Saunton Golf Club – a home for birdies and biodiversity

England Golf is proud to celebrate Biodiversity Day and champion its significance for our sport.

Today is an important date in the calendar – we salute the clubs that are striving to protect and preserve the natural ecosystems on the nation’s golf courses as well as encouraging others to follow suit.

It’s also fitting that, on this day, the exciting conclusion of the prestigious Brabazon Trophy takes place at Saunton Golf Club.

The Devon club is not only an outstanding England Golf Championship venue, but also a 36-hole site where golfing excellence and natural beauty combine to excellent effect and where good practice on matters of biodiversity has become central to the everyday work of staff and volunteers.

Set in an idyllic location on the Braunton Burrows in north Devon, Saunton Golf Club has a host of designations.

These include an Area of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB), a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Due to the delicate coastal ecosystem surrounding the golf club, Natural England must provide consent whenever any significant work to the course needs to be done.

Protecting the biodiversity both within the course boundaries and in the wider area is something that is critical to ensuring that a healthy and vibrant ecosystem not only remains but thrives.

The theme of this year’s Biodiversity Day is “building a shared future for all life” and the 311-acre grounds of Saunton certainly provide a great habitat for a huge number of plant and animal life.

Over 400 species of wild flowers have been located on site, as well as orchids, evening primrose, scarlet pimpernel and kidney vetch.

That’s not to mention the numerous birds that call Saunton home, such as skylark, sedge warbler, sand martin, meadow pipit and whitethroat.

A five-year ecology plan, completed in 2021, outlined the commitment of Saunton Golf Club to the local Braunton Burrows dune system.

Currently ranked “unfavourable and in decline”, steps need to be taken to reverse this trend and the ecology plan shows action that can be taken on each of 36 holes at the facility.

One of the main action items is to remove invasive scrub, which can attack quickly and aggressively, damaging coastal dune habitats if it isn’t managed correctly.

The team at Saunton led by head greenkeeper Murray Long has been hard at work to ensure that they’re doing their part to protect the local environment and the local community of flora and fauna, whilst ensuring that the golf courses remain both visually and strategically intact.

You can hear more from Murray in our video and see for yourself the natural beauty of Saunton on a championship week.

Beyond the biodiversity work that Saunton is undertaking, they are also incorporating a range of other measures to ensure that the club is being managed sustainably, and they were recognized by becoming GEO Certified.

Some of these measures include:

  • installing solar panels on the clubhouse roof and electric vehicle charging stations in the car park
  • enacting a robust recycling operation across the entire club
  • using a fleet of hybrid greens mowers, with the goal to transition to fully electric over the coming years
  • following a water management system consisting of a reservoir, two bore holes and potential horizontal well point, with the aim to become fully self-sustainable when it comes to sourcing water

Congratulations to Saunton Golf Club on all their hard work so far, and their dedication to biodiversity and sustainability!

We’d love to hear what other clubs are doing in this area.

Feel free to get in touch with us at sustainability@englandgolf.org to share good practice, no matter how big or small.

Happy Biodiversity Day – let’s all do our part to make sure golf has a positive impact!