Golf clubs throughout England have been working as part of a scheme which aims to bring about real benefits for nature and wildlife conservation. Established in 2002, the English Golf Environmental Advisory Service (EGEAS) has seen over 180 golf clubs receive specialist ecological advice tailored to suit both the golfing and conservation needs of the course.
Often seen as a selfish and sterile land use, golf courses have previously received little positive attention from conservationists. However with around 1,900 courses in England covering some 110,000ha of land, they do provide the potential for significant and tangible benefits for the countryside.
Through detailed and practical advice provided by specialist golf course ecologist Lee Penrose of the Sports Turf Research Institute, the EGEAS has assisted golf clubs in developing over 150ha of new grassland and heathland habitat, planting 16,000 new trees, and restoring or creating nearly 200 new wildlife ponds. This is in addition to the countless bird and bat boxes erected and the 18 kilometres of hedgerow planted.
All of the golf clubs lucky enough to be accepted into the scheme have since been revisited in order to assess the progress they have made. Those clubs who displayed a real commitment to conservation have been accredited and since received framed certificates from the County Golf Unions.
All of the above has gained a tremendous response from golfers and club members, who are beginning to realise the value their golf course has for local wildlife communities. Greenkeepers and golf club managers are also recognising the positive role conservation can play in developing a high standard golf course that provides habitat for birdies of all sorts.
The EGEAS is funded through the English Golf Union, English Nature (the statutory agency for wildlife conservation in England), and The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. The scheme is delivered by the Sports Turf Research Institute, Europe’s largest sports facility research and advisory group.