Making golf courses work for wildlife

Illustration showing measures to help wildlife on golf coursesHow to build a Living Landscape on golf courses

There are more than 70 golf courses in Hertfordshire. By their nature they are relatively large areas of countryside, much of which is made up of rougher, less intensively managed land. Managed sympathetically, these areas have huge potential to contribute to a Living Landscape.

The rough

Remnants of ancient grassland remain on some golf courses. By mowing in sympathy with the flowering periods of native plant species, wildflower meadows can be created where the ground has been untouched by chemicals. In other cases, where re-generation is less likely to happen quickly, native wildflower seed mixes can be sown. Zoning the rough will benefit wildlife. Fortnightly mowing of shorter rough will encourage low-growing species like bird's-foot trefoil. Long rough can receive much less attention, allowing taller plants to grow and set seed and providing food and cover over winter for insects, small mammals and reptiles like grass snakes.

Heathland

This is a scarce habitat in Hertfordshire but one which can survive on golf courses, particularly within areas of longer grass where trampling is less likely. Gorse, broom and heather of varying ages and sizes will benefit wildlife the most. Small, young plants provide basking spots for lizards while larger shrubs provide nest sites for birds. Cutting heather with the blades fairly high will imitate the beneficial effects of a grazing herd. Tree removal will help light to reach the seedling plants and encourage growth.

Ponds and lakes

Leaving a natural edge around at least part of a pond or lake will provide cover for aquatic wildlife whilst still allowing golfers to find lost golf balls around the close cut edge. Trees and shrubs add cover for wildlife, although overhanging trees should be cut back on the south side of ponds and lakes, to allow enough light in.

Habitat variety

Thse golf courses with lots of different types of habitat will attract the most wildlife. Bats will benefit from open grassy areas and expanses of water for feeding, and roost in the trunks of old trees. Grass snakes are particularly suited to golf courses - plenty of water and long grass to hunt in, the sunny bank of a bunker to bask on and compost heaps to lay their eggs in all make a perfect home!

For a full list of practical ideas to help wildlife on golf courses, download our guide How to build a Living Landscape.