Executive summary (English & local language)
On Thursday July 14th, I have visited Golfclub Toxandria for the GEO certification first renewal audit. Golfclub Toxandria is situated in Molenschot (the province of North-Brabant) and has an 18-holes championship golf course. The golf course is situated in a woodland area with an area of 66 hectares, of which 51,6 hectares are used for golf. The golf club was founded in 1928, the opening of the first nine holes took place in 1929.
During the audit I have reviewed the documentation that the golf club had send me about their actions of the past years. In these documents they gave explanations and reports on the different GEO themes. The interview combined with a walk over the golf course have given me enough input to write this report.
The landscape of Golfclub Toxandria is characterised by the sand ridges that were formed during the last ice age. The original moist heathlands and deciduous forests have been transformed to production woodlands in the 19th century, to produce wood for the mines.
In 1929, the first nine holes were constructed according to the design of golf course architect Colt, the expansion to eighteen holes took place in 1935. This second loop of holes was designed by architects Allison and Morrison.
The golf club has made it its goal to create a green buffer area around the golf course, which resulted in the purchase of fields surrounding the golf course. Now, the focus lies on the reconstruction of these grounds to create an ecological corridor.
The golf club undertakes several kinds of activities on the ecological subject. Both large scale projects, such as the ecological corridor with surrounding terrains, and smaller project, such as the installation of insect hotels, protecting ant nests and creating food patches for fauna. With the help of local experts on flora and fauna, the ecological situation is monitored and managed.
During my audit visit, I walked across the golf course with some members of the golf club and visited some of the different terrain types. I was surprised by the diversity in landscape and the large areas that are maintained as natural biotopes.
The woodlands on the golf course consist of both coniferous and deciduous forests and are an important resting spot for birds. Valuable and protected biotopes of the red wood ant are marked out to prevent entrance and damage.
Aside from the woodlands, the golf course holds several thickets on and around the course. These thickets consist mainly of species like Amelanchier (sugarplum) and European rowan (Sorbus aucuparia). These blooming shrubs are an important source of food for birds and insects and create natural transitions from the rough to the woodlands.
A large area of rough is present, these areas can be found around the fairways and the woodland edges. Asides the rough being an aesthetic and tactical element for the game of golf, it is also an important biotope for wild herbs.
On several locations of the golf course, heath is present. Heath has a high ecological value as hiding- and living biotopes for reptiles and insects. The golf club wishes to expand the area of heath by turfing the soils at several locations and stimulate the growth of heath by adding heath sods.
Flowery meadows and crop fields are located in the green buffer zone around the golf course. These are maintained extensively.
The two ponds that are present are rich in vegetation and form a good habitat for amphibians. One of the ponds is filled up frequently, because the lack of a impervious layer in the soil. By doing so, the golf club prevents the pond from drying up.
With the advice of agronomist Connor Nolan, the vitality of the turf grass is monitored annually. The choice for grass species is based on a mix of species and races that fit the local soil and moisture levels. This means that the amount of fertilizer and irrigation is kept low, while the playing quality is kept as high as possible.
At the moment, the golf club works on a green buffer zone to improve the habitat for the European tree frog. This initiative is done in cooperation with the province. The construction of the buffer zone will consist of some natural ponds, natural vegetations, thickets and hedges.
Besides that, some fields that were leased to local farmers, have in recent years been planted with historical crops and cereals. These fields are now a substantial provider of foraging habitat for insects and birds that feed on cereals, such as the partridge.
The cereals are harvested and are used for meals in the club house. The golf club wishes to expand the terrain of the golf course as a green buffer zone.
The golf course has little open water features. Within the golf holes, two smaller natural ponds are present, some additional ponds have been created for the tree frog within the green buffer zone. The water on the golf course that is used for irrigation is pumped up from ground water levels. There are two springs that the golf club uses. This water holds high levels of iron. Because the quality of the deeper ground water levels is not changing much, this water is not monitored for quality on a regular base.
The golf club has three meters for measuring the use of potable water. The past years, several water saving applications have been installed. Water saving toilets and water saving taps in the showers have been installed. Machines are cleaned with compressed air when this is possible. This results in a fluctuating but decreasing use of potable water.
The golf club uses ground water for the irrigation of the golf course and potable water for the other facilities.
The presence of an advanced irrigation system allows to irrigate meticulously. The sprinkler heads are targeted in such a way that only the elements of a hole are irrigated. Based on numbers from the weather station and moisture samples, the amount of irrigation is determined. The golf course is irrigated only at night and the quantities and locations can be managed from a distance.
When needed, the efficiency of the irrigation is improved on dry locations with the use of wetting agents. The golf club and its member accept a certain degree of coloration of the fairways during the dry season. However, keeping the grass plants alive is a top priority.
The use of wetting agents and targeting the sprinkler heads separately brings forth efficient and reducing use of water sources. The washing pad is provided with installations for both the use of water and compressed air to clean machines.
The golf club has made several changes to the club house during the past years, such as renewing the lighting and the central heating system. This already shows a reduction on the use of natural gas. The golf club wishes to insulate the roof during the next years, in order to further reduce the use of natural gas.
A big change was made in renewing the entire maintenance facility, which is now equiped with energy saving appliances such a motion sensors. Because the new location is insulated better, the facility uses less gas for heating. This shows a decrease in the use of energy.
