Respect and care for the environment are integral to the game of golf. Not only is golf played outdoors, but playing a round of 18 holes implies walking 6 km for about 4½ hours in the countryside. As a result, it is both in the world of golf’s interest and its duty to preserve and improve the natural resources at its disposal.
Golf della Montecchia has been committed to this issue for years. It was one of the first Italian golf clubs to pursue such an important program in order to establish its function as a buffer area between theEuganean Hills Regional Parkand the nearby urban areas. A brief history of the work undertaken by the club follows.
The Club offered to participate in the first survey on Italian golf courses “Gli effetti ambientali delle attività ricreative sul territorio - Il caso del golf in Italia” (The Effects of Leisure Activities on the Environment: the Case of Golf in Italy, ANNEX 1) undertaken by the CNR (National Research Centre) in association with the University of Bologna and the Italian Golf Federation. This study was a milestone for research on the relationship between golf and the environment in Italy for subsequent years.
Golf della Montecchia joined the “Committed to Green” European Environmental Certification Programme. The project began in 1999 with the Valderrama Declaration, an official document signed and approved by leading international golf associations (USGA, EGA, R&A) and environmental associations (The Environmental Commission for the IOC (International Olympic Committee), WWF International, the management team of the United Nations Environment Programme and the European Commission General Directorate for the Environment). Committed to Green’s main objective is to highlight the positive impact that golf can have on the environment and the community, especially when the environment sustainability guidelines are followed. Golf della Montecchia formulated its management policy based on this commitment to safeguard the environment. Initial actions taken by Montecchia:
- Computer programming of the irrigation system to save water (with more uniform water distribution) and energy (increased pump station efficiency), in addition to reducing the use of chemical products (through a healthier turf grass growing environment)
- As a member of the Energy and Environment Association, Golf della Montecchia saw an immediate reduction in energy consumption (by 10%) and electricity costs
- Installation of a timer to ensure that lighting is turned off automatically at a certain time at night
- Ongoing installation of energy-saving lighting
- Recycling of waste in the clubhouse, the maintenance facility and on the course
- Creation of a wash pad for equipment washing
- Creation of the first wild areas in the more out-of-play areas on the course with benefits for the flora and fauna
Golf della Montecchia participated in the first ornithological research program to be conducted on golf courses in Italy; in particular: “Importanza dei campi da golf per la conservazione delle specie ornitiche in Italia” (The Importance of Golf Courses for the Preservation of Bird Species in Italy, ANNEX 2) presented at XII Ornithological Italian Congress and “Avian diversity on golf courses and surrounding landscapes in Italy”, (ANNEX 3) published in Landscape and Urban Planning magazine.
The club began working with the University of Pisa Certes (Centre for Research on Turfgrass) and the Italian Golf Federation Green Section in order to reduce the use of water and chemical products considerably in turf management and to improve golf course quality. This partnership resulted in the creation of the first experimental warm-season turfgrasses nursery to be built at this latitude in Europe. It also helped to launch research on warm-season turfgrass species, which require less water (up to 50% less than traditional turfgrass species) and chemical use. Important scientific papers were presented at the Fifth World Scientific Congress of Golf in Phoenix, Arizona “Warm Season Turfgrass Adaptation in Europe North of the 45° Parallel” (ANNEX 4)and at the First European Turfgrass Society Conference in Pisa “Warm Season Turfgrass Adaptation in Northern Italy” (ANNEX 5).
The club was awarded a Certificate of Merit by the Technical and Scientific Commission of the "Impegnati nel Verde" (Committed to Green) Programme (ANNEX 6). In addition to being its first official recognition, the certificate also acknowledged the club’s achievement of its first environmental objective, encouraging the club to continue its environmental policy:
- Expansion of wild areas, making the course more natural with an increase of plant and animal species in particular (foxes, hares, coots, herons, egrets and wild ducks)
- The increase of wild areas through the elimination of cutting and maintenance practices in out-of-play rough areas, which also reduces fuel consumption for maintenance machinery
- Upgrading of the clubhouse air conditioning system resulting in considerable water and electricity savings
- Installation of a flow meter in the pump station in order to monitor actual water consumption
Based on the data obtained by the experimental test on warm-season turfgrass species, the club began a turfgrass conversion plan of fairways and tees from cool-season to warm-season turfgrass species. Work started with the establishment of Bermudagrass on the white course fairways, with plans to continue in 2011 and 2012 on the red and yellow courses.
