The commitment of Nairn Dunbar Golf Club to environmental and sustainability projects has again been reflected in its nomination for a leading golf award.
The Highland club is just one of four finalists for the ‘Environmental Golf Course of the Year’ at the Golf Environment Awards 2021.
Together with two English venues – The Springs GC in Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire County GC – along with the Hong Kong GC, Nairn Dunbar will learn if they have been victorious at a virtual awards ceremony to be held on December 16.
“These are exceptional clubs that we feel have gone above and beyond to consolidate their commitment to sustainable golf course management,” said award organisers.
After Nairn Dunbar was also nominated for the same award among five clubs last year, course manager Richard Johnstone and his team will hope to go one better following their sterling work during a challenging year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On and off the course, Johnstone has overseen a host of projects which have again been highlighted by the judging panel. The course is a haven for wildlife, a sign of a healthy environment, while members and visitors are enjoying an improved links experience.
“We are delighted to again be nominated for this award given all the hard work we put in at Nairn Dunbar,” said Johnstone, who is continuing to engage in education with the aim to become one of the most qualified in the UK. “We have all endured a difficult year, but it is a credit to our team and club that we have been recognised in this manner once more for our commitment to the environment.”
With the club looking forward to co-hosting qualifying for The Amateur Championship with The Nairn Golf Club next year, Johnstone implemented a rough management plan to return the links roughs to their natural condition, allowing native grasses, wildflowers and heathers to regenerate to a dominant position to leave long, open and wispy roughs.
Working closely with the likes of BIGGA, STRI and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, tree and gorse thinning has revealed the natural topography and also allowed natural grasses to return, restoring the links effect to the overall course.
The club are also working with the R&A to help promote Golf Course 2030, an industry initiative to address the challenges posed by climate change, resource constraints and regulation on golf course conditioning and playability.
Other key environmental improvements have seen Nairn Dunbar do the following:
- Reduced fertiliser inputs by 78% since 2015
- Reduced irrigation usage by 50%
- Reduced organic matter from 13% to 5% to promote firm and fast links surfaces
- Not sprayed a chemical fungicide or pesticide since 2016
- Migratory bird study/ringing since 2017
Rowan Rumball, Ecological Consultant at STRI, said: “Nairn Dunbar is a fantastic example of a links course, traditionally set through undulating dunes and natural links land. Links courses are where golf started. Golf courses are also venerable institutions with many being in place for over a hundred years. The management of a golf course must reflect the needs of the game, the aesthetics of the course and how to maximise the ecological benefit of the environment.”
James Hutchison, Ecological Consultant at BIGGA, added: “As with all ecology, finding the correct balance is key and it appears that the team at Nairn Dunbar are on the right track with the removal of certain copses of trees and returning the property back to its former habitat i.e. open grasslands with dune slack characteristics.”
The bird ringing scheme at Nairn Dunbar has also been notable, with a total of 218 birds caught (comprising 16 different species) dating back to 2017. Bird nesting is prolific across the site, with many travelling from as far as Africa. Indeed, a blackcap ringed on the course in the spring of 2019 was caught again by ringers on the Iberian Peninsula in the spring of 2020 as it migrated north.
Elsewhere, Nairn Dunbar are also working hard environmentally, including solar panels on the south facing roof of the clubhouse, the use of electric buggies instead of petrol powered and the recycling of as much waste as possible.
“We have communicated to the community to ensure they know we are more than just a golf course, explaining what we do to encourage wildlife and natural habitats and sustainable practices,” added Johnstone. “We also encouraged the community to visit and walk the golf course during lockdown. This has helped us gain lots of positive comments and I’m sure has helped the club gain over 100 new club members this year. It is also our intention to involved the local schools’ craft, design and art departments, to help build different nest boxes and signage throughout the course.”