Environmentally-friendly golf club South Essex Golf Centre has its customers in a buzz with the club’s own brand of honey.
Course Manager Peter Dawson has been beekeeping on the golf course for several years, and golfers can now sample limited quantities of delicious South Essex Honey behind the bar at the popular golf centre near Brentwood.
The 58 year old, whose family roots are in Yorkshire, has been a familiar face to South Essex golfers for the last 19 years. He has been the club’s Course Manager since shortly after it opened in the mid-nineties, and is now one of the UK’s recognised experts on truly ‘green’ golfing greenkeeping.
In 2005, the efforts of Dawson and his team saw South Essex GC given the Best Newcomer gong in the annual British & International Golf Greenkeeping Association Environment Awards. Dawson reinvested the £500 cash prize in beekeeping training, and established his first two hives at South Essex GC in 2006.
“We’ve kept the hives going successfully for almost a decade now” said Dawson. “At various times we’ve had up to five running simultaneously, but bees come and go as they please. Our two current hives are doing very well, and although we only produce small amounts of honey people do seem to love it on their toast in the clubhouse”.
In May 2013, South Essex GC became GEO-Certified, one of the first golf clubs in the UK to receive the award from the international Golf Environment Organisation.
“Peter and his team are consistently setting new standards for British golf courses when it comes to environmental-friendliness” said Barry Careford, General Manager at South Essex GC. “His growing beekeeping expertise is just the latest example of this.
“The hives are well hidden away, out on our Heron golf course near the 8th hole, so our golfers really aren’t aware of them, and the bees pose no hazard to people. It’s a peaceful and enjoyable enterprise which typifies Peter’s devotion to maintaining the good reputation of South Essex Golf Centre, and it’s one of the things which sets us apart from other golf clubs”.
Bob Taylor, Head of Ecology and Environment at the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI), said: “When golfers see that a golf club is beekeeping, it reminds them that a golf club has great value to the community as a nature reserve, as well as being somewhere for people to relax. In fact, UK wildlife is increasingly dependent on golf courses for their habitats.
“Peter and other UK golf clubs are doing great work in spreading the message that a golf club is far from being the selfish use of land which some of the sport’s detractors would try to have you believe. Plus, that feeling of well-being you get when you walk around a golf course is enhanced by the habitat which good beekeeping promotes – such as an abundance of wild flowers, which the honey bees help to pollenate”.
Dawson and his team at South Essex are managing a large pollen-rich wild flower area using cultural methods, and as a result of their careful ecological policies the golf centre is also brimming with other wildlife such as water voles, brown hares, harmless grass snakes, great crested newts, common lizards, badgers and skylarks.
But despite his passion for beekeeping, Dawson has faced one particularly inconvenient personal drawback. “I’m allergic to bee stings” he said. “It doesn’t often happen, and I don’t have nightmares about it, but when I do get stung I swell up like a balloon.”
South Essex Golf Centre www.southessexgolf.co.uk