Course profile: Loch Lomond Golf Club

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick November 27, 2011 16:02

Loch Lomond Golf Club course superintendent David Cole and his greens’ staff use a range of green machinery on the course, which also boasts some enviable green credentials.

The club’s efforts to protect the environment received a new accolade in 2011 when it won the ‘Overall Achievement Award’ at the STRI’s Golf Environment Awards 2011

This award came at the end of a remarkable two years during which the staff throughout the club made huge advances in the amount of waste products they recycle. In one week alone, 91 per cent of the waste produced during the Barclays Scottish Open, held at Loch Lomond in July 2010, was recycled. This went a long way to enabling the club and title sponsor to succeed in their avowed aim to stage the most environmentally-friendly event on the European Tour.

“We were delighted to win this award and are proud of the advances we have made in this area,” said David Cole. “The club has set itself a target of producing zero waste to landfill, and we are close to achieving our goal. We’re also totally committed to the maintenance and preservation of the natural environment, and it’s something we work hard on for 52 weeks of the year.”

Loch Lomond operates a rigorous estate management plan designed to ensure the club leaves as small an environmental footprint as possible. Over the years, it has intensified its woodland management programme in conjunction with Scottish National Heritage (SNH) and Loch Lomond National Park Authorities (LLNPA), and it has also been working with other partners, including the Forestry Commission, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and local government, to preserve its historic landscape and cultural heritage, reduce water usage, minimise waste and improve energy efficiency.

In addition to this latest award, Loch Lomond was one of the first courses in Europe to receive the internationally recognised Audubon Certification status, which it has held since 1998. It was also the only golf club to be recognised in The Sunday Times Top 50 Best Green Companies in the UK in 2008, and has been a BIGGA Scottish Regional Winner for Environmental Management on several occasions.

“Ecology’s becoming a huge part of golf course management nowadays,” said David. “Fortunately, the club’s owners and management have embraced this and see it very much as their responsibility going forward. We are always developing our knowledge in this area, and we have managed to build up a fantastic relationship with the various partner organisations, who advise and trust us to carry out the necessary work in the right way.

“It’s a massive estate, covering 450 hectares, with three Sites of Special Scientific Interest [SSSIs], including Loch Lomond dock, 30 lichen species and elongated sedge, two of which are sited within the golf course.

“Other challenges we face are mainly climatic with, on average, more than 2,000mm of rainfall annually, a lot of cloud cover, minimal air movement and lots of shade from trees. Combine this with the inherited impervious soils utilised during construction, and it would be fair to say the situation is not ideal.

“To improve the agronomy, basically we have to get the golf course drier, so regular aeration and topdressing is required. Additionally, the club has invested extensively in an intensive drainage network to remove the water expediently from the turf surface. This sort of work does have its problems, primarily as it interferes with play and can result in turf loss when the work is undertaken in winter, but it is essential given the prevailing conditions here in the west of Scotland.

“However, having a good drainage infrastructure means we can follow a sound IPM [integrated pest management] approach. As a result, our fertiliser and chemical usage has dropped dramatically, and we have introduced bent and fescue grasses successfully, as they have a better chance of thriving in the conditions that prevail here at Loch Lomond.

“My job is still primarily to look after the golf course – people come here to play golf, not to admire the trees and the wildlife. But I understand that my responsibility as course superintendent and estate manager is also to preserve and enhance other parts of the golf course, although it does need to be done sensibly and cost effectively.”

Examples of the environmental work that has already taken place are evident throughout the course. Invasive species such as rhododendrons are controlled or removed, allowing in more space and light for natural regeneration, which has improved both the aesthetics and playability of the course.

Meanwhile, heather has been regenerated and gorse populations encouraged, by planting through the golf course to mirror natural populations on the neighbouring hillsides. In addition, old commercial spruce woodland is being slowly removed and replaced with indigenous species such as oak and beech. Across the whole estate, varieties of indigenous trees and shrubs have been planted on what were dense rhododendron sites, providing major habitat value as well as a food resource for wildlife.

“I read recently that there are 140,000 hectares of rough and out-of-bounds areas across UK golf courses that could provide sanctuary for wildlife, which is about the same as the area covered by all the RSPB’s reserves combined,” said David. “An increasing number of golf clubs are successfully managing these areas, and I think the consensus seems to be growing that golf courses can be very positive for wildlife, as there is an abundance of food, shelter and habitats.”

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick November 27, 2011 16:02
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  1. John Blakey November 29, 12:06

    I’m not be the only reader who can see little point in your profile of Loch Lomond Golf Club.
    This club is so remote and exclusive that few of us have any chance of making any contact with it – since visitors are abhorred.
    I enjoy the website but consider that the space devoted to this article could have been put to better, more relevant use.

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  2. John Burchell November 29, 10:43

    I read with interest but not much agreement your article singing the praises of Loch Lomond Golf Club.
    They do not admit visitors and perhaps your readers would be interested in the following story which confirms that.
    Soon after it opened, the then captain of the club at which I was secretary was passing Loch Lomond on the way back from a golfing holiday further north. He was with his wife who was a past ladies’ captain.
    He drove up to the gate and explained to the security guard who they were and asked if they could just drive up to the clubhouse and have a look at the facilities. He was given the blank reply: ‘No!’
    I was, soon after, invited to play there by one of their members with our then head professional, and other guests. The member enquired as to whether the PGA professional and I would receive courtesy of the course, but received the same two-letter reply. I was not unduly worried as I receive great value and much courtesy from my membership of the GCMA, but I was appalled at their treatment of a PGA professional. He incidentally was the original coach of a member of a winning Ryder Cup team.
    I would also take issue with the statement that the course is considered the best in the UK. It was pleasant, yes, but I have played several in the UK that I would consider to be much superior. Just outside the UK in southern Ireland is a similar course which runs down to a lake with mountains in the background. It’s a better course and the people there are the friendliest in the world. It’s called Killarney.
    For years now many in golf have been trying to break down the barriers that we all know existed in the game and to make it more accessible to the majority. I have no sympathy for those who try to make the game more exclusive and Loch Lomond is in the forefront of this movement. The facilities (and the prices) are obscene; their manners non existent.
    I’m sorry, but I think it does the game of golf no good at all.

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