82 ha. woodland, 3,84 ha. water and 1,29 ha. Marsh-like vegetation, categorised without designating specified maintenance types. Also, the division in habitats and their areas in parts of the golf course that are designated as parts of the ecological network has not been done.
On the holes, the club strived to use grass species that are drought and pest resistant. The goal is to increase the percentage of bent grasses. For some years, the greenkeepers tries to decrease the percentage of poa grasses. As a result: in 2013 there was a 60% presence of poa grasses, while this is now decreased to 20-40% on the greens. The differences in grass species composition can be traced to several factors in the direct environment of the holes (like shade from trees) and the fact that the golf course was constructed in different phases. Some greens had less trees growing around it and the soil composition can differ from the two construction phases.
During the past years, trees have been cut down on several locations in order to provide greens more light and wind. This had a decrease of poa grasses as a result. This line of work will be continued during the following years. In order to prevent the area of woodland to decrease, the golf club has purchased parcels of woodland next to the golf course. To work according to the duty of care on safety, a tree assessment was done. In a large part of the trees, deviations were found, this asks for action (like removing, pruning dead branches). Not all of these actions were executed and there is not yet a plan of action in order to prevent unsafe situations. This is in conflict with the duty of care.
Tap water is used in the restaurant, changing rooms and other sanitary locations of Het Rijk van Sybrook. On the golf course, surface water can be found at the several ponds. These ponds are used as a buffer for the irrigation system. The course is irrigated with over 200 sprinklers when needed. The water level of the ponds is kept level by pumping up ground water.
The source of irrigation water for the greens, tees and fairways is surface water from the ponds on the golf course. The water level of the ponds is kept level by pumping up ground water at two locations. The irrigation water is a combination of both rainwater and groundwater. The amount of tap water used is not very different from other 27-holes golf courses.
The amount of irrigation water that was used, has been fluctuating strongly with over 10000 m3 in the years 2014-2016 17606m3 in 2014, 27292 in 2016). The explanation was the differences in weather conditions throughout the years.
The fairways are allowed to show a level of coloration during a year: the four seasons should be experienced on the golf course. This calls for more understanding and awareness from golfers.
The greenkeepers use sector sprinklers and wetting agents to reduce the amount of irrigation water and get the best results of irrigating. Locations that are very dry are irrigated by hand and are given wetting gents to improve the soil moisture levels.
Irrigation is directed by an irrigation system. The amount of water needed is calculated based on soil moisture level checks, weather forecasts and the experience and knowledge of the head greenkeeper. The pump that is used for the irrigation system is equipped with frequency guidance, that allows the speed of the pump to be adjusted, based on the needed amount of water.
When renovating or replacing equipment, the possible gain from saving water is always taken into consideration.
All the facilities (club house, maintenance facility and other buildings) use energy from electricity and natural gas. At the moment, to reduce the use of energy, broken lamps are replaced with led-lights. Other energy sources that are used for the course maintenance are diesel, petrol and other fuels.
Usage numbers on energy are recorded. The usage trend has been quite levelled over the past three years (around 190000 kWh per year). This is amount is not very different from other golf courses, but according to the club could be reduced. For cooking and heating the buildings, natural gas is used. The amount of natural gas used is also like other golf courses.The machines that are used for golf course maintenance are fuelled by petrol and diesel. By using hybrid machines, the future use of these fuels can be reduced.
The electricity that is used, comes for a small part from renewable sources. The possibilities to increase the percentage of renewable energy used or generated will be researched.
During the past years, a part of the lighting in the club house has been changed to LED lights. In 2012 the boilers were replaced. The golf club will have to show what actions, with a return on investment period of 5 years or less, can be undertaken to further reduce energy use, this is mandatory. The equipment of the greenkeepers consists mainly of machines that run on diesel.
Recently, two transporters have been replaced by electric motors. SBA has stated to highly value the reliability of the machines, and has made it their policy to switch to electric machines once this requirement can be guaranteed.
At Het Rijk van Sybrook, the people are conscious about the materials and product supply chain in the restaurant. Whenever possible local suppliers are used and the club prefers local products. The contractor, SBA, takes care of the course maintenance and purchases all products they need doing so. For this, SBA also prefers working with local suppliers.
There is not yet a separate purchasing policy, specifically for Het Rijk van Sybrook. This is an improvement point for the following years.
A part of the products that are bought, are purchased for all the four golf courses of Het Rijk Golfbanen together, this provides a financial benefit. The larger part of products is purchased at local suppliers and producers.
