GC Sylt: Nature is constantly playing along

If you want to understand how strongly the interweaving of golf with the interests of nature on the island of Sylt is, the best thing to do is stand on the third tee of the Sylt Golf Club in Germany. From there you can see the Braderuper Heathland . As the wind, an integral part of the golf game here, tugs at clothing, the gaze is bathed in a variety of colors. Depending on the season, they change between brown, purple and green tones. The heath is one of the most threatened habitats in Schleswig-Holstein. In the meantime, 50 percent of the remaining statewide area is on the island of Sylt. Of these, the Braderuper Heide represents the largest contiguous area. A small piece of it extends to the grounds of the golf course, which, with its almost 60 hectares, borders on this nature reserve and the following Wadden Sea on one side, but on the other side offers a view of the Kampen dunes.

Heath care is a hot topic

No wonder then that the operation of a golf course, which was decided in 1984 and is still run by a non-profit association, repeatedly comes up against the concerns of nature and landscape protection. “Heath care plays an important role for us,” explains board member Rolf-Stephan Hansen, pointing out the 1.4 hectares of heathland that will be newly created with the ongoing renovation of nine fairways. The development of heathland is a lengthy undertaking that lasts ten to twelve years.

In addition to the development of the heath, a care program that meets the requirements of climate change plays an important role at the Sylt Golf Club. “Especially when it comes to water, we have to position ourselves for the future,” summarizes Hansen, who refers to the new irrigation technology for the greens, which enables individual and thus significantly more economical irrigation of the green areas. Basically, according to greenkeeper Thomas Schweikert, in view of the sensitivity when dealing with the subject of water, it is above all about saving this resource. “Fortunately, more than ten years ago, we started promoting arid grasses such as Festuca in greenkeeping.” That is now paying off. In view of the fact that the constant wind quickly leads to the fairways drying out anyway, hard-wearing varieties are the first choice on the North Sea island.

Strong focus on Sylt as a golf destination

By participating in the Golf & Nature certification program of the German Golf Association new perspectives on numerous other areas of a golf course have opened up within the golf club: “Sub-areas such as the equipment of the depot, the precise analysis of the amounts of water taken or the necessary tests for personnel or equipment are particularly important with such a certification” , states Hansen, who, however, also points out that golf courses on Sylt are in the public eye so much anyway that it has become a matter of course to deal with the idea of sustainability.

“We have become a golf destination,” he sums up. Due to the strong domestic tourism during the corona pandemic, the golf courses of the Schleswig-Holstein Golf Association on Sylt are being used more than ever by greenfee players. The combination of nature and sports experience plays an important role in the attractiveness of the facility. If, as is currently the case, conversion measures create more playful attractiveness and a higher quality standard on the one hand, compatibility with the specifications of the nature and water authorities is essential on the other.

Just thinking of the golf course as a sports facility is hardly possible here. The consideration of the directly adjacent Braderuper Heide, of wind and weather is a permanent part of the considerations. However, this is the only way to get the full appeal of a round of links golf on Sylt.