Auchterarder Golf Course enjoys a semi-rural location on a ridge in Strathearn, a broad lowland valley stretching from the Ochil Hills in the south to the Grampians in the north. Predominantly heathland and woodland in character, it occupies around 30 hectares of which approximately 20 hectares are managed for play. Whilst there are no official nature, landscape or cultural designations on the site, its diverse habitat and beautiful landscape setting are a huge environmental asset.
The Club has long managed the course with this in mind, but in recent years as wider environmental issues have become more urgent for us all, we have strengthened our commitment to best environmental stewardship by adopting a broader and more structured approach to sustainable management of the facility as a whole. This has culminated in being awarded the prestigious GEO Certified™ award in 2010, the first private members' club in the UK to achieve the accolade.
Environmental Management Planning
Our Environmental Programme is guided by The Auchterarder Golf Course Environmental Working Group which operates as a sub-committee to the main Club Committee. We have adopted the sustainable management framework set out for the golf sector by The Golf Environment Organisation and The Scottish Golf Environment Group.The Club makes careful use of specialist advice and expertise from both commercial and free sources to help it with different environmental topics and has also obtained grant aid to support a number of specific projects in recent years.
Dry dwarf heath is an Annex 1 habitat under the EC Habitats Directive and also a priority habitat under the Tayside Local Biodiversity Action Plan.
The Red Squirrel is a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and is on the Scottish Biodiversity List. It is also a priority species in the Tayside Biodiversity Action Plan as Tayside is a key region in the campaign to protect red squirrels from invasion by greys.
Some of the native wildflower species found around the course:
- tormentil (Potentilla erecta)
- heath bedstraw (Galium saxatile)
- devil’s bit scabious (Succisa pratensis)
- eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis)
- harebell ((Campanula rotundifolia)
- cat’s-ear (Hypochaeris radicata)
- yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
- common dog violet (Violariviniana)
Some of the native wildflower species sown in the 12th pond buffer:
- marsh bird's foot-trefoil (Lotus pedunculatus)
- marsh marigold (Caltha palustris)
- marsh cinquefoil (Potentilla palustris)
- water forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides)
- water mint (Mentha aquatica)
- water avens (Geum rivale)
- purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
- yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus)
- oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)
- black knap-weed (Centaurea nigra)
- meadow vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis)
- wild carrot (Daucus carota)
- short-fruited willowherb (Epilobium obscurum)
- yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor)
Some of the native aquatic species planted in the ponds:
- white and yellow water lilies (Nymphaea alba and Nuphar lutea)
- bog bean (Menyanthes trifoliate)
- marsh cinquefoil (Potentilla palustris)
- broadleaved pondweed (Potamogeton natans)
- alternate water milfoil (Myriophyllum alterniflorum)
Plans for habitat management over the coming years therefore focus strongly on woodland management, heather management and restoration, grassland and pond management and doing so in an integrated way with a view to enhancing the landscape ecology of the overall site.Of all the species present, the red squirrel has a particularly special place in the Club’s affections. Consequently, the Club has become a member of the Perth & Kinross Red Squirrel Group www.perthkinrossredsquirrels.co.uk and has an ongoing mission to protect and support this beautiful and vulnerable little creature through provision and enhancement of suitable habitat on the golf course.
The Club is committed to supporting the Tayside Biodiversity Action Plan www.taysidebiodiversity.co.uk as many ways as it can. in
Landscape and Culture
In 2007, the Club obtained a Landscape and Cultural Heritage Appraisal report from which the following excerpt is taken.
“The landscape is very important at Auchterarder Golf Course, both in terms of the internal landscape and the immediate and wider setting. Anyone who is familiar with the course will appreciate that there are two distinct halves within the site itself, reflecting the “old nine” to the east (established in 1892 on grazed heathland) and the “new nine” to the west (established in the 1970s on arable farmland). The landscape is quite different in the two halves, due mainly to differences in local topography and the type of habitat and therefore vegetation present, overlain by the difference in age and environmental maturity. Although the old nine has the more naturally-derived vegetation and therefore in theory the more natural landscape, being nearer the town, there is a greater visual influence of suburban elements on and around it as well – for example semi-ornamental roadside tree-lines, more visible adjacent properties with lovely established gardens, street lights and so on. However, it is exactly this well-resolved combination of natural elements and a “comfortable” suburban setting that is the hallmark of the Auchterarder landscape and undeniably one of the qualities that makes the course so inviting.”
