Huntercombe success in balancing quality golf and enhancing ecology
Huntercombe Golf Club in Oxfordshire has won the prestigious Syngenta Operation Pollinator Award, picked up by Course Manager, Grant Stewart, at the industry’s premier STRI Golf Environment Awards.
Award winning Huntercombe Golf Club consistently ranks in the top echelons for course quality and unique playing experience, while at the same time providing an extremely valuable and widely recognised ecological resource.
Grant and his team were praised for their work to restore and create habitats for pollinating insects, along with managing the environs around the course to promote natural ecology and biodiversity.
One aspect of the work that drew special comment from the judging panel was the management of naturalised grass pot bunkers around the course. The fearsomely deep hollows, over 100 in number that challenge players, were an original feature instigated by Huntercombe’s famous designer, and former owner, Willie Park Jnr.
The grassland management includes measures to protect the sandy mounds of yellow meadow ants that exist across the course. While the mounds may not be desirable for players, they are tolerated because the ants have an essential symbiotic relationship in the survival of the rare chalk hill blue butterfly.
Furthermore, the team plug heather and scatter native thyme seed into the resulting bare areas, which serves to create a beautiful natural vista and long-lasting food resource for native pollinators.
Over recent seasons, Grant has created large areas of wildflower meadow packed with naturalistic flowering plants, along with returning the overflow car park area back to a diverse grass mix.
The team has planted new hedgerows and initiated propagating wild juniper bushes, which are increasingly scarce in the Chiltern Downs but a necessary part of the local ecosystem.
Grant has engaged with the area’s Wildlife Trust, the Upper Thames Butterfly Conservation Group and local authority countryside officer that have all helped build an accurate picture of biodiverse flora and fauna around the course. The latest subject of studies and surveys is assessing invertebrate diversity and populations around the course.
Together, Grant and the team have compiled a book, Huntercombe Guide to nature on our course, that is available to members and visitors – to explain the club’s approach and picture the incredible achievements. It also sets a benchmark to measure further successes and new initiatives. Click here or on the image below to view the guide
Presenting Huntercombe with the Operation Pollinator Award during BTME in Harrogate, Syngenta Business Manager, Sarah Hughes, highlighted how the club that consistently ranks in the top echelons for course quality and unique playing experience, was at the same time providing an extremely valuable and widely recognised ecological resource.
Stella Rixon, STRI Senior Turfgrass Agronomist and lead of the judging panel, pointed out that golf courses take up around 33% of managed open green spaces, including parks and amenity areas.
“When managed properly, golf courses can significantly enhance biodiversity, conserve rare habitats, and be a leading sector in promoting positive environmental practices.
“The coveted STRI Golf Environment Awards celebrate and reward industry professionals who dedicate their time and energy to protecting and enhancing the environment.”
Stella added: “By addressing the needs of local ecosystems and communities, golf courses can provide more habitats of a larger size, which will increase connectivity, while creating a more enjoyable playing experience for golfers.”