No problem with the energy crisis

Everyone is talking about the energy crisis. About electricity bills that quadruple. About clubhouses that can no longer be heated. About costs and about emergency meetings of the board. And yet the picture is far more differentiated when you draw up an energy balance sheet after an eight-day tour of Germany and visiting 20 golf courses: Far more facilities than expected are comparatively relaxed when it comes to energy, because they already started years ago to focus on the economical use of resources or alternative technologies. The picture that presents itself to the visitor on this journey between Kiel in Schleswig-Holstein and Straubing in Lower Bavaria is extremely diverse.

Rethought 20 years ago

The most striking thing about it is that, unlike so often in golf, there are not the successful, large facilities from German leaderboards on the one hand and the small golf clubs that hardly anyone knows about on the other. The picture is much more mixed: There is the Bavarian top club, which, in its search for energy optimization, must now first analyze which individual power guzzlers will actually split the bill of around 150,000 euros. And that’s where an average plant like the GC Altenstadt in Hesse.“We’ve had the heat pump heating system right from the start, and we’ve also had the photovoltaic system with 80 kilowatt peak on the roof for a few years. Four e-charging columns are fed by it, as are all the carts, the office buildings and the catering facilities” resumes Markus Rott. Why is that? “Our investor has been interested in the energy issue from the very beginning,” explains the club manager. He seems pretty relaxed when it comes to the topic of electricity costs.

Photovoltaics available in many clubs

The GC Altenstadt is no exception: at the GC Attighof, just half an hour away, they have also had a photovoltaic system on the roof for more than 20 years. The wood heating system is largely fired with wood from the forest stand on the golf course. “Unfortunately, we are struggling with spruce dieback here, but at least we can then use the spruces ourselves for heating, explains club manager Daniel Deutschmann. Almost 600 kilometers further up north, Dieter Kollwitz stands in front of the various buildings of the 27-hole Golf am Donner Kleve course and looks out over the rooftops. Photovoltaic modules everywhere you look. The founder of the golf course and his partners have leased each of the roofs, but then purchase the electricity from the tenants. The business model has been a win-win situation for both sides since the beginning of the millennium.

Those who visit golf courses in series in German facilities often come across photovoltaic systems. Initially, they were built because there was money to be made by feeding electricity into the grid. In the meantime, in addition to the purely financial aspect, the pleasant security of having a degree of self-sufficiency in the energy market has grown. If a heat pump or groundwater heat pump is added, as is the case at the GC Gäuboden in Straubing, the balance is quite positive: “This heat pump was already energetically sensible for our requirements more than 20 years ago,” sums up owner Florian Erhardsberger. This statement is all the more true today.

Little fertilizer, little mowing, little diesel

Fortunately, the club’s photovoltaic system also ensures that the electric green mower is also filled by its own electricity. “It works primatly with the accumulators,” summarizes head greenkeeper Robert Färber. He then gets right to the point: “You get the most energy savings by not mowing at all.” Excessive and incorrect fertilization contribute to excessive grass growth, as does overwatering. Färber, who has a reputation in Bavaria for delivering some of the best greens in the region, is a fierce advocate of a very restrained use of fertilizers and water. The first-class roll of the ball on the green proves him right.

“First you pay for fertilizer, then you pay for diesel and labor, and then you pay for fungicides because you’re fighting disease,” he says, explaining the witchcraft cycle he wants to avoid. “We don’t fertilize for growth here, and the motto for the grass is brown is beautiful.” Diesel consumption on the plant is kept within limits.

Dyer is recognizably in good spirits as he explains all this. He earns an approving nod from the Erhardsberger brothers, who operate the golf course. There is no sign of a crisis atmosphere.

Long-term contracts instead of short deals

After an eight-day tour of Germany, which of course only provides a small cross-section and by no means claims to be complete, one impression remains: when it comes to energy, the crisis mood is not overwhelming. By no means does the industry rely solely on oil and gas. And even at those facilities that have been doing this for decades, you’ll then run into a club manager at another top Bavarian facility who says with a smile, “We just signed a 5-year contract last year because the prices were so good.” They preferred to have long-term security rather than chasing the next deal year after year in the short term. This, too, has since turned out to be the right strategy.