Royal Liverpool Golf Club

GEO Certified® 11/2015
England, United Kingdom
Telephone: 0151 632 3101

Executive summary (English & local language)

The Royal Liverpool Golf Club is on the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, Open Championship roster. It is without a doubt, a top quality and highly regarded classical links golf course, with superb playability, set within a beautiful natural environment. The Royal Liverpool Golf Club evidently demonstrates forward thinking and intelligent practices on the sustainable use of resources. On the golf course, there is prudent use of water and organic fertilisers are the favoured option. Also, the creation of natural walkways with coincident well-judged conservation, protection and enhancement of the natural environment makes for an environmentally friendly and very natural feeling golf course. Additionally, the clubhouse has a well-above average energy rating due in part to modern energy efficient boilers, solar, photovoltaic panels and wireless controlled thermostats. That not only generates extra revenue for the Club but also lowers its energy bills and carbon emissions. The Club has established, ongoing consultations with important environmental organisations on habitat management. It also has an energy consultant to help the Club lower its carbon footprint. Looking ahead the Club is eager to further improve on the above-mentioned best practices as well as sustainability policies, green procurement, waste management and green marketing and communication, for example. In conclusion, Royal Liverpool Golf Club has plainly engaged in progressing responsible sustainable golf for more certain enduring success at the Club.


The Royal Liverpool Golf Club is situated in Hoylake, within the northwest of England, UK. It is located near to Liverpool on the west of the Wirral Peninsula. The Royal Liverpool Golf Course is ranked 88th best golf course in the world and is the second oldest links golf course in England. It has hosted the Open twelve times; the most recent being in 2006 and 2014 when Tiger Woods conquered it and Rory MciIory claimed his first Open championship respectively.

The Royal Liverpool Golf Club was founded in 1871. George Morris, the brother of Old Tom, originally laid out a 9-hole course on the site of a racecourse and the first seven years, golfers shared the land with members of the Liverpool Hunt Club. The course is mostly level, but the holes nearest the coast run through sandhills and many have commented about the link’s quality and toughness. The legendary golf writer, Bernard Darwin, highlights one of the course’s key defences: “Hoylake, blown upon by mighty winds, breeder of mighty champions”.

The Royal Liverpool Golf Club includes: 18 holes, 7,218 yards, traditional links golf course, clubhouse, halfway house, and maintenance facilities. The golf course itself sits within a grassland dune system adjacent to nearby Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and lies within and is near to a landscape of ecological and geomorphologic importance. For example, Special Protection Areas, Ramsar site (i.e. wetlands of international importance, especially as waterfowl habitat) and SSSI (i.e. the Mersey Narrows and North Wirral Foreshore and Red Rocks Site). Native marram and red fescue grasslands dominate the course and the variety of course habitats signifies a valuable resource within the local environment. That provides a corridor for organisms to move between the above-mentioned designated areas. The dune grasslands and areas of bare sand on the course are also designated; Annex 1 habitat under EU directive 97/62/EC. In particular, the rare and internationally protected natterjack toads and ground nesting birds (skylark and meadow pipit) are of specific ecological interest. The significant tracts of gorse on the course provide valuable breeding sites for fauna and flora, such as ‘Red’ data species linnet and yellow hammer and rare Mackay’s horsetail.

The Club evidently recognises its role and responsibility in environmental conservation and protection. It has long-standing, ongoing consultations with a wide range of key environmental organisations, including the STRI, Wirral Council, Natural England, and Cheshire Wildlife Trust. In 2015, the Club commissioned the STRI to prepare a 5-year management plan for the golf course. It gives detailed recommendations to enhance the wildlife value of the course, including the grasslands and associated habitats to ensure the current and future conservation objectives for the site are both recognised and met. The report noted the following nature conservation highlights on the course. They are: southern marsh orchid, march pennywort water mint, birds foot trefoil, a hunting kestrel (that is a frequent visitor to the course), common newt and toad, and a short eared owl. The report also established plans to further improve the species-rich grassland, gorse and other scrub for strong biodiversity in and around the golf course.

In addition, the Club has a formal wildlife management agreement with The Cheshire Wildlife Trust on the Red Rocks Marsh Nature Reserve and in 2014, a ‘Conservation and Environment’ section within the Club’s “Policy for the Management of the Links” was established. Demonstrating the Club’s positive approach towards the importance of conservation on the course, based on sound scientific advice of the STRI. It is also apparent that the Club is in regular contact with conservation agencies, namely, The Council for Preservation of Rural England, The Golf Course Wildlife Trust, and local flora and fauna groups as The Herpetological (reptile and amphibian) Conservation Trust. The latter body have been consulted to re-establish the natterjack toad colony on the dunes. Furthermore, the Club is aware that the course is a well-established habitat for about thirty-eight different plants. In fact, this has been documented in a beautiful and detailed book, produced by one of the Club’s members and on display in the Clubhouse. In sum, the Club fully recognises and is positively involved in conservation matters and related statutes and regulation that its activities impact upon.

