The site where Mansfield Golf Centre now stands was left undeveloped after the closure of the coalmines until 1994, when British Coal built a 32-bay driving range, synthetic putting green, crazy golf course, golf shop and lounge/bar as part of an EU regeneration programme.
However, it was a further three years before the Jack Barker Golf Group bought the site and began to restore it to a more natural and attractive state, in harmony with its neighbouring Sherwood Forest.
But the project suffered several setbacks and only opened as the impressive 18-hole golf course it is today in 2007. Planning delays prevented work from commencing until 2004, plus turning the flat landscape into a contoured course required extensive engineering.
The poor condition of the soil also hampered proceedings. Its earlier incarnation as Mansfield Colliery’s spoil tip, where coal was washed, screened and deposited if unfit for use, left the land relatively infertile. The later landscaping exacerbated this, as Mansfield’s head greenkeeper, Ben Allen, explains, “Carefully controlled landfill from brownfield sites was used to sculpt banks to give the course a rolling look and divide up the holes.”
Ben turned to Barenbrug’s research and development manager, Jayne Leyland, to advise on grass species able to survive in such conditions. “Because we weren’t using top-quality loam, our soil included rubble, clay – even Nottingham Forest Football Club’s practice pitch!” he recalls. “So it was vital Jayne found a solution that was resilient and able to survive and grow in soil with little to no nutrients.”
Barenbrug’s BAR 20 grass mixture immediately sprung to Jayne’s mind as just such a solution. “BAR 20, with its slender creeping, chewings, strong creeping and hard fescues, was ideal for Mansfield’s landscape mounds,” she says. “The soil was – quite literally – ‘rubbish’! But I knew this low-maintenance mixture could cope with the terrible soil.”
Jayne also recommended BAR Platinum and BAR 4 for overseeding on the tees and fairways, BAR 10 RTF for overseeding on wet areas and a special slender creeping red fescue mix comprising 50 per cent each of Barcrown and Barpearl to overseed the greens.
Two years on, Ben is impressed with the results of Jayne’s recommendations. “The transformation has been quite dramatic,” he comments. “The areas that were created using landfill have established well. Looking at it, you wouldn’t know it was imported material because of the establishment and natural appearance.
“It’s still a bit scruffy and wild, particularly the older areas of broom, gorse and heather, but that’s characteristic of what it would have been when it was still part of Sherwood Forest and it will be managed to retain that character.”
And besides becoming a beautiful and functional golf course, Ben believes that Mansfield’s regeneration also brings wider social and environmental benefits.
“The closure of the coalmines wrecked entire communities,” he says. “This site was left unused, but Mansfield’s owners were prepared to do something and restore it to a useful piece of land. It’s certainly benefited the local area.”
Barenbrug’s grasses, together with the broom, gorse, heather and wild orchids covering the course, also draw a wealth of wildlife to the land. “A lot of people will be surprised by the wildlife we attract,” says Ben, “from deer, foxes, badgers and rabbits to a wealth of birds and even the odd grass snake. Thanks to Barenbrug we’ve been able to marry this new golf centre with good ecology – its grass seed provided the ‘missing link’ between the two.”
Jayne is also delighted with Barenbrug’s environmental contribution. “It’s wonderful that this blot on the landscape is now swathed in beautiful grass,” she comments. “Our grass is helping to make amends for all the unpleasant emissions generated by the original spoil tip and the landfill used in the construction of the course.”
“It’s been hard work, but the feedback from members has been great,” Ben concludes.
Mansfield Golf Centre is located at Jubilee Way North, Mansfield, NG18 3PJ. The 6,170-yard, par 71, 18-hole course is open to all players.