From dense swards to biodiverse roughs. Soil fertility management to enhance biodiversity and functionality of golf course roughs

Project German Golf Association

Prof. Dr. J. Kollmann, Chair of Restoration Ecology, Technical University of Munich

Golf courses have considerable potential to support biodiversity and ecological functions, and to contribute to the provisioning of ecosystem goods and services – both at the course and at the landscape level. Appropriate planning and management are key to realise this potential of reduced maintenance costs, improved biodiversity and enhanced ecosystem services, while maintaining high-quality playing conditions. The support of pollinators is one such critical ecosystem service that requires more attention and where golf courses actually could make a significant difference at the landscape scale.

A promising strategy is to promote the biodiversity of flowering herbs in peri-urban landscapes, where conflicts with agricultural management are less pronounced. These areas often have a high density of golf courses, and thus the strategy fits well with ongoing programs for multifunctional golf courses and ecosystem services. If golf courses could provide resources for pollinators (like pollen, nectar, nesting and wintering sites), they would contribute to larger and more robust pollinator populations, and also to more diverse pollinator communities. For golfers this may well be a win-win situation as less dense and less grass-dominated roughs with more flowering herbs will also increase the aesthetic value of the golf course, make it easier to find the balls after poor strokes, will improve stroke distance and the pace of play. Furthermore, the conversion of some of the semi-roughs or even fairway areas into tall flowering roughs can also reduce the maintenance cost on the golf course.