In collaboration with the University of Rome (La Sapienza) and Società Darwin, Golf della Montecchia is participating in ornithological research on a national scale, aimed at identifying the role of golf courses in protecting species at risk of extinction.
2011Communication on environmental issues was improved by creating a section “Golf and Environment” on the website and placing a notice board in the clubhouse on the topic.
In May, Golf della Montecchia joined GEO (Golf Environment Organisation (www.golfenvironment.org ), an international non-profit and independent organization, with a view to obtaining environmental quality certification.
The club is also applying for the “Impegnati nel Verde”(Committed to Green) Environmental Award in the water class. In September, the results of the “Specie a priorità di conservazione presenti in alcuni campi da golf italiani” (Priority protected species present in certain Italian golf clubs) research were presented at the Sixteenth Italian Ornithologist Conference. The research was started a year earlier by the University of Rome “La Sapienza” and the Cooperative Society “Darwin” in collaboration with 15 golf clubs, including Golf della Montecchia (ANNEX 7).
The conversion of fairways and tees to Bermudagrass is being continued on the nine holes of the red course.
The introduction of Bermudagrass on fairways and tees helped to dramatically reduce water, fertilizer and pesticide use. For this achievement, Golf della Montecchia was granted the "Impegnati nel Verde" Environmental Award in the water class (ANNEX 8).
On 5th June, on the occasion of World Environment Day celebrations, Montecchia was selected by the Italian Golf Federation for its exceptional environmental commitment (ANNEX 10).
During the same year, Golf della Montecchia started three new studies in collaboration with various research institutes:
- Establishment and winter management of Miniverde Bermudagrass for putting greens in Italy, conducted with Certes of University of Pisa (ANNEX 11)
- Study of the management and evolution of wild areas in a golf course, developed with the University of Padua (ANNEX 12)
- In collaboration with the University of Bologna, development of an innovative tree management system for golf courses (ANNEX 13)
The club’s environmental management policy was further implemented through “Green purchases”: partial replacement of maintenance equipment with low-consumption machines, replacement of the fleet of electric golf carts with ones equipped with the most energy-efficient batteries, purchase of new golf course furniture made from recycled materials, and creation of golf cart paths using inert materials.
In January, Golf della Montecchia was invited to the 25th Conference and Exhibition of STMA (Sport Turf Managers of America) to present the process that led to it implementing its program of conversion of tees and fairways from cool-season grasses to Bermudagrass. Much attention was given to the benefits of Bermudagrass, not only for aesthetic and playing quality, but also for the environment. Indeed, water consumption has been reduced by 70%, fertilizer use by 80% and pesticide use totally eliminated (ANNEX 16).
At the Fourth European Turfgrass Society Conference held in July in Osnabrueck (Germany), Golf della Montecchia presented two scientific papers in collaboration with the University of Pisa and the University of Bologna: “Establishment and winter management of Miniverde Bermudagrass for putting green in Italy” (ANNEX 17) and “Transition from cool-season to warm-season grass: environmental effects in a golf course in the North of Italy” (ANNEX 18).
In the same month, on the occasion of a national amateur golf tournament, Golf della Montecchia joined the Lyoness Greenfinity Foundation (GFF), a non-profit organisation actively involved in environment protection. The purpose was to calculate the footprint of the event and to identify a reforestation project to compensate the CO2 emission, in collaboration with Graz University.
In October, Golf della Montecchia started a new study in collaboration with the University of Turin on the biological control of the fungal pathogen Ophiosphorella spp (Spring Dead Spot).
