Cowdray Park Golf Club sits in the centre of the 16,000 acre Cowdray Estate. The mission statement and vision of the Estate includes “caring for the land” and “achieving a sustainable future”, both statements are at the heart of Course Manager Jonathan Smith’s approach to looking after the golf course. Jonathan shared information with us regarding the course and the focus on ecology.
The course is fortunate to be positioned on fine sandy soil and added to this the finest irrigation system available, giving the course fantastic playability and all year-round condition. However, it is Jonathan and his team’s innovative ideas that assist with the long-term sustainability plan.
The course itself measures a total of 260 acres of long grassland, woodland and fine turf areas.
Within the grassland there is a diverse mixture of wildlife which includes many different insects from crickets and grasshoppers, different species of butterfly and bees. Small mammals such as field mice, voles and rabbits are also found, which in turn over the years has attracted the birds of prey including buzzards, sparrow hawks, kites, kestrels and barn owls. The grassland areas are managed once a year to maintain the original landscape. This controls self-set trees and brambles and this work is carried out in late autumn. Throughout the season we leave the bulk of these areas untouched with no herbicides used. This allows the natural wildflowers to flourish and the wildlife to thrive. We have recently installed our first Bee Hive on the course which we are delighted to report has flourished, producing the first stock of honey.
The woodland areas also include the same mixture of wildlife with stunning blue bells and countless glimpses of Roe, Fallow & Muntjac deer.
The fine turf playing areas measure around 90 acres. As the golf course is set on sandy soil, we have a full irrigation covering all the fine turf areas and therefore water usage is a huge concern. We apply a wetting agent to all the fine turf areas which has shown a 50% reduction in irrigation water usage each year since we started using the product. We also we use a local green waste company (Woodhorn), who provides us with a recycle green waste compost. This product is applied to our driest fairways which helps retain moisture as it has a natural slow release fertilizer which also adds to the saving of irrigation water.
Part of our long-term plans include changing the grass species to all the fine turf areas. We plan to introduce drought tolerant species to all the fine turf areas which will greatly reduce our carbon footprint as less irrigation and pesticides will be required.
We have a large reservoir on the Estate which is filled throughout the winter period when the river is at its highest.
Rainwater harvesting is also a priority of ours. Within our maintenance facility the roofs harvest all the rainfall collecting over 12,000 litres per 40mm of rain. This is used for all the liquid spraying and water bowser work throughout the season as the rain water provides the natural nutrients desired.
Cowdray justifiably has a strong reputation for a year-round golfing experience whilst retaining the essence of ecology throughout the Estate.