The Glenelg Golf Club has initiated several new projects in recent years, in an effort to explore environmentally friendly measures and reduce the cost of utilities.

Speaking to Course Superintendent Tim Warren and Biodiversity Manager Monina Gilbey, they explained what the club has been doing to implement more sustainable practices.

What is the initiative?

The Glenelg Golf Club recently received a grant for $95,000 from Green Adelaide to create a habitat connectivity project. Working with the Royal Adelaide and Grange Golf Clubs, the habitats between the courses are being connected to create corridors for butterflies, small birds and bees.

Part of this initiative incorporates a plant preservation project. As some of the Indigenous vegetation on the Glenelg, Royal Adelaide and Grange courses are the last remaining populations of these plants in Adelaide, each club will swap plant material to collectively protect the plants for future generations.

To help members learn more about the club’s indigenous plants and promote sustainable agriculture, Glenelg Golf Club held a ‘Grazing the Course’ dinner. Andrew Fielke (a member and native foods chef) created a five-course meal using plants harvested from the course and served with paired wines. It’s believed that this may be one of the first golf course wild food degustation dinners in the world.

Course enhancement works will also take place over the next few years to reduce the amount of maintained irrigated rough and turn it into naturalised vegetated areas. Reducing the amount of rough lessens maintenance work i.e. cutting and spraying and doesn’t use as much water which assists in becoming more economically viable.

Steps have been taken to reduce paper use through the use of QR Codes. The technology is being used for pre-start machinery checks, access to safety data sheets, fuel logs and check-ins for volunteers to log time in and out.

Smaller changes have also been made as these still play an important role in the club’s sustainable future. Plastic clamshells have been removed from the clubhouse ahead of the single-use plastics ban next year. This has diverted 7,500 clamshells - around 120kg of plastic - from landfill. Members are playing a role in collecting broken plastic tees and boxes for broken tees, made by the Camden Park Men’s Shed, have been placed at some holes.

Given the club’s focus on environmentally friendly practices, it’s no surprise that it’s one of 25 clubs in Australia involved in a pilot project of the OnCourse platform. This is a GEO Foundation initiative to help golf courses become more sustainable.

How did these ideas come about?

Ideas for the course come from the Course Superintendent, Biodiversity Manager and the Projects and Construction Manager. The removal of plastic clamshells from the clubhouse came from the clubhouse staff to help members acclimatise to paper wrapping ahead of the ban. Some ideas come from members, like the collection of plastic tees and the ‘Grazing the Course’ dinner.

Who championed these changes?

Some projects are championed by the Biodiversity Manager and the Course Superintendent and implemented cooperatively with our Course Operations team.

The ‘Grazing the Course’ dinner was a project that involved all departments - the Clubhouse (function, head chef, kitchen, front-of-house, marketing and promotion) and Course Operations (staff helped with the menu and harvested food).

The QR Codes project was an idea of the Course Superintendent. The Course Superintendent and Biodiversity Manager worked with the club’s Marketing Manager to create the online forms.

What barriers did you come across in implementing this idea or practices? What has been the reaction (from club members and broader)?

One of the barriers has been selling the importance and value of a biodiverse course and environmental activities to members. Member updates and regular social media posts are used to promote activities and create more interest and engagement in what the club is trying to achieve.

Do you think this initiative could be easily picked up by other clubs and in different sports?

Every club has the potential to make change – it relies on the willingness of its committee and members to support the idea and the implementation of change.

Initiatives like reducing plastic waste and recycling deposits could easily be picked up by clubs. If clubs have any garden area, they could plant indigenous plants and create habitat. Nest boxes made by a local men’s shed could also be installed. While most clubs would not have the scale of watering requirements a golf course has, a rainwater tank can be used for flushing toilets or watering garden areas.

Any advice for other clubs seeking to implement these changes?

Every club can make a small change to become more environmentally sustainable. Decide what is within your budget and within your capabilities to maintain and sustain.

Is there a next step/are you looking to grow this further?

QR codes have been well received by staff and they are now used on course to help members learn the local rules. There is also potential for QR codes to help members and visitors learn more about the plants and garden areas.

To make the course as biodiverse as possible, the club is also planning to:

  • add more nest boxes and bee hotels.
  • start collecting material and growing its own plants in a refurbished plant nursery.
  • encourage members to be involved in planting and growing plants.
  • establish partnerships with local schools to grow plants and help educate students about urban biodiversity.

Have these initiatives supported increase in members/volunteers/revenue?

The environmental projects have gradually been increasing over the years and it is hard to tell yet whether this has resulted in an increase in members and revenue. Members are starting to get involved in projects and a refurbished nursery will encourage more involvement.