Each year, members of STRI's Ecology and Environment team are searching for the UK's most ecological and environmentally aware golf facilities and, each year, they come across new examples of fine environmental stewardship within golf. Then, through their sponsors and media partners, STRI look to reward and, in turn, promote their achievements to the rest of the industry in order to inspire others to follow suit.
The benefits of taking on ecological and environmental projects are, as the winners will tell you, wide ranging.
Both the club and the golfer benefit, often in the form of cost savings, enhanced course playability, enhanced visuals and increased interest for the golfer.
The environment benefits, through reduced fertiliser and pesticide inputs and increased wildlife habitat; and golf as a whole benefits, as its previously notoriously poor environmental image is gradually reversed.
The Conservation Greenkeeper of the Year is a coveted title within the Golf Environment Awards that was battled out by a large number of entrants. What we were looking for was a greenkeeper who not only had the knowledge and understanding of ecological and environmental issues on the golf course, but also the drive and enthusiasm to enable this knowledge to be put into practice.
A number of entrants fitted the bill in 2010, however James Hutchinson of Fairhaven Golf Club at Lytham St Annes stood out for his tireless dedication towards enhancing the ecology of his place of work.
James has been at the club since 1988 and has always had a passion for wildlife. Recognising the potential for wildlife enhancement at the club, James has very much taken the lead in instigating wildlife enhancement initiatives.
Fairhaven is an extremely diverse site. The course is a mixture of woodland, grassland, heathland and links and, as such, does not only provide significant visual interest to the golfer, but is also able to cater for a very wide variety of wildlife.
James has enhanced the biodiversity potential of the site by countless initiatives, including the development of wild flower areas, the creation of new heather swards, regular pond management, the creation of wetlands, the management of woodlands, the installation of a wide variety of bird and owl boxes, and the acknowledgement that it is okay to allow some areas (away from the playing line) to develop naturally for the benefit of wildlife.
James' enthusiasm has spread to other members of the greenstaff and other key figures at the club, and he is continuing to spread the message through to the wider membership.
It should be noted that James and the team undertake all their ecological initiatives with a minimum use of resources, which makes his achievements at the club all the more impressive.
As Conservation Greenkeeper of the Year, James, along with Overall Achievement winner Colin Webber of Portmore Golf Park, travel to America during February to visit some of the most environmentally aware courses in the country to pick up further knowledge and, no doubt, impart some of there own!
STRI are keen to discover more UK golf clubs that are addressing environmental concerns.
The 2011 Golf Environment Awards application process will commence in the Spring and we would encourage all course managers, greenkeepers, secretaries, committee members and interested individuals to give consideration to submitting an application form for this free to enter awards programme. You really have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
For more information please visit www.golfenvironmentawards.com or call STRI's ecology team on 01274 518903.