The R&A - Working for Golf

Working with nature

Trying to control nature always leads to disaster and unnecessary costs.

More often than not, golf clubs believe that implementing good environmental policy costs money. There are plenty of instances, however, where it can save money and increase revenue.
Energy efficiency measures and waste management are the more obvious areas of environmental policy where cost savings can be made and revenue generated.  The natural world provides many more positive benefits for golf, including:

  • the landscape in which golf courses are set that provides the backdrop for the game
  • the land on which golf is played, enabling healthy recreation
  • the diversity of habitat that provides a variable golfing experience
  • the water that supplies irrigation and features such as ponds, lakes and streams
  • the wildlife that brings added pleasure to a round of golf.

We need to protect nature to preserve these benefits and this can be done by:

  • understanding how all the various living communities link together.  This must include the soil microbial population as well as the more obvious communities above ground
  • protecting and managing natural resources
  • limiting the areas of closely mown turf - fairways, greens, tees and light rough -  to provide as much space for wildlife as possible
  • managing particular areas of the course sensitively but positively to encourage biodiversity
  • avoiding practices that disturb your soil structure, such as erosion or biological degradation
  • avoiding actions that impact on water quality or flow through your course.

Making progress towards these objectives should be supported by:

  • co-operating with local nature conservation groups to identify and monitor the wildlife on your course
  • producing habitat management plans and implementing their recommendations
  • monitoring and keeping records on the quality of water bodies on your course and on water flowing in and out of your course
  • ensuring that you comply with all environmental legislation on a regular basis.

Real added value for the business can be had by encouraging wildlife on the course. An 18-hole golf course can utilise more than 60 hectares of land but, based on the need for on average 1 hectare of putting surface and 30 or so hectares of mown fairway and semi-rough, up to 70% of larger sites can be made available to wildlife by restricting the area of routinely mown turf that is in play. This also saves money by reducing the area requiring inputs such as water, fertiliser, pesticides and fuel. Enhancing biodiversity to achieve a natural balance across the course (including the microbiology of the soil) will help control pests, diseases and weeds. It also increases the visual attractiveness of the course, making it a more desirable place for golfers.

You can improve the value of your golf course for wildlife by:

  • establishing a detailed understanding of what habitats and wildlife currently exist on your golf course
  • devising management plans to enhance their value and achieve the right balance of habitat type
  • implementing management practices to restore, conserve or enhance the quality of habitats
  • regularly reviewing and amending your management programmes to achieve your goals 
  • explaining what you are doing to your members and visitors and your local community through newsletters, websites, onsite signage and local media.

To establish what your golf course currently has with regard to habitat and wildlife, it is a good idea to engage specialists to undertake surveys. These records will help you to assess the impact of your management programmes. Working from these records, and with environmental agencies and conservation groups, you can identify any areas on site that have a conservation designation.  Knowing this is extremely important, as environmental legislation may dictate which management activities, if any, are permitted under such protection.

The R&A is committed to restoring, conserving, enhancing and protecting the habitats and wildlife found at our Open Championship venues.  Wildlife and habitat management information for The Open has been included on the course guide that can be found at