With landscape at Auchterarder Golf Course being so strongly related to habitats and vegetation cover, this means that landscape management and habitat management are very closely correlated.
Our Cultural Heritage is as much about the club and its evolution as it is about the course and its land-use history. Whilst the clubhouse walls and club records archive the social history, out on the course are numerous reminders of past land uses and significant events – such as the old railway route, mature trees and dykes marking former field boundaries and the old drove road, and the new Millennium oak tree planted in 2000.
Hole names are very much part of the culture of Scottish golf. Across Scotland most golf courses have hole names, the principles for which broadly follow a traditional pattern. Typically some holes will be named literally, some humorously, some characteristically. Some borrow well-known catch phrases, while of course some proudly bear the Scots vernacular or commemorate particular individuals. In its own way, hole naming is part of the cultural heritage of golf and make up the character of each particular golf course. Auchterarder’s hole naming tells a story in itself, the hole names reflecting a diversity of local facts and feelings, as shown in the table below.
Indigenous grass species at Auchterarder are colonial bents and annual meadowgrass mixed with fine fescues on drier, higher areas and ryegrass in wetter, rougher areas. Fine turf management is based on traditional greenkeeping methods promoting bent and fescue grass species through good aeration practices and minimalist fertiliser and water inputs. This promotes a stronger and healthier disease-free grass plant and a tighter sward density which in turn leads to reduced inputs of fungicide, herbicide and insecticide and a more resilient turf. A growth regulator has been used on greens and tees since 2008 to reduce both cutting frequency and grass yields. Mowing frequency has also been reduced by greens ironing, producing smoother and quicker surfaces without stressing the grass plant by cutting. Clippings have reduced by two thirds over the peak growth periods.
Greens and aprons are fertilised 3-4 times per year, typically amounting to a total annual application of 80-120kg/ha. Tees receive much less and fairways receive one light application in April only. Fungicide is generally only applied to greens, and very occasionally to tees and aprons. Herbicide is applied to fairways annually and to localised patches of clover and daisy in semi-rough. Insecticide use is restricted to control of leatherjackets. Pesticides are virtually always used on a curative basis and none are ever used outwith the area managed for play. Only greens, aprons and occasionally tees are irrigated, amounting to a maximum of 2.1 hectares, equating to 7% of the whole site or 10.5% of the area managed for play.
Water and Waste-water
All water used for clubhouse and golf course operations at Auchterarder currently comes from the mains and recorded separately. A new water meter has improved monitoring of inputs and sped up inflow delivery.
All clubhouse waste-water and currently all maintenance facility waste-water is discharged into the public mains sewerage system.
The Club aims to improve and manage water usage more efficiently in both course maintenance and clubhouse operations, thus lowering costs and improving environmental performance. Various measures are under consideration. The main progress with water management to date has been sustainable drainage achieved through the creation of two wildlife-rich ponds which intercept surface run-off and protect low lying greens and which detain water to slow discharge rates to the wider environment following heavy rainfall.
Waste and Resources
Our policy is to minimise waste at all levels of operations, to seek advice when required and to ensure all waste-related activities are legally compliant as a minimum standard. This applies to waste from course maintenance, kitchen, bar, office and pro-shop operations. Minimisation is one of the fundamental principles of the Waste Hierarchy – more commonly referred to through the phrase “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle”- which underpins our practices.
We carry out waste separation for cardboard, paper, glass, cans, some printer cartridges, waste oil and cooking oil, all of which go for recycling. Cans are recycled for charity by one of our members. Hazardous wastes from both the clubhouse and maintenance facility are kept to a minimum by carefully planning and purchasing and are uplifted directly by licensed specialist operators or dealt with through service contract arrangements. Electrical waste is disposed of in accordance with WEEE regulations. Plastic waste is now recycled wherever possible.
