Royal Birkdale is one of the most ecologically sensitive courses that hosts The Open and, along with the surrounding estuaries, mud flats, sand flats and sand dunes, is recognised under local, national and international designations for its outstanding nature conservation value.
The club, acknowledging the responsibility they have to maintain their habitats in a favourable condition, has developed close working relationships with Natural England, the Environment Agency, the Sefton Woodland Owners Task Group, Sefton Land Managers and the British Trust for Nature Conservation Volunteers.
The course lies within the Sefton Coast Special Area of Conservation (SAC), which was designated largely for its vast expanse of diverse sand dune systems which, at over 2,000 hectares, is the largest dune complex in the UK. Royal Birkdale encompasses approximately 100 hectares of these dunes and, with 80% of the golf course left to nature, the course blends in beautifully with its surroundings.
These dunes are known to support the only population in northwest England of petalwort and the only known population in England of Baltic rush. As well as these plants, the area is a hugely popular site for overwintering wading birds and is home to several other rarities such as natterjack toads, great crested newts, sand lizards and the marsh helleborine orchid.
The R&A has produced a wildlife and conservation guide to Royal Birkdale – – which describes and illustrates with full colour photographs the flora and fauna which can be found all around the course on a hole by hole basis.
These booklets have been an annual feature for Open Championship venues since 2000. They raise awareness of the important wildlife and habitats found on and around Open Championship courses and the commitment at all venues to good environmental practice. The fact that such venues can achieve such high standards of good practice and also produce courses worthy of staging The Open Championship demonstrates that golf and the environment can co-exist to the benefit of both.
The Open www.opengolf.com