The amenity turf grass species on the golf course are a mixture of festuca rubra (fescues) and agrostis/capillaris (bent grasses). They are considered optimal for circumstances at the Club. This is because they occur naturally in this ecosystem, provide the finest year round surfaces, and promote true links playing conditions, in a cool, temperate climate and thrive under a regime of minimal inputs of fertilisers, chemicals and water. These characteristics of tight lies, and fast running surfaces are typical of links golf that it is famed for and attracts golfers from all around the world to play on.

It is also apparent that the Club has made the following specific efforts to manage the playing quality expectations of the golfer, with coincident conservation of the natural environment and biodiversity in and around the golf course, including:
• Minimising fertiliser and artificial irrigation.
• Summary newsletters from Chairman of the Green.
• Minimising the amount of amenity grassland on the course, such as, natural carries (with less maintenance).
• Removal of artificial shale pathways and successful restoration of natural grass pathways.
• Provision of out of play areas and ecological rough to connect habitats.
• Ongoing work to improve and diversify habitat edges.
• Careful weed control and mowing patterns in favour of indigenous flora.
• Removal of inappropriate trees and bushes e.g. Burnett rose to control scrub.
• Creation of new ponds on the golf course in support of wetland scarpes.
• Plans to join Operation Pollinator to support bee populations.
• Installation of two owl-nesting boxes on the site.


The Royal Liverpool Golf Club draws on potable water for the clubhouse and maintenance facilities and groundwater for irrigation on the golf course. Over the three year period, 2012, 2013 and 2014, water consumption declined in the clubhouse; from 2,600, 2,300 and 2,000 cubic metres, fluctuated on the golf course, between, 6,100, 17,200 and 11,000 cubic metres and remained more of less constant in the maintenance facilities, at around 290 cubic metres. The variations in the figures are partly explained by changes in the weather patterns and the hosting of the Open in 2014. The Club complies with its abstraction licence from The Environment Agency that permits it to use 28,000 cubic metes of water annually from its borehole. However, in reality, the Club uses nowhere near its limit on the golf course, as shown in the above-mentioned figures and in fact uses relatively modest amounts of water on the course.

The Royal Liverpool Golf Club evidently recognises its responsibility to adopt practices for prudent use of water on the golf course. For example, in 2009/10, the Club invested in a computer controlled irrigation system. It also adopts regular use of soil moisture probes and greens are preferably only hand watered. Typically, tees and fairways and rough are only watered every two and three weeks respectively. The irrigation system is annually serviced, and upgraded and recalibrated every 12 and 6 months respectively. Specific measures employed to maximise irrigation efficiency and reduce water usage include: selective use of graminicide Rescue to develop more drought resistant grasses; focused, hand-watering of greens, as mentioned, and there is a policy to progressively reduce the number of Rainbird irrigation heads. Indeed, it is evident that the Head Greenkeeper adopts a far-sighted attitude to overall resource inputs such as water and chemicals on the golf course.

In addition, the following water conservation measures are apparent in the clubhouse, namely, motion sensors are fitted to urinals, toilets have half flush buttons and the Club has a full-time maintenance employee to repair leaks, as and when required. Thus far, there are no water efficient shower technology or any water awareness signage.


The Royal Liverpool Golf Club’s annual energy consumption for the three year period, 2012, 2013 and 2014, was as follows. The annual consumption of diesel and petrol was constant over the period at only 8 and 0.7 cubic metres, respectively. Heating oil consumption somewhat fluctuated i.e. 19,500, 23,000 and 22,500 cubic metres. Significantly, non-renewable grid decreased from 307,800, 253,600 and 267,200 kWh. The Club does not currently use any LPG, however it is using energy from renewable sources, i.e. photovoltaic panels and considering wind turbines.

The Royal Liverpool Golf Club is evidently mindful of its carbon footprint and is increasingly undertaking important environmental initiatives to improve its energy performance and engaged an energy consultant to set out a strategy and list of recommendations, as part of a comprehensive building project to reduce the Club’s energy bills and improve its carbon footprint. They include: (1) Installation of solar panels; this generates energy that not only is from renewable sources but is also sold back to the grid that reduces the amount of electricity drawn and generates extra revenue for the Club. (2) Wireless, controlled thermostatic radiators. (3) Substitution of one gas boiler, with three modern condensing boilers. (4) Progressive installation of LED lighting and time clocks. The latter measures enable the Club to draw upon energy as and when needed, specifically, unoccupied rooms are not heated or illuminated. Furthermore, the Clubhouse building has an above average energy performance rating as demonstrated by its Energy Performance Certificate (Non-domestic Building), namely, B (47), where A+ is the best and G, the worst on energy performance. By way of benchmarking, a newly built and typical existing building would be expected to have a rating of 32 and 85 respectively.

