STRI Head of ecology and environment, Bob Taylor, discusses the 25 year anniversary of the Golf Environment Awards in 2020.
When I was informed that the Golf Environment Awards (GEAs) will be celebrating their 25th anniversary in 2020, I nearly fell off my chair. “How can that be, it only seems like a couple of years ago since I helped gather just a handful of clubs to host the first awards”.
Over the years the GEAs have grown hugely and undergone several changes, which have culminated into what has become the most successful and respected environmental awards in the golfing industry.
Such is their success that we annually have entry requests from golf clubs as far afield as India and even America. There are also calls for the awards to expand into Europe. Could these be an insight into the next stage of the GEAs’ evolution?
A positive impact
One thing is certain the GEAs have gone from strength to strength and they are seen by many clubs as the pinnacle of environmental excellence. The GEAs deliver the inspiration to many greenkeepers to achieve and demonstrate their ecological and environmental passions.
For many more the GEAs provide that first rung on the ladder to learn and see what others are doing and maybe start their own journey of sustainable working.
Many golf clubs through the UK and Ireland are doing superb work for conservation alongside the playing of the game. So much so that our statutory regulators now speak much more positively about golf.
Natural England have told me that golf courses now have a positive impact on the environment. That represents a massive shift in their position towards golf.
This is something the industry needs but it is also something the natural world demands. Especially considering the very real doomsday scenarios much of our wildlife and wild places are facing.
THE GEA family
The GEAs have become a large happy family that gather on the Wednesday evening of BTME week to celebrate all that is good about golf and how this industry can support our declining habitats and wildlife.
At the awards ceremony there is also an opportunity to talk to all manner of different golf clubs, to like-minded people and importantly, given the amount of wine flowing, open up and discuss your interests and how they could be realised.
The GEAs are a movement that continues to grow, and like a family we warmly welcome any members of the golf industry, however big or small, to join us and experience it for themselves.
The finalists for 2020 were announced in November and we are currently busy preparing for the awards night on 22 January. The scoring this year was undertaken by STRI consultants Rowan Rumball, Mark Ferguson and me. As always, we had an incredibly difficult time selecting the winners.
The hours of lost sleep from judges, both past and present, worrying about whether we made the right decision must rack up into the thousands.
We’ve whittled the applicants down to just four finalists for each category: Environmental Golf Club of the Year, Greenkeeper of the Year, Special Project and Operation Pollinator.
For this year such was the level of entrants that we had to announce six finalists for Environmental Golf Club of the Year. Plus, The Home Unions National Award makes its debut at the awards, helping reward the smaller clubs just beginning their ecological and environmental journey.
Let me close by citing just two of the very special initiatives that golf clubs have highlighted for this year’s awards. The first relates to a very special lady member at Clitheroe Golf Club in Lancashire.
Club member, Jean Holt, has been instrumental in generating support for all the ecological initiatives taking place at Clitheroe. Jean’s interest in the ecology of the golf course was sparked by a BBC Countryfile episode on rescuing hedgehogs and re-homing them.
Jean has worked tirelessly to raise the profile of the ecology of the golf course at Clitheroe, but her focus has been the hedgehog rescue project. Working in tandem with Preston Hedgehog Rescue Centre, Jean has rehomed 30 rescued hedgehogs.
Clitheroe golf course provides ideal habitats for hedgehogs as it’s surrounded by agricultural land, has a pond for the hogs to swim in (which is well managed and easy to enter and exit) and is next to a little used railway line which provides a natural night time highway for the hedgehogs.
To help the hedgehogs settle in, Chris, Jean and the ecology team have built four hedgehog houses, which are used by the hedgehogs for the first week of their stay until they become comfortable with the natural surroundings.
The hedgehog project has been embraced by the members and plans are in place to build more hedgehog houses and home more rescue hedgehogs in 2020. This project makes a great entry for the Outstanding Environmental Project of the Year.
At Kington Golf Club in Herefordshire, part of the routine work for the greenkeeping team is reptile habitat management. Bradnor Hill is home to adders, slow worms and common lizards.
Adders are rare in the UK and great efforts have been made at Kington to ensure the habitats are suitable. The club works in partnership with Nigel Hand from Central Ecology on the adder project.
Hibernaculum have been created all over the course and there is good evidence that most of them are in use. Nigel and his team have tagged many of the adders to better understand their patterns of movement.
They were amazed at how far these creatures travelled. In response to the information gathered in the tracking project, the greenkeeping team began to link up out-of-play areas made up of bracken and gorse to ensure connectivity between wildlife corridors and to allow the safe passage of adders across the golf course. These are just two special projects that show with a little foresight and determination anything is possible.
If these projects have whetted your appetite, then why not come along to the GEAs awards evening on 22 January 2020 at the Crown Hotel in Harrogate.
Tickets are now on sale at just £30.00 which includes a champagne reception, three course meal, drinks, a live band and most importantly a chance to watch the awards unfold.
There’s lots of emotion, mainly from me, as we try to pick out some winners from the superb family that share our GEA aspirations that first formed 25 years ago.
Drop us an email firstname.lastname@example.org to book your tickets or call Bryony on 01274565131, but hurry they are going fast.
Looking forward to seeing you there.