Golf clubs are often faced with a dilemma when it comes to finding suitable materials for pathway surfacing and mulch for ornamental shrubs.
While greens staff have no doubt experimented with a variety of different products, few will have tried recycled woodchip, despite the fact that the material has been used by a knowledgeable minority for a number of years.
Demand for recycled materials in landscaping as a whole is increasing. The reason for this is clear: they not only offer performance benefits but are also highly cost-effective. Recycled woodchip is one such material. It can offer advantages when used as a loose landscaping material. As a pathway covering or a mulch, the product is extremely durable, reduces maintenance and can make a dramatic visual impact as it is available in a variety of decorative and natural colours.
Pallets from the packaging industry are the primary raw material for recycled woodchip, but some processors also use off-cuts from the furniture industry.
As it has been used before, recycled woodchip has a low moisture content, which helps to make it more durable, often taking up to five years to break down. From a maintenance perspective on shrub beds, it is an efficient weed suppressant, often reducing the need for hand or chemical weeding, and helping to retain soil moisture which can lessen watering requirements.
Other advantages for golf courses are that recycled woodchip needs replacing infrequently. Not only does it last a long time, but its fibrous nature means that it knits together, making it more resistant to being blown away by the wind and therefore suitable for use on steep inclines.
Recycled woodchip in action
At Erskine Golf Club in West Scotland, Head Greenkeeper Alex Donaghy was challenged with finding a product that would effectively maintain the numerous link walkways and shrub beds on what is regarded as one of the country’s leading golf courses, while also ensuring continuing good looks.
Keen to find a sustainable option, Alex turned to recycled woodchip, and for the past four years it has been at the heart of the club’s maintenance strategy.
Alex explains, “The practical benefits are numerous, but it’s also hugely reassuring from an environmental perspective that I know we are using a sustainable product.
“As a walkway covering, the key benefit is the texture. Recycled woodchip is much softer underfoot than alternatives such as shale or gravel and therefore does not damage our cutting machinery if it spreads from the walkways onto grassy areas. This alone accounts for a significant cost saving, as green cutting equipment can cost £130 a unit to sharpen. It is also kinder to golfers’ spikes as they walk around the course.”
Ensuring the golf course looks visually appealing at all times of the year is absolutely vital and the fact that recycled woodchip mulch is available in a range of colours allows the club to use various shades for different areas of the course. Green, for example, is used for pathways while black mulch is used on the shrub beds.
Redditch Borough Council in the West Midlands also takes advantage of these colour options. It uses green material on shrub beds and pathways at its Pitcheroak Municipal Golf Course so that everything is in keeping with the fairways and greens.
Using the product has proved beneficial for golfers as previously muddy paths are now clean and easy to walk on and, as the product is tough, it never sticks to players’ spikes.
The performance benefits of recycled woodchip can be summarised:
- Durability – lasts up to five years. The natural degradation process is slower with recycled woodchip, helped by its low water content and its fibrous nature. This durability is particularly beneficial in wetter areas, for example those subject to periodic waterlogging or on top of clay.
- Low maintenance – reduces maintenance requirements such as hand weeding and chemical weeding by acting as an efficient weed suppressant and, by helping to retain moisture, allowing less frequent watering. Recycled woodchip also needs replacing less frequently than other loose surfacing materials because it not only lasts a long time but is not blown away easily by the wind.
- Suitable for steep inclines – adheres effectively to steep slopes as it knits together well and is dense. In addition, it can be used in situations where other loose surfacing materials may be washed downhill or blown away.
- Visually attractive – available in a variety of colours, including light natural shades that highlight plant foliage. All are coloured using organic dyes.
- Non-damaging – does not harm surrounding areas and plants if moved, and does not damage mowers on surrounding grass. Also, it does not collect on the spikes of golf shoes.
- Weatherproof – acts as an insulation layer reducing the effects of ground freezing and always provides a usable surface and safe footing, even during rain.
- Clean – clean and easy to handle when laying, recycled woodchip also does not stick to users’ shoes.
- Easy accessibility – easy for people pulling golf trolleys and is resistant to rutting by wheels.
- Quiet and easy to walk on – is soft underfoot, a useful feature for golf courses where quietness is often required