Greenkeepers at Royal Liverpool Golf Club have been given special training in order to protect a rare species during The Open Championship.
Links Manager at the Hoylake golf club, Craig Gilholm and his colleagues have been licensed to handle the natterjack toad, a European Protected Species which lives in the sand dunes which surround the coastal course.
With the world's greatest golfers soon descending on the venue, the links course has been transformed into a sprawling sporting arena designed to test the hardiest professionals.
It is illegal for an unlicensed person to handle a natterjack toad so Gilholm and his staff have undergone training and achieved European Protected Species licenses which allow them to legally handle any which place themselves in danger during the Championship.
"Ideally the toads will stick to the dune structures, which is where they prefer to be," said Craig. "But if they find their way into difficulty we are qualified to handle them in a humane manner to move them back to their habitat safely and without causing distress."
The wild nature of the course means there are plenty of sand dunes, overgrown rough and bushes that provide shelter and food for a wide variety of species all year round.
"We have worked closely with Bob Taylor Head of Ecology and Environment at the Sports Turf Research Institute, to make sure we have the correct licenses and have timed all our works correctly to cause minimal disturbance to the local wildlife," said Craig. "Any works carried out have taken place outside critical nesting or breeding times."
According to Royal Liverpool Golf Club's Championship Committee Chairman, Nick Peel, ecological protection has been as important as creating a world-class sporting event for The Open Championship.
"We have worked closely with The R&A and regional and national groups concerned with the environment, ecology and wildlife," he said. "We have taken advice from all on how best to balance the organisation of The Open and care of the wildlife which calls Royal Liverpool its home.
"As a result we have ensured that the spectator pathways, the stands and the tented areas have all had minimal impact on the coastal wildlife and where an impact was identified, we have taken responsible, timely and humane action to mitigate it.
"I am confident that will lead to an Open Championship which provides fantastic entertainment for the crowds and a great challenge for the competitors without any adverse consequences for the ecology of the area."
The Open takes place from 17-20 July and will be preceded by practice days from 13-16 July. Under 16s can attend all days free of charge when accompanied by a paying adult. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at TheOpen.com or on the day at the paygates.
Royal Liverpool Golf Club www.royal-liverpool-golf.com
The Open www.theopen.com