Malcolm Lathan is course manager of Hexham Golf Club, a traditional parkland course on fast draining land on the south side of the River Tyne with an “elegant Palladian house of finely dressed stone” as club house. Working there for 25 years and twenty three as course manager, Malcolm is justifiably proud of his achievements especially with his environmental and sustainability initiatives.
On a recent visit to the course and over a year since the club had installed one of Highspeed Group’s ClearWater washpad water recycling systems, MD David Mears was invited to see what had been achieved at the club.
The ClearWater system was installed to ensure the club was compliant with legislation and, as mains water was previously used, to save water. Malcolm is delighted with the system and in his words, “It works far better than the old hose and is very low maintenance. I’m very pleased with the excellent wash-off and installing ClearWater fits in well with our sustainability program.”
The system is well maintained and the turf machinery really clean; a credit to the greenkeeping team. But there’s more to sustainability at Hexham than the water-saving ClearWater wash system.
Out around the course evidence of the work Malcolm and his team have been working hard on was evident. There are owl boxes high in some of the spectacular trees; all facing south east and away from prevailing wind direction, having taken expert advice! A recent project has seen over eighty small nesting boxes sited around the course too. Tree species spotted, alongside traditional varieties, included Hornbeam, White Beam, Red Leaved Oak, Copper Beech and Wellingtonia; a magnificent giant redwood! (This particular species originated in California and was introduced to England in 1853).
The team are also trying hard to eradicate grey squirrels and re-introduce reds (apparently peanut butter in traps is a good method!). Signs are positive but this project, says Malcolm, will take some time.
Care has been taken too in the preparation of “wild areas” on the course to encourage wild life and provide a safe “stop-off point” when crossing open areas. These havens are certainly impressive as our photographs show and, amongst the wild flowers, a native species of orchid is thriving.
To maintain environmental credentials and ecological good practice (recognised by the receipt of The English Golf Environment Award in 2005), Malcom said that he and his team always try to create the conditions that favour fine grasses. They strive to limit fertiliser usage and hand water as much as possible, using a wetting agent to maximise watering effectiveness. Chemical usage is also limited and they endeavour not to spray fungicide at all. The message seems clear; “We try not to use chemicals but employ natural solutions if at all possible”.
Malcolm’s determination to create a healthy, living soil has involved working with biotechnology companies and, over the last three years, he has been producing compost tea with an installed brewer. The compost tea is applied twice a month to greens in the growing season. The product also helps fight fungal infection organically says Malcolm.
The greenkeeping team’s hard work and an organic ethos have resulted in a delightful course and a wonderful golfing experience. They do say that the course provides “a tough enough test of golf to regularly host County events”, not to mention the stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
Hexham Golf Club www.hexhamgolf.co.uk
Submitted by David Mears, MD, Highspeed Group Ltd www.highspeed.co.uk
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