Plant protection products are used very sparsely, only when other protection methods no longer work. The use of plant protection products is registered in a proper way. Fertilizers are used on the greens, tees and fairways. A reason for not using much plant protection products, is because the turf grass species composition is changing and because of the activities to improve the growing circumstances. This way, the threat of an outbreak is minimised.
Waste that comes from the greenkeeping is stored on a central location in a container and removed by a nearby farmer to serve as fertilizer for agriculture grounds. Larger waste from pruning is collected and removed by a company that turns it into biomass.
In the club house, glass, paper and other waste is collected twice a week by the company ‘Remondis’. Remondis has stated that the collected waste is once more separated at their location, so that plastic becomes a new waste stream.
The accommodation and facilities of golf course Het Rijk van Sybrook meet the legal requirements and guidelines of the law on environmental protection. This must be the result of the high level of awareness that personnel and the contractor have on this subject. As a result, the wrong use of machines and products and spilling is prevented.
A valuable addition to the current way of working, could be measurable criteria for the ambitions of the golf club, in addition to meeting legislations. Frequent surveys of the municipality and the province may prove as an extra impulse to continue working according to legislation.
The quality of the irrigation water that is pumped up from the ponds will be analysed. Based on the results, the greenkeepers will mark the target values for the chemical composition.
The accommodation is linked to the public sewer system. The different oil separators are emptied frequently and cleaned, tickets of the emptying are recorded. The washing pad is constructed in such a way, that effluent water is discharged on the drain.
Green waste is stored in a bunker near the washing pad. During rainy days, the effluent water runs through a gutter towards the washing pad and is discharged on the same drain as the washing pad. According to my experience, both the gutter and flooring for the green waste bunker are not sufficiently impervious (it is made of tiles, stelcon slabs and a concrete floor with cracks). This is a point of attention in order to improve the accommodation.
Using hazardous products is prevented as much as possible. When these products and materials need to be used (like fuel), the greenkeepers work according to guidelines of the law on environmental protection. At the moment, the amount of full jerry cans with petrol exceeds the legal allowed amount, the greenkeepers should check how they can improve this situation.
The club is aware of potential pollution, but the risks for the club house need to be listed.
All personnel of SBA is aware of the procedures from the emergency response plan, should there be a need to use this. In these procedures there are guidelines on how to act to prevent soil pollution and water pollution.
Het Rijk van Sybrook has a total member count of 863 members. The major part (about 85%) lives nearby the golf course (1-20 km). Many of these members have an active role within the club. There is a high sense of togetherness between the members of the members and the club. Within the club there are several target groups for gender and age. In regard to the personnel, about 90% of these employees live nearby the golf course. This is a current and future requirement.
Around 30 people work on the golf course. In addition, the greenkeepers of SBA are stationed on the golf course, or visit the golf course for occasional projects. Personnel works with the collective labour agreement for the golf business.
In order to create and manage the risk identification, the golf club has a prevention officer that works on the different golf courses of Het Rijk.
The director and head greenkeepers initiated taking part in the certification procedure. The following years, the sustainability working group will be extended in order to improve awareness and support from the club. The director wishes to engage the restaurant manager, golf pro and head greenkeeper in this working group.
The club house is open to non-golfers and the club states that they have a good relation with both the municipality and local businesses. Also, the club provides special memberships for students.
The golf course is and estate and was transformed from an open, unmaintained area to a woodland/park in 150 years. During my visit I noticed the micro elevations on the woodlands. As part of the subject ‘Nature’ I stated to look into the cultural historic values on the golf course.
During the quarter meetings of the different directors of Het Rijk, the performance indicators are reviewed. The activities on sustainability are also taken into account. This is a great example of implementing and sharing knowledge on sustainability.
An important motivation to gain a sustainability certificate, is the image Het Rijk wishes to portray to the public. External communication plays an important role in this and is part of the business strategy. Several working plans have been formulated during the years to implement this strategy. These are included in the improvement points below.
- Action Plans and Project Proposals
- Certification Report
- External Surveys and Reports
- Internal Reports
I recommend to award Golfbaan Het Rijk van Sybrook with the GEO-certificate for sustainable golf course management.
- Active policy on changing the turf grass composition to decrease the percentage of poa grasses
- Strong cooperation between the different golf courses of Het Rijk Golfbanen, when it comes to purchasing policies and communication about performance indicators
- The professionalism of the greenkeepers is shown in their work: they use guidelines for working with hazardous materials and are keen on a sustainable way of maintenance.