The R&A continues to support the Golf Environment Awards as the lead partner of the event and this year, STRI were able to go ahead with hosting a presentation ceremony, although the COVID-19 pandemic did mean that this had to proceed virtually.
Prior to the awards evening, STRI’s ecology team was joined by a new judging panel to consider the nominations. The panel consisted of Wendy Cole from The R&A, the GEA sponsors and past Conservation Greenkeeper of the Year and BIGGA’s ecology advisor, James Hutchinson.
This year’s winners received a £750.00 grant towards sustainability work – one of the many benefits of winning a GEA. These grants were introduced in 2020, recognising the need to give back to the golf community that have enabled the awards to grow over the last 26 years.
The winners in each of the four categories were:
Conservation Greenkeeper of the Year 2021 - Jon Keepen, Cumberwell Park
Jon has worked tirelessly to establish a diverse mosaic of habitats throughout the golf courses at Cumberwell, all the while recording the vast array of wildlife supported by them, with a particular focus on raptors.
Outstanding Environmental Project of the Year 2021 – Pyle and Kenfig Golf Club
Pyle and Kenfig Golf Club, located near Kenfig National Nature Reserve and the Gower Peninsula, impressed the judging panel with their landscape scale conservation project ‘Dunes2Dunes’ which aims to restore dune slack and bare sand habitats throughout the 18-hole links. Working with the local community, council and Natural Resources Wales, Pyle and Kenfig have established vast areas of important dune habitats and now support more fen orchids than ever recorded, as well as seeing the return of other notable species.
Environmental Golf Course of the Year 2021 – Nairn Dunbar Golf Club
Richard Johnstone, Course Manager at Nairn Dunbar Golf Club, and his team have sustainability at the forefront of all practices. The judging panel were most impressed by the restoration of the links landscape at Nairn Dunbar. This has only been possible through the implementation of a rough management plan which has seen the links roughs return to their natural condition and allowed native grasses, wildflowers and heather to flourish. The Club’s community outreach was another reason why Nairn Dunbar was crowned as a winner, with the judges particularly impressed by their close relationship between the Club and the RSPB. This local partnership corresponds well with the national one entered into between RSPB and The R&A.
Syngenta Operation Pollinator - Effingham Golf Club
Jon Budd, Course Manager at Effingham, and his team have created a significant number of wildflower areas around the golf course. Jon considers that educating the members on the importance of ecology and why we should be doing all we can to improve the course for the flora and fauna was a major reason why they received the award.
The GEA recognises achievements in sustainable management at golf facilities and all of the winners demonstrated a real commitment to this cause. Congratulations to them and we would encourage other clubs who are applying themselves to helping nature and engaging with their community to enter the GEA 2022 Awards.