Greens clippings (35-40 tonnes per annum) are boxed off and stored in carefully located, purpose-built bays around the course for removal monthly. This avoids scattering or dumping clippings in rough grasslands or other habitat areas where they would cause nutrient enrichment and undesirable alteration to botanical composition. Grass clippings, scarifications and most other vegetation waste are taken for composting to a local commercial composter. Cores and waste turf are stored on site and re-used for repairs, construction and landscaping.
Felled trees are sold for timber or given away to members as firewood. A large oak tree which succumbed to the heavy snow in winter 2009/10 have been milled into slabs which were used to make seats around the golf course at the 3rd tee, 10th tee, and 13th tee. Telegraph poles removed from the car park were re-used as uprights for the seats. Woody waste and brashings are made into habitat piles in woodland areas, chipped for mulch or burnt depending on how much is involved. Leaf litter is blown back into woodland areas. Gorse debris has to be burnt due to its hostile handling nature.
Energy and Carbon
Energy and carbon are becoming increasingly critical environmental issues. Over recent years, the Club has been investigating its energy consumption and efficiency more closely with a view to reducing its carbon footprint and costs.
In 2007, we obtained an Energy Audit (Energy Efficiency Summary) for the clubhouse through the Energy Saving Trust, funded by the Scottish Executive. It reported on our energy consumption, both in units and financial cost, and translated the usage into CO2 emissions produced by the clubhouse per year which was calculated at 86.2 tonnes.
It also gave recommendations for action and potential annual savings and payback periods at three levels:
The message was that 10% savings are achievable on existing clubhouse operations, amounting to a reduction in CO2 emissions of 15.1 tonnes per year ie down 17.5%.
A number of actions have been carried out since then including:
The Club now intends to develop a comprehensive Energy Plan for the facility as a whole. For the winter of 2013/14 the Club intends to transfer the Lounge area to low energy LED lighting. Eventually (as finance permits) the whole Club will benefit from this.
Our Environmental Projects/Key Biodiversity Projects
With input from the Scottish Golf Course Environment Group and Edinburgh-based pond design company, Water Gems plus part-funding through Landfill Tax Credits and Scottish Natural Heritage, we have converted a biodiversity-poor drainage problem between the 10th fairway and 12th green into a biodiversity-rich wetland feature. The pond became the subject of an article published in the Tayside Biodiversity Spring 2008 Newsletter (“From Summit to Sand”) http://www.taysidebiodiversity.co.uk/PDF_Newsletters/Newsletter_Spring_2008.pdf
The pond has been a great success and source of pleasure for members and visitors. However, lately, over-dominance of water soldier (Stratiotes aloides) has required significant management intervention. In winter 2008/09 vegetation clearance was carried out with help from the Stirling BTCV Midweek Group Conservation Volunteers and funding assistance from the SITA Tayside Biodiversity Action Fund. However, this highly competitive plant continued to spread and overwhelm other plant species in the pond. The greenkeeping team has therefore begun a more radical clearance operation to get the water soldier back to manageable levels which will allow better balance with the many other aquatic plant species and preserve more open water.
SITA funding also supported the planting up of a second pond created by greenstaff in 2008 at the 9th fairway plus the establishment of a wildflower buffer around it. This involved transplants from our original pond and Scottish provenance wildflower seed from Scotia Seeds. The 9th pond is establishing extremely well and in time, with a little further management, the buffer will too.
When club member Ewan MacIntosh joined the Auchterarder Golf Course Environmental Working Group in 2007, he signed the Club up as a member of the Perth and Kinross Red Squirrel Group and started to develop a red squirrel project. After an initial experimental phase of supplementary feeding, funding was secured in 2008 from the SITA Tayside Biodiversity Action Fund for a wider programme of habitat enhancement work for red squirrels on the golf course.
