Golf before next level in species protection

The thing with the honey bee is going brilliantly: there is hardly a golf course in Germany that does not cooperate with a beekeeper, set up beehives, and sells honey from the golf course. The topic of “bee deaths” has created awareness for species protection in the golf scene. Now it’s about the next level: promoting biodiversity beyond the honey bee. “It’s not just about the bee, other species have just as many or maybe even more problems,” summarizes Hubert Fleischmann , who works as an honorary ant warden in Bavaria. “Today I just took in six dead colonies again,” is his sobering summary. “We have been recording extreme ant deaths for six years.”

His colleague Markus Liebl, bat expert at the State Association for Bird Protection in Bavaria, doesn’t feel much different: “The stocks are declining because the insects are fewer and so are the structurally rich landscapes. Four of the 24 native bat species are considered to be threatened with extinction, and numerous species are endangered.

Expert knowledge wanted

According to both experts, golf courses have the potential to improve the situation of the animals. Large unused areas, structurally rich areas with hedges, trees, roughs and biotopes represent habitats that are otherwise rarely found on this scale. The problem of golf clubs: The proper handling of highly endangered species requires expert knowledge, which is usually only rarely found on golf courses.

The introduction of space on the one hand, the assessment of experts on the other – this combination ultimately brings success for the animals. “We didn’t know what to do with them,” explains Kurt Knote, ex-president and Golf & Nature supervisor at GC Schwanhof, with a view of a large ant hill next to a fairway of the club in the Upper Palatinate. Knote called Fleischmann, the ant warden, who was inspecting the various ant colonies on the site. A strategy for the protection of the animals was defined – since then Knote, like head greenkeeper Ian McNiven, has been inspecting the deposits again and again. The project was comparatively easy to implement: it was crucial that the animals were not disturbed or hindered.

Just like the bats in the house next to the ball distribution of the GC Schwanhof. “Of course they get a little dirty, but we’ll just accept that for now,” explains Managing Director Detlef Hennings, looking at the bat droppings. It’s actually great that the bats feel comfortable on the system. “Then it’ll just be cleaned once more.” In this case, too, Knote had picked up the phone and obtained an expert opinion. They ended up with Markus Liebl from LBV Bayern, who suggested a few optimization options for the animals’ habitat.

Golf courses offer space for more biodiversity

The cooperation between nature conservation associations and experts for special animal species will be essential for Germany’s golf courses in the next few years. After the introduction to the topic of biodiversity was created via the honey bee in many golf clubs, the topic of “biodiversity” will subsequently include other areas and species. The correct handling of the animals is essential.

“Simply relocating an anthill is not a good idea,” explains Fleischmann. This is often inhabited by one people for several generations. “It’s like relocating a refugee.” It is also forgotten that the ants are an important source of food for other animal species that are also threatened – the woodpecker, for example. For this reason alone, ant wardens throughout Germany offer to inspect ant colonies, although these are often difficult to spot unless they are the clearly visible wood ants with their large mounds.

The same applies to the sometimes tiny bats, which find numerous shelters in the outbuildings of golf courses, in nesting boxes or in cracks in trees. Here, the State Association for Bird Protection in the various regions of Germany offers to identify the species, conducts tours at night or helps when the animals have settled in an extremely unsuitable place in a building.

In addition, NABU and BUND are also active in matters of species protection and contact persons for questions. At Konstanz GC in Baden-Württemberg, for example, the initiative for cooperation came from the local BUND group. The previously prevailing fears of contact between the nature conservation associations and the golf courses have thus largely been overcome. Both sides have recognized that cooperation represents a win-win situation that promotes biodiversity in Germany.