One golf course owner who is blazing a trail for sustainability and wildlife is Paul Stevenson, a director of New Malton Golf Club, which lies on the River Cam near Royston in Hertfordshire. As well as cutting down on chemical and water use in his bid to create the UK's first fully organically managed golf course, he is using 40ha of out-of-bounds areas on the course to create habitats for birds, insects and animals.
"We have a thriving group of herons and a large number of woodpeckers here, as well as barn owls, otters, water voles, badgers and a stoat, and it's something our members love to see," he says. "One group regularly come along early in the morning to play when the wildlife is at its most active, and then they come and tell us what they've seen.
"I want to prove to the world of golf that you can encourage wildlife and reduce chemical use, but still have a great course which makes a profit."
Paul and his co-directors took over the course, which was in generally poor condition, last August, and this coincided with John Deere introducing its new range of hybrid walk-behind and ride-on greens and fairway mowers. As a result, New Malton bought the first 8000e E-Cut lightweight three-wheeled fairway mower sold in the UK, as well as a 220e walk-behind greens mower and a 2500e triplex greens mower, on a five-year John Deere Credit lease package from local dealer A J & R Scambler & Sons at Bourn in Cambridgeshire.
"Reduced fuel consumption is a major feature of these new mowers for me," says Paul Stevenson (pictured with the three new John Deere hybrid mowers). "If I can eventually convert them to use biofuels, this will make them even more eco-friendly, with even lower emissions. When you're running a golf course equipment fleet, fuel and emissions savings are a significant factor, and we're aiming to make considerable savings in these areas.
"I believe John Deere mowers are the best on the market," he adds. "In particular, the new 220e walk-behind mower is a big improvement on previous models, with its floating head. The 8000e fairway mower, equipped with grass boxes, is also a very versatile machine - because of its manoeuvrability, we can use it on the tee boxes as well as on the fairways, as it cuts more quickly than a triple mower. We're quite excited about this new machine and what it can achieve for us on this course.
"Managing a golf course organically is admittedly hard work. We hand mow the greens at 3.5 to 4mm three or four times a week in season for a better finish, and only use the triple at weekends just to keep ahead of the growth. Everything we do here has a reason, economic as well as environmental. I truly believe we can run the course more economically using our own resources and methods, with no detriment to good quality golf.
"It's not just a question of throwing money at it, we have to do the job realistically. The finance package was a very good deal for us in that respect - we know what our maintenance costs are going to be for the next two years, and the lease is costing us considerably less than our previous package with depreciation and repair costs.
"We know we are making an impact with these new machines," says Paul. "The investments we are making show that we are totally committed to improving the course, and to our future plans for the club and the local environment."
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