Following a mapping exercise to ensure compatibility with golf play, some 750 appropriate native trees and shrubs were planted to expand and enhance the red squirrel woodland habitat on the course. Due largely to the severe winter of 2008/9 but also to some limitation in planting conditions and technique, quite a number of these trees and shrubs did not survive. A replacement planting programme is scheduled for winter 2009/10.
Ten additional feeding stations designed to allow red squirrels in and keep grey squirrels out have been installed and kept stocked with squirrel food. These are being well used and have led to red squirrels constructing two new dreys nearby. Three artificial squirrel nesting boxes may be installed near new feeders at the centre of the course to encourage squirrels further away from the road.
Since 2008, the Club has been in correspondence with squirrel experts over the possible installation of a rope bridge at a key crossing point on Orchil Road between the course and adjacent habitat where red squirrels are frequently killed by cars. At least 6 were killed there during 2008 and 10 in 2009. Recent academic debate has centred on the efficacy of rope bridges as safe road crossings in all situations but there is little doubt that the particular configuration of woodland and highway at Orchil Road lends itself perfectly to a rope bridge solution. It is taking considerable time and effort to obtain permission from Perth and Kinross Council to allow a rope bridge to be installed. However, the Club is continuing to pursue this goal, knowing that impending changes in local traffic routing is likely to bring a considerable increase in the number of vehicles, including heavy goods lorries, using Orchil Road in the future. Meanwhile, the Club has produced five red squirrel warning signs which it has erected along the course boundary at Orchil Road to encourage drivers to be alert and slow down.
Golfers, greenstaff and local people provide useful feedback on red and grey squirrel activity. They are reporting that no grey squirrels have been seen on the course since March/April 2008. However, whilst red squirrels numbers appeared to have been stable for a while, there is concern that numbers may have declined recently.
The Club’s activities have raised awareness in the town about red squirrels. In many quarters, Ewan is now referred to as The Red Squirrel Man.
Environmental reports, surveys and ongoing observation over recent years have confirmed that the heathland mosaic of heather and acid grasslands around the course have been deteriorating due to lack of proactive management intervention. Regeneration of these areas therefore became a key objective in the Club’s 2007-2011 Environmental Management Plan.
In 2008, funding from SITA Biodiversity Action Fund enabled us to embark on the first year of a rolling programme of heather and grassland restoration and regeneration.
A Heathland and Grassland Management Plan has been developed to plan, monitor and record appropriate treatments and progress for different land compartments round the course.
The SITA funding also enabled the Club to buy a second hand scarifier/lifter which is a vital tool for the ongoing programme.
Progress is well underway with three of the most degenerate areas of heather plus four grassland areas, based on a régime of cutting and lifting, scarifying and some vertidraining with potentially some oversowing of wildflowers in the grassland areas once the sward thins out a bit if natural regeneration is not apparent. Gorse and invasive tree removal is being undertaken in some areas. Bracken has been cut back in one further grassland area.
The wet and cold summer of 2008 created challenging conditions and delays in operations. Tormentil fared well each year in all treated heathland areas, creating some valuable colour and ground cover where treatments had made an initially quite negative visual impact. Some early response from heather and blaeberry was noted in one heathland area by autumn 2008, but it was only as 2009 progressed, the signs of recovery became more widespread and obvious, moreso from seedbed and rootstock propagation than bought-in heather plugs. 2010 was both rewarding and reassuring in that recovery was by then reliably underway, with the low growing mats of young heather continuing to spread and knit together in dense rafts of new growth and delicate flowering spikes. Some localised control of gorse and birch regrowth and a light topping has been carried out to keep competition in check. There is now a quiet confidence that the 2011 flowering period should be set to bring a good show.
Effects of grassland management have been less marked to date, although some areas are beginning to show signs of lightening swards and increased botanical diversity. However, during 2010 wildflowers generally seemed more prolific across the course as a whole. Improving grassland quality has to be a case of persistence and patience with just rewards in time.
Additional heather and grassland compartments will be brought into management by the greenstaff over time, benefiting from the experience gained so far.