The Club’s maintenance fleet uses the following energy sources: ride on mowers (53% diesel, 24% petrol and 24% hybrid), walking mowers (40% petrol and 60% electric), and utility vehicles (100% electric). As well, 25% and 75% of golf carts are petrol and electric respectively. Cars are all diesel. The Club has the following schemes to encourage staff and customers to reduce carbon emissions from transport. They are: staff car sharing on weekends, and onsite secure cycle parking, lockers and showers, for both staff and customers, whereby one of the club’s starters cycles to and from work. Presently, there are neither tax breaking incentives in support of cycling nor any campaigns to promote walking, for example.

Supply Chain

The Royal Liverpool Golf Club presently has informal, rather than formal policies on green/ethical procurement, environmental/sustainability and waste management. Nonetheless, it is evident that the Club’s philosophy and practice is to support local, ethical purchases of goods and services, and reduce waste streams, as is practically possible. Indeed, the vast majority of the Club’s suppliers, including food and beverage, catering, retail, tradesmen, maintenance equipment and course suppliers, are within 10kms of the golf facility, namely, Heswall, Wirral and Cheshire, Moreton, West Kirby and Hoylake. This practice not only supports the local economy but also reduces the Club’s carbon footprint. Furthermore, the optimum playing quality of the golf course is maintained by minimising the use of fertilisers and insecticides, for example. Indeed, it is evident that relatively low inputs of the aforesaid are applied on the golf course and only a few chemicals were in fact stored in the Club’s ‘Chemsafe’. In addition, there is an onsite turf nursery utilising indigenous turf, sand and cores. Bulk deliveries are also encouraged, where practical, to reduce supplier mileage and carbon emissions. The Club also uses several certified suppliers, for example, the builder’s D Dundas and the STRI are Master Builders and Gas Safe registered and ISO 14001 certified respectively. Also, where practical, the Club supports the waste management hierarchy. For example, cardboard and glass are separated on site and recycled. Significantly, it is apparent that the Head Greenkeeper philosophy is to employ ‘intelligent environmental practices’ within course maintenance strategies, underpinned by traditional greenkeeping techniques, well-trained greenstaff, modern equipment, proven products, and wise use of water (as highlighted above) and a preference for organic fertilisers, as next revealed.

As said, it is apparent that the Head Greenkeeper has a well-judged, responsible and environmentally friendly attitude towards fertilisers on the golf course. For instance, the emphasis is on the use of organic, over inorganic fertilisers on the fairways, tees and greens, which is to be commended. Fairways are also only applied with sensible amounts of organic fertilisers. Tees and greens are subjected to relatively larger quantities of organic and inorganic fertilisers. In keeping with the above practices it is evident that pesticides (fungicides, herbicides and insecticides) are wisely applied on golf course. In order to only destroy unwanted vegetation, kill or inhibit fungi or fungal spores and insects and wherever possible cultural, rather chemical control is the favoured option e.g. hand weeding. Specific practices to optimise and sensibly use pesticides, include: selection of approved, least toxic and persistent products only; application from suitably trained and certified members of staff; spot treatment, rather than blanket spraying; and use of low drift nozzles.

So far no waste management audits have been conducted at the Club. In spite of that the Club evidently tries to manage its waste streams, in accordance with the waste management hierarchy (reduce, reuse, recycle, landfill and incinerate). For example, glass, aluminium, metal, and paper and cardboard are recycled. Whereas, grass clippings, cores, turf, sand and wood are reused. In addition, the Club’s waste management contractor, B&M, separates collected waste materials at its depot. The Club is also considering and developing future waste awareness campaigns.

