February 2009 saw us start work on the regeneration program for the Heathland here at Neath Golf Club. This program has been put together after several years of discussion with the ecology unit at the STRI along with visits to and meetings with the golf course managers from some of the great heathland courses such as Hankley Common, Coombe Hill & Sunningdale. The intention of this program is to reinstate and manage our heather which will in time see us return the golf course (in areas) back to heathland and restore Neath Golf Club as the true heathland golf course in Wales and one of the best in the UK.
The 4 areas that have been worked on so far this year are:
- Area to the right of the 7th fairway stretching across to behind the 3rd & 6th green and back towards the 7th tees.
- Area between the 8th and 13th fairways.
- Area up the left of the 9th fairway.
- Area to the left of the 10th fairway into the back and side of the 11th tees.
This picture shows the first stage of management being carried out on the 9th heather bank. A residual herbicide was sprayed over the area which will, over the next 4 months, retard and then kill the grass growth. This will coincide with the heather starting to grow and coupled with the competitive grass receding allowing the heather to develop and cover the ground.The treated areas have now been roped off (picture below) to stop buggies and trolleys from entering the areas. This has been done for 2 reasons, firstly to stop the herbicide applied to be carried on the wheels/tires onto the fairway turf (which would then die) and secondly one of the main reasons that heather dies back is traffic damage. By roping off these areas we are giving the plant the best possible chance to establish and grow. It is important to remember that these areas are still in play and are not G.U.R. (ground under repair) you are entitled however to take relief if the rope or stake interferes with either your stance or swing as per rule 24-2b (relief from an immovable object). Basically you take a drop within one club length of the nearest point of relief not nearer the hole.
For the rest of this season we will let nature take its course and we will be monitoring the areas closely to bench mark progress. In the Autumn we will cut and collect the heather to a height of 8 to 10 inches, dry out the ‘brashings’ (which contain the seed) and then spread this back over any open ground within the areas to further the regeneration process.
I would like to say at this point that it will be necessary to remove scrub and trees from these areas however I can assure you that this does not mean that we are going to remove every tree from this golf course. As with every area of the golf course trees and heather need managing and by removing trees/scrub & encouraging the heather to regenerate we will be able to add to the biodiversity of our site as well as the quality of the golf course. Heathland provides an amazing habitat for insects, reptiles, birds and mammals and we should be making every effort to help keep and restore our natural heathland as across the UK it is disappearing at a rate of 200 acres a year, that’s an area one and a quarter the size of this club.
The picture here illustrates perfectly the way in which well managed trees and heather can be brought together to produce a wonderful environment for the golf course to play through. You will notice that the trees in this picture (Hankley Common Golf Club) have been thinned out allowing those remaining to become fully developed and strong adding structure of the heath. This is what we are looking to achieve here at Neath and I for one believe that this is well within our grasp. It will take a few years to establish but at least by taking these first few steps we are on our way to stopping what heather we have left from dying out completely and moving towards restoring this valuable natural resource and our wonderful golf course back to its former glory.
Thank you for taking the time to read this information bulletin and for your ongoing co-operation and patience with this matter.