Ferry golf course wins awards

CONSERVATION work to protect rare plants and fragile coastal habitat have won Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club two prestigious national awards.The club spent more than £200,000 last year on its links course to make it safer for walkers using the sea wall after a man got hit by a flying golf ball, improve the golf facilities, and ensure ecology and wildlife was not harmed.

CONSERVATION work to protect rare plants and fragile coastal habitat have won Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club two prestigious national awards.

The club spent more than £200,000 last year on its links course to make it safer for walkers using the sea wall after a man got hit by a flying golf ball, improve the golf facilities, and ensure ecology and wildlife was not harmed.

Now it has been rewarded with an English Golf Environment Award in recognition of its good ecological practice, and also a British and International Golf Greenkeepers' Association best newcomer award.

Conservation adviser to Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Peter Ling, who worked on the project with the Felixstowe Ferry club and Environment Agency, said an ecological management plan was now in place for the future.

He said: "All aspects of course management are undertaken sympathetically, with wildlife and conservation as an overriding factor where any decisions are made.

"Currently we are cutting areas for skylark and retaining patches of bristly oxtongue purely for their ecological value - this has been a brave decision, particularly when the majority of other golf clubs would undertake regular management to get rid of these perceived 'weeds'.

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"As well as enhancing existing ecologically valuable areas, we are creating new ones by undertaking initiatives such as transplanting sea holly."

Sea holly is one of the course's rare plants, while reptiles such as the common lizard, grass snake and slow worm, as well as small mammals, live in its rough.

During the improvement work, the club ensured none of the habitat was lost and soils were removed and stored properly and put back again. The course is now a county wildlife site.

Competition judge Lee Penrose, of the Sports Turf Research Institute, said: "It is true to say many golfers will describe their experience of a particular course in terms of the quality of the greens, course presentation and how they have played. However, the golfers' enjoyment is also subliminally enhanced by the wider surroundings which can often provide valuable wildlife habitat.

"Increasingly golf courses are becoming valuable wildlife havens in a countryside that is increasingly pressurised by commercial and agricultural development."

Bungay and Waveney Valley, Halesworth, Rushmere and Stoke by Nayland also won English Golf Environment Awards.