Temple Golf Club uses an holistic approach when it comes to managing the playing surfaces and out of play areas. Great emphasis is placed on conserving and enhancing the landscape, as well as ensuring the course challenges all levels of golfers in the way envisaged by Willie Park Jnr when he first designed the downland course in 1909. Willie Park used the indigenous natural fine bent and fescue grasses which are recognised as the best year round surfaces for most UK conditions, and this still applies today.
The very nature of golf courses means that they can be oases for wildlife in a countryside that has become increasingly hostile.
Temple has been working with the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) and its forerunner the B,B&O Naturalist Trust for over 25 years. In the early days naturalists produced simple surveys but then in 1990, the Club commissioned an ecological report on the course by the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI). This was undertaken by Bob Taylor, STRI’s Senior Ecologist, who suggested that a closer relationship with the local Wildlife Trust might be mutually beneficial. Towards the end of 1991 a number of naturalists from BBOWT agreed to conduct a year-long survey. The main aim of this survey was to provide a thorough record which would allow comparisons to be made in future years so that the effects of the new management regime could be monitored. The Trust’s naturalists recommended changes in the management regime on grassland, woodland and hedgerows and with the agreement of the Club, the appointed Course Architect and Temple’s agronomist, the new style management regimes were implemented.
Matt Jackson, BBOWT’s Head of Strategy & Conservation, says: “Wildlife Trusts aim to create Living Landscape across the UK where wildlife thrives and people have opportunities to engage with nature. The very nature of golf courses means that they can be oases for wildlife in a countryside that has become increasingly hostile. They are often created on less fertile soils, e.g. chalk grassland, sandy linksland and heathland, which give the opportunity to create and maintain habitats for a range of our natural wildlife.”
Dan Akam Temple’s local Community Wildlife Officer says: “The BBOWT is keen to support Temple with its sustainable approach to managing the course and improving it for wildlife as well as providing members closer experiences with barn owls, orchids and many other red listed species. The development and implementation of the management plan shows that wildlife-friendly golf courses can provide a reservoir of wildlife with the potential to permeate into the surrounding countryside.”
The benefits of the long term relationship with BBOWT have been immense; not only the more obvious surveys and information exchanges but joint educational events.
Recently, and in conjunction with the BBOWT, Temple hosted a seminar entitled “Managing with Less,” which explored the economic and environmental benefits of a sound and sympathetic course management policy. The seminar drew an audience of greenkeepers, club administrators and members for the presentations that developed naturally into an interactive debate from which new relationships were forged and advice exchanged.
But one of the most important benefits of the Club’s relationship with BBOWT is a 5 year Habitat Management Plan developed with the Trust’s officers in 2012. The Plan clearly shows the success and improved biodiversity which has evolved from the original survey 20 years earlier and lists developments expected to evolve over the next 5 years.
In summary, Temple’s engagement with BBOWT has been successful and beneficial. Temple’s view is that all golf clubs should at least explore the possibility of working with their own local Wildlife Trust or similar conservation organisation.