Pollution Control

The Royal Liverpool Golf Club demonstrate that they are very aware of their responsibilities to protect the integrity of the natural habitat in and around the golf course, not least because it is part of important conservation areas, SPA, SSSI, and Ramsar sties, as already stated. In view of that, the Club has the following management systems and emergency response procedures, in place or planned, in order to reduce the risk of and control pollution, including:
• A Hydrotech wastewater treatment system in the maintenance area that provides a closed loop recycling system for equipment washdown.
• A reedbed system is currently being designed and installed.
• Surface foul water is discharged to a closed holding tank and emptied by a contractor.
• All hazardous materials are correctly stored as set out in current legislation within bunds and above ground secure storage.
• Monthly visual checks are conducted on water movement on the golf course to monitor its overall quality.
• Discharged waste water is managed from the golf course, clubhouse, maintenance facilities and wash pad via stream, mains sewer, septic tank and closed loop recycling, respectively.
• All hazardous materials, such as cooking oils, pesticides and batteries are securely stored.
• Petrol and diesel are kept in flameproof metal and double bunded containers respectively.
• The small amounts of pesticides are stored in Chemsafe.
• Sprayers are used on closed loop recycling washbed area.
• Spill kits and sand are in place should there be an incident.
• An emergency spillage response plan is currently being written.
• Fertilisers are only applied to key areas at low levels, spraying is conducted, under calm conditions, and sensitive water bodies are protected via surrounding reedbeds.
• The establishment of pesticide free areas.


The Royal Liverpool Golf Club plainly makes important contributions to the local community. The Club hosted the 2014, Open Championship and 2012, Rioch Womens Open, for example. This provides a major boost for local tourism and hospitality businesses. The Club works very closely with the local government, environmental groups and environmental consultancy. They are: Sefton Coast Land Managers Group, Sefton Coast Woodland Owners Task Group, English Nature and STRI. The Club is also a member of the Sefton Council Businesses Group, Liverpool Economic Partnership and England’s Golf Coast.

The Club is as well a source of employment within the local economy. It employs 32 and 9 full and part-time staff, respectively. They are involved in club management, course management, catering and coaching at the Club. To promote and support continuous environmental improvement at the Club, there is a strong Sustainability Working Group. That is made up of the General Manager, Simon Newland; Course Manager, Craig Gilholm; Technical Specialist, Bob Taylor, STRI; and Local Government, Community and Environment Non-Governmental Organisations.

It is also evident that the Club is committed to environmental education and training for progressing continuous environmental improvement at the Club. For example, six of the greenstaff have certificates of competency in the use and handling of pesticides. While, employees receive informal training on water management, recycling and waste separation and energy saving in induction programmes, for example. There is also a Heritage Committee made up of members, many of which have published on the Club’s historical events and wildlife, for example. The Club is also mindful that the hosting of major championships can be disruptive at times on the many properties that border the Club and the local community. Thus, it has a strategic partnership with Wirral Council and conducts Q&A sessions to ensure positive engagement with the local community, at the time of such events. Further notable positive engagement initiatives include: the annual hosting of the Hoylake Schools Championship; Mr Chris Moore, a past Club secretary is currently secretary of the Hoylake Conservation Area; the Club’s Twitter account has almost 11,000 followers. The Club also makes use of its Internet website, The Liverpool Echo and Golf Monthly, to engage with the local and wider golf community on positive events, at the Club. While, the Course Manager, Craig Gilhome, works with Wirral Schools on student placements. In addition, there are three public rights of way, with clear welcoming signage for walkers and ramblers. Regular newsletters are also sent by post and email to communicate on events, activities and decisions at the Club that is further supported with the publication of an annual brochure. In future, there could be, for example, members’ evenings and course walks to further communicate on sustainability issues, including GEO OnCourse, at the Club.

Documentation Reviewed


The Royal Liverpool Golf Club visibly demonstrates a strong commitment and real desire to progress more responsible, sustainable golf. This is particularly apparent on the golf course, where the Head Greenkeeper and his staff have created a finely tuned, top quality, environmentally friendly and natural feeling golf course. In addition, the clubhouse has a well above average energy performance rating. Going forward the Club’s management conveys a genuine commitment to continuously improve its sustainability performance that will help support enduring prosperity at The Royal Liverpool Golf Club.

Certification Highlights

• Strong and positive, Sustainability Working Group for progressing more responsible, sustainable golf. Including, the General Manager, Simon Newland, Course Manager, Craig Gilholm, technical specialists e.g. STRI and several government, non-governmental and local environmental organisations.
• Progressively, smarter approach on energy usage (e.g. electricity and gas) in the Clubhouse.
• Intelligent philosophy and well-judged practices on the use of resources on the golf course i.e. relatively low inputs of water and preference for organic fertilisers.
• Above average energy performance rating i.e. Energy Performance Certificate (Non-domestic Building), B on the Clubhouse building.
• Sound and up-to-date, ‘Ecological Management Plans’ and ‘Policy for the Management of the Links’, from the STRI and Royal Liverpool Golf Club respectively to progress environmental protection and conservation on the golf course.
• Emphasis on natural walkways that supports a more environmentally friendly and natural feeling golf course.
• Evidence that sustainability issues are more and more being incorporated in day-to-day management decision-making and practices on the golf course and in the clubhouse.