Page last updated at 12:35 GMT, Thursday, 16 July 2009 13:35 UK

How green is your golf course?

Turnberry golf course
The use of herbicides and pesticides is limited allowing wild grasses to flourish

By Huw Williams
BBC News

The Open will feature eagles and birdies... and even a Tiger.

But as well as the golf, there will also be beetles, seabirds and extinct volcanoes.

The Royal and Ancient and Scottish Natural Heritage have joined forces to publish a hole-by-hole guide to Turnberry's Ailsa course, encouraging spectators to enjoy the area's rich wildlife and natural environment.

But how environmentally friendly are golf courses? They may have greens, but are they green?

Turnberry golf course

I joined Dorothy Simpson of Scottish Natural Heritage for a walk along the beach which skirts the course to find out.

She explained: "This year the Open is on a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) at Turnberry and there's quite a lot of things to see apart from the golf."

We walked to the top of the dunes through some beautiful scrubland and wild flowers, but is that what makes the area so scientifically important?

Dorothy said it helped, as it was the habitat for a huge population of more than 90 species of beetle - which was why the area had been designated an SSSI.

"The beetles themselves are the basis for the other wildlife that people can see, like the birds and some mammals as well, so it's a whole chain of interconnected species that make it special for wildlife."

We walked to the top of the dunes, with a view of the islands of Ailsa Craig and Arran.

Away to our right was a lighthouse and beyond that evidence of long-extinct volcanoes - another thing which makes this part of the coast so important.

Careful management

In addition to the biological SSSI beside the golf course, a stretch further up from the lighthouse has been designated as a geological SSSI. It shows evidence of extinct volcanoes along the coast, dating from hundreds of millions of years ago.

The other issue that had to be raised was that golf courses have often been described as green deserts - they may look beautiful, natural and lush, but in fact they are over-pesticided, over-fertilised, over-irrigated, over-mown, over-managed and not much use for wildlife.

Golfer looking for his ball
Wild grasses are allowed to flourish in the Turnberry rough

However, Dorothy disagreed with that argument.

"There's regulations now for all land managers about the use of herbicides and pesticides and golf courses have to be careful how they use them. It's much better to work with nature than against it," she said.

"A golf course such as this shows the results. The fairways here are cut and not fertilised. As soon as you come off the fairways and into the rough, the grasses are allowed to come through.

"You see this lovely sward of Ladies' Bedstraw and Yellow Rattle and all the different wild flowers are ready just to come through.

"It retains them in a manner which you don't find in things like an agricultural field which is just sown with agricultural grasses and one sort of monoculture."

When it comes to the environment, it appeared that Turnberry managed to make the cut.



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SEE ALSO
Live - The Open
16 Jul 09 |  Golf
The Open in photos
16 Jul 09 |  Golf
Behind the scenes at the Open
14 Jul 09 |  Golf

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