The golf club uses different sources for energy for both the club house and the machines. During the years, a slow decrease of energy and natural gas has become visible. For the other energy sources, the usage numbers have stayed level.
Toxandria has been following the techniques for hybrid machines and green energy sources. Because the investments for creating are considered high, no instalments have been made so far. The golf club is considering the installations of solar boilers when the club house will be renovated.
The machines that are used by the greenkeepers are only replaced after a certain amount of working hours. This means a machine is only replaced when necessary. At the moment, two hybrid mowers are in use, which saves on the use of fuel. The golf club states that a disadvantage of these machines is, that they need more maintenance than other regular machines.
The golf club is conscious about their purchasing policies and the effect a product has on the purchase chain. Because of this they use many local products for both the restaurant and the greenkeeping. Purchases of recyclable products like wooden tee markers are preferably Dutch. The golf club re-uses wood chips and composted greens and grass clippings.
On the fields the golf club grows historical cereals. The species are chosen on advice of Stichting Korensla and are grown biologically. At the moment, these cereals are used on a small scale in the restaurant. The goal is to use these ingredients in products such as homemade beer.
The purchasing policy is based on several factors, such as the quality of products and materials, the certification of a product, the energy usage and the place of origin. The most important factor is a good quality and meeting the expectations of the club.
The majority of the suppliers for both products and services to the golf course are located within 10 kilometres of the golf course.
Raw materials are purchased locally, such an example is the sand for bunkers. By gaining advice and guidance the fertilizer plan is constructed with care consisting of both organic and inorganic fertilizers. The ratio of organic and inorganic fertilizers is slowly shifting towards a more organic fertilizer. As an example compost is used to improve the soil structure and soil life.
The management program is targeted on stimulating both the soil structure and soil life and preventing the use fertilizer and plant protection products and high quality holes.
At the moment the golf club is researching the possibilities to gather empty PET bottles. Packaging materials of fertilizers and other products are returned to the supplier as much as possible.
The golf club states it complies with all the regulations regarding environmental care. This I can confirm based on my observations during the visit. All facilities look orderly and the management of waste water, chemicals and oils is done according local restrictions. The facilities are quite new and during the constructions of these buildings, all environmental requirements have been met.
During my visit I inspected the washing pad, the storage of oils and fuels, chemicals and pesticides. I notices no deviations from national law. The same goes for the kitchen and the club house.
The water quality is not monitored regularly. The reason for this is that the golf club has noticed that the chemical composition of the ground water is not changing that much over the years. They noticed that the agricultural activities in the surroundings of the golf course have more effect on the water quality.
The discharge of waste water is done via the main sewer system. The waste water runs through an oil and lubricant filter before discharging. The filter and reservoir is empties on a regular base, the same goes for the sediment of grass clippings.
Hazardous materials are stored in a separate and closed room. The room is provided with a mechanical ventilation system.
The maintenance facility was renewed recently and has all modern instalments, such as an impervious floor. The storage of oils and lubricants is done on oil pans. The facilities are also provided with adsorption pallets, should a leak occur.
Leachate and run-off water is prevented by a good timing of the appliance of fertilizers. No chemicals are used near the ponds or ecological zones.
The golf club knows a tight knit list of members that execute several task on a volunteer base. The contact with locals and authorities is well received and constructive. This can be seen in the several collective projects with local nature associations and the joint construction project for the ecological corridor on behalf of the tree frog.
Around and near the golf course are public footpaths so that the public can enjoy the natural elements on the golf course. This route is connected through the ecological buffer that is constructed on behalf of the tree frog. The golf club has installed several information panels with information on the different natural elements that can be seen during a walk. An example of this is the insect hotel that was constructed by the greenkeeping.
The greenkeeping is trained to execute their tasks. They have taken courses to be able to use spraying equipment and working according to the regulations for flora and fauna. The golf club provides opportunities for additional trainings in different fields of expertise.
The sustainability working group consists of 5 members, including the golf course manager and the head greenkeeper. This way, sustainable goals are implemented in both the administration and executing layers of the organization.
The golf club has a good and steady relation with the surrounding habitants, they partake in the construction of the ecological corridor and other local projects. The golf club organizes excursions on a regular base for both the members of the club and local habitants.
On the terrain of the golf course, no historical buildings or archaeological element scan be found. The small scale agricultural practices, that are characteristic for Noord-Brabant, are protected.
Internal communication is done by the magazine for members and during the member meetings. The golf club recognizes there are more chances to improve the communication more digitally.
In my opinion, the external communication can be improved, especially with improving the website.
- Action Plans and Project Proposals
- Certification Report
- Environmental Data
- Environmental Management Plan
- Environmental Policy
- External Surveys and Reports
- Internal Reports
Golfclub Toxandria is working to improve the meaning of sustainability for the golf club in a very professional and structural way. This can be seen in the reports on internal policies that I have received in preparation of the audit. All required activities and data for a successful recertification is present and are well constructed and documented. For this reason and the statements I made in this report, I would like to recommend Golfclub Toxandria to receive the renewal of the GEO certificate.
Collective projects with local authorities and nature organizations to reconstruct a part of the golf course to connect it with an important ecological corridor for the tree frog;
Introduction of small scale agricultural fields, in order to improve and preserve the ecological values and the historical cereals of this regions;
Complete renewal of the maintenance facilities.