A three-year study by the University of Melbourne has shown that 13 golf courses in the greater Melbourne area support greater biodiversity than other urban green spaces and remnant heathlands. The abundance of beetles, bugs, bees, bats and birds was greater on the golf courses and the University concluded that across all of the fauna groups investigated, there are huge benefits from retaining golf courses in the urban landscape. The diversity of fauna in nearby residential areas and small urban parks was found to be much lower than at the average golf course.
the University concluded that there are huge benefits from retaining golf courses in the urban landscape
The study does differentiate between old and young golf courses. Older courses were found to provide suitable habitat for a wide array of animals. Whilst younger courses can also achieve this, if they have been landscaped specifically to provide a wide range of fauna habitat, the suggestion is that courses improve over time in relation to biodiversity, especially if patches of unmanaged long grass, remnant vegetation and large old trees are retained.
The study also reports on restoration of vegetation to enhance biodiversity, providing advice such as increasing native vegetation, promoting understorey vegetation structure and allowing ground level features such as leaf litter accumulation, decomposing logs and exposed rocks and soil to develop.
This research suggests that well-managed golf courses, which provide a range of habitat, can contribute real green space value to urban areas.
Many golf courses around the world contribute to preserving biodiversity but there are few scientific studies that support the excellent work that is being done. However, golf facilities do not have to wait for research establishments to come on board before they begin assessing the benefit they bring to wildlife. Many will have golfers who have an interest in nature or know of someone else who could carry out a survey of plants or animals. The sport needs a significant quantity of this type of information to place it in a better light as a protector, rather than destroyer, of nature.