Why a Swedish club uses sheep to help its greenkeepers

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir November 15, 2011 12:57

Why a Swedish club uses sheep to help its greenkeepers

Three experts in how golf clubs can cut course management costs while enhancing the local environment spoke in the same one-hour session at the GCMA conference today.

Philip Russell from The R&A looked at two success stories: Benyan Golf Club in Thailand and Elisefarm Golf Club in Sweden.

At the former, the club opted not to select the bermudagrass that is prevalent in the country and instead chose zoysia matrella, a turfgrass that is resistant to disease and requires less pesticides, fertilisers, herbicides, nitrogen and water than bermudagrass. As a result, the club has spent far less money than its competitors on course maintenance, and the grass itself is of an excellent playability.

At Elisefarm, the owners built the course, taking out natural boulders and then reinstating them under the new course, which has helped significantly with drainage. In addition, the club uses a fescue and browntop bentgrass mix for its turf, which also requires small amounts of water and fertilisers. And, instead of mowing the rough, the club deploys sheep to graze on the grassland, with the flock being moved every few weeks.

“The club has saved time and money,” said Russell. “It requires less mowing and less fuel, and frees up staff to spend more time on other issues.”

Philip also stated that The R&A’s website, www.randa.org/golfcourse, is aimed at golf’s decision makers, and that within the next 18 months a free portal will be included for course managers to input all their expenditure on the course so this can be tracked over time. Philip also agreed with the English Golf Union, and its site, www.englishgolfunion/greenergolf, which urges clubs to form an environmental sub-committee to develop an environmental management policy for the club.

Daryl Sellar, from Turfwise Consulting in Australia, added that his club, Glenelg Golf Club in Adelaide, embarked on a sustainable route that included a change of turfgrass species, and this was met with opposition from his club’s members.

“About 300 members wanted the project stopped immediately,” he said. “They weren’t interested in the future. It wasn’t until I told them, during a meeting, that this approach would require 40 per cent less water, which would mean firmer bunkers for them, and 80 per cent less fungicides, making the course safer for them, that was when I won them over.”

Jonathan Smith, from Golf Environment Organisation, concluded: “There is no standard formula for sustainability as it is dependent on your club’s specific requirements. But sustainability, which rewards course managers for the work they have done – whether it’s been protecting diesel areas or sound ecological management – is something that club managers need to be involved in as well as the greenkeepers who ought to be empowered.”

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir November 15, 2011 12:57
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