BIGGA supports biodiversity on UK’s golf courses

The British & International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) has established a formal relationship with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and The R&As existing partnership, to explore collaborative opportunities to increase awareness and support for biodiversity conservation on golf courses.

A new relationship that will help facilitate mainstream wildlife conservation on golf courses, by promoting best practice and providing inspiration for greenkeeping teams who would like to promote biodiversity at their golf facilities has been established by BIGGA with the RSPB & The R&A partnership.

RSPB Business Conservation Advisor, Dr Marie Athorn, will be running presentations at BIGGA educational events, including Continue to Learn, to offer help and advice to greenkeeping teams, who want to make the most of the ecology on their golf courses.

The relationship and the BIGGA platform will also be used to raise awareness and encourage participation in partnership case studies and research, such as trialling management of nature-based solutions. BIGGA will also support the RSPB and The R&A in achieving the partnership’s goals by providing support whenever possible, such as by hosting guidance notes on the BIGGA website.

James Hutchinson, BIGGA’s Membership Services Manager for Ecology and Sustainability, says:“We consider this relationship to be of tremendous importance as BIGGA, The R&A and the rest of the golf industry seeks to alter the perception of those who believe golf courses as detrimental to the environment.

“Golf courses constitute large areas of mixed habitats, from areas of trees, heathland, wildflower meadows, wetland habitat and even bunkers and, as such, they play a hugely important role in preserving the UK’s under threat wildlife species.

“Turf professionals everywhere have an awareness of their role as stewards of the wider landscape and we’re looking forward to working closely with The R&A and RSPB to promote best practice and in turn provide more habitats for Britain’s wildlife to enjoy alongside the nation’s golfers.”

Dr Marie Athorn, RSPB Business Conservation Officer, adds:“It’s great that BIGGA are giving their full support to the partnership. The partnership, funded by The R&A, has a fantastic opportunity to encourage and facilitate nature conservation on golf courses. With the support of organisations like BIGGA the partnership can reach the passionate and knowledgeable greenkeepers across the UK to showcase the amazing work they are already doing for nature and provide the expertise to those who want to start on their journey to helping nature on their golf course.

“With over 3,000 golf courses in the UK the golf industry is in an amazing position to support nature conservation on a landscape scale. With many golf courses being located in close proximity to densely populated areas, they, if well managed for nature, can provide connectivity across an increasingly urban landscape. Regional BIGGA networks provide an exciting opportunity for golf courses and their greenkeepers to work together to support nature, whether that be a particular species in decline or to restore habitat that supports common and rare species alike.”

Also commenting on the new initiative Steve Isaac, The R&A’s Director of Sustainability, says: “The partnership between The R&A and the RSPB has set out a number of key work areas that will contribute towards the protection of habitats and wildlife on golf courses across the UK. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the health benefits golfers and other users of golf courses gain from enjoying recreation surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature. However, the aims of the partnership will only prove successful and enhance the natural value of golf courses if they are delivered on the ground. Greenkeepers will, obviously, play a vital role in this and the relationship between the partnership and BIGGA provides exciting opportunities we all have for golf and nature. We are delighted that BIGGA has joined this initiative and feel that this reflects the values that many greenkeepers put into practice as the custodians of wildlife on our golf courses.”