Birdie, eagle and albatross are common golfing terms, but students at Scotland’s Rural College have been learning the importance of considering both birds and bees in their golf course designs.
As part of their studies, HNC Golf Course Management students at SRUC’s Elmwood campus in Fife, have been visiting local courses at Fairmont St Andrews and the St Andrews Links Trust which have incorporated wildlife habitats, such as wildflower meadows and bee hives, into their design.
The students have now been tasked with creating a design using the college’s 18-hole golf course as a template, and taking into account ecological, environmental and sustainability issues.
Golf Management Lecturer Ian Butcher said: “Golf is in a process of evolution, not least in working with nature rather than against it. And this opens doors to specialisms for our students to consider, all the while learning knowledge and skills that are applicable across a range of landscape management scenarios.”
The St Andrews Links Trust has been working with agriculture company Syngenta, to put its Operation Pollinator initiative into practice on golf courses by planting buffer zones of wild flowers to attract pollinating insects. It has also adopted seven bee hives from the eco-innovation company Plan Bee.
Wildflower plot at Fairmont St Andrews
Trevor Harris, Deputy Course Manager at the Castle Course, said: “What we are doing at St Andrews Links is to make it more diverse for wildlife. As well as the bee hives, we are thinking about the introduction of bird boxes and insect hotels to make sure we have got the right habitat to encourage wildlife.
“Creating an oasis for wildlife is something that is very important for any modern-day golf course.”
Head Gardener at Fairmont St Andrews, John Mitchell, has worked with greenkeeping staff to plant a ‘bee lawn’ the size of a football pitch in front of the hotel to attract more pollinators to the area. He has also undertaken a beekeeping course, with General Manager John Keating, and is now looking after two hives on site.
“The lawn was planted in time for the bee hives coming last July,” he said. “It helps make people more aware of what we’re doing here because it’s very visual.
“It’s very handy for us having the golf course close by as there is a lot of gorse which the bees love, and hopefully by the end of this year we will have our own honey.”
Following the visits, HNC student Tod Bannerman has designed a golf course which includes areas of natural grassland and a wetland area.
“On my design each hole becomes ‘individual’ with large areas of natural grassland vegetation left to grow in between holes throughout the year, encouraging more wildlife to the site and providing a habitat and food source for the wildlife and insects,” he said.
“I have also included a wetland/pond area on my design because they play a significant part in biodiversity. Ponds provide drinking water during dry weather, a supply of insect and plant-based food, and shelter among surrounding plants and trees.”