There are approximately 2600 golf courses in the UK, occupying 0.7% of the total land cover. However, it is unknown whether these represent a significant resource, in terms of biodiversity conservation, or if they are significantly less diverse than the surrounding habitats.
The diversity of vegetation (tree and herbaceous species) and three indicator taxa (birds, ground beetles (Coleoptera, Carabidae) and bumblebees (Hymenoptera, Apidae)) was studied on nine golf courses and nine adjacent habitats (from which the golf course had been created) in Surrey, UK. Two main objectives were addressed: (1) to determine if golf courses support a higher diversity of organisms than the farmland they frequently replace; (2) to examine whether biodiversity increases with the age of the golf course.
Birds and both insect taxa showed higher species richness and higher abundance on the golf course habitat than in nearby farmland. While there was no difference in the diversity of herbaceous plant species, courses supported a greater diversity of tree species. Furthermore, bird diversity showed a positive relation with tree diversity for each habitat type. It was found that introduced tree species were more abundant on the older golf courses, showing that attitudes to nature conservation on courses have changed over time. Although the courses studied differed in age by up to 90 years, the age of the course had no effect on diversity, abundance or species richness for any of the animal taxa sampled. We conclude that golf courses of any age can enhance the local biodiversity of an area by providing a greater variety of habitats than intensively managed agricultural areas.