Landscape analysis at the Munich GC: golf course promotes habitats

It is considered close to the city, as “the” Munich Golf Club: The 27-hole course of the Munich Golf Club is actually not far from the southern outskirts of the Bavarian capital in Germany. Pullach or Solln are maybe ten minutes away by car, then take the country road out into what is professionally known as the “Young Moraine Landscape of the Ammer-Loisach Hill Country”. As a layman, one perceives the area as a slightly undulating meadow landscape in which fields and forests alternate with small towns and a golf course.

How can a golf course like this one, which was opened in Straßlach-Dingharting in 1963 with a driving range and in 1964 with the first 18 holes, be assessed from the point of view of the biodiversity of the terrain? The students Krishna Cholleti and Francesca Simonetto dealt with this question in 2018/2019 as part of a bachelor thesis at the Technical University of Munich Weihenstephan, using the methodology of a historical landscape analysis .

How do landscape elements develop in and around a golf course?

Maps were used to analyze not only the development of the golf course itself, but also the surrounding area, after all the river Isar forests are not far away. And: The golf course is located within a landscape protection and drinking water protection area. Incidentally, the course’s third 9-hole loop, the so-called C course, was added later – it was opened in 1996.

The number and variety of landscape elements is important for the analysis of the value of a golf course with regard to biodiversity: This means trees, rows of trees or hedges, water bodies or fields. The larger and more diverse the combinations, the more valuable the site is, because more plants, animals and insects find a habitat here.

A look back 150 years gave the authors a clear picture: in 1864, the maps on today’s golf course area primarily show fields, which were largely replaced by grassland by 1951. More and more buildings are being built around the golf course area, and trees are being planted.

Since the completion of the 27-hole course, the picture has changed significantly: the originally hard transitions from forest to open landscape have become softer. Several ponds can be found on the site, dense woods, hard roughs but also single trees have increased significantly in area on the older 18 holes.

Positive ecological balance

According to the authors, numerous species benefited from this: Individual large trees “ensure microclimatic differentiation, for example by providing wind protection or shade.” Breeding places for birds of prey are created, birds find cover. Bats, the dormouse or the dormice benefit from the old stock of trees.

The orchards on the site, which create a habitat for insects, small mammals and birds in particular, are also rated positively in the study. When it comes to the ponds, Cholleti and Simonetto consider it important to note, that there should be a connection to bushes and forests, so that they act as “stepping stone biotopes to other bodies of water in Großdingharting, Beigarten and the Isar.”

Overall, the authors’ assessment is positive: The ecological conditions on the golf course have improved, both in the dense woodland and in individual trees. The greatest ecological diversity is attested to the hard roughs, which have grown on the original 18-hole course and, above all, are often interconnected. The newer C course is not quite as advanced in terms of biodiversity – but is obviously also developing positively.

The decisive factor is the variety of different habitats and their properties – they have apparently significantly increased the biodiversity on the site. Pure farmland 150 years ago was of little value in comparison.

Golf meets science

Biodiversity and golf courses – Historical landscape analysis of the Munich-Strasslach golf course, Krishna Cholleti & Francesca Simonetto, TUM Weihenstephan, Bachelor of Landscape Architecture and Landscape Planning, Chair of Renaturation Ecology, Prof. Dr. Johannes Kollmann, winter semester 2018/2019