Also in October, the club received a new international award. On the occasion of the IGTM 2014 (International Golf Travel Market), Golf della Montecchia was nominated for the IAGTO Sustainability Award, recognition reserved for the very best golfing destinations standing out for their environmental commitment, ranking second among over 120 candidate courses.
Beginning 1st January, Golf della Montecchia has made the nine holes of the yellow course available for the first “case study” of the innovative “BIOGOLF” project. This project is supported by the Istituto per il Credito Sportivo (Sport Credit Institute), the Italian Golf Federation and major Italian environmental organizations: Legambiente, Federparchi and Univerde Foundation. The project involves maintaining the golf course without the use of chemicals.
In March, the club participated in the presentation of the hybrid Volkswagen Golf in collaboration with Slovenian car magazine “Plugin Magazine” (ANNEX 19).
The pumping station was completely modernized the same month. Thanks to the frequency modulators on all pumps, the new system improved not only water distribution, but also generated energy savings of about 60% in the first year.
In May, Golf della Montecchia purchased two new machines for mowing the rough, which reduces mowing times and keeps fuel consumption down.
In the same month, seven artificial nests were installed for swallows, an endangered species.
At the IGTM 2015 (International Golf Travel Market), Golf della Montecchia was nominated for the IAGTO Sustainability Award for the second time, recognition reserved for the top golfing destinations standing out for their environmental commitment.
December saw the conclusion of the club’s participation in the European “WATERGOLF” research project, identifying soil moisture monitoring systems to optimize irrigation. A weather station and soil temperature sensors were installed under this project (ANNEX 20).
At the end of the year, an agreement was signed with Radar Meteo and Earth Networks to install a lightning detection antenna with the new “cloud to cloud” system.
The club’s calendar for 2016 was dedicated to the fauna present in the course for promotional purposes (ANNEX 21).
Golf della Montecchia’s commitment was rewarded with the renewal of G.E.O environmental certification on 13th May at the “Montecchia Challenge Open by Lyonness” in the presence of Federal Vice-president Antonio Bozzi and GEO Director Kelli Jerome (ANNEX 22).
The results of the study conducted in collaboration with the Italian Golf Federation and the University of Padua and entitled “Golf course management strategies for improving biodiversity in naturalized roughs” were presented at the Fifth European Turfgrass Society Conference (ANNEX 23).
The “Biogolf” project continues and has received scientific support from the Universities of Bologna, Pisa and Padua. Five studies have been launched:
- Analysis of the conversion of greens from Agrostis stolonifera to ultradwarf Bermudagrass Cynodon dactylon x tranvaalensis cv. Miniverde
- Technical-economic and environmental comparison between traditional and biological maintenance
- Effects of the fungal pathogen Ophiosphorella spp on Bermudagrass root systems
- Bunker edging maintenance without the use of chemicals
- Path maintenance without the use of chemicals
On 13th June, work began on converting the turfgrass of the greens on the yellow course from Agrostis stolonifera to ultradwarf Bermudagrass Cynodon dactylon x tranvaalensis cv. Miniverde. The greens were reopened for play on 18th August.
Within the "BIOGOLF" case study, the University of Bologna launches two new researches:
- Technical-economic comparison between traditional maintenance and organic maintenance of a golf course
- Planting of trees and bushes to support the Cynodon dactylon x tranvaalensis cv Miniverde turfgrass
An harrow is tested to keep large-leaf infesting grasses under control, as such tool limits their growth mechanically. To the aim of achieving an optimal management of the bunkers, a new material is employed to stabilize the bed while turfs of Zoysia matrella are planted along the edges. An acidifier is installed to reduce the soil PH and the water consumption and to limit fungal pathogens.
In September, Golf della Montecchia organizes the seminar titled "Organic management of a golf course: the BIOGOLF case study".
To emphasize the importance of our efforts to achieve sustainable turfgrass management here at the Montecchia as well as to encourage the collaboration of all of the members of our golf club, we recently changed the name of one of our golf courses. Our “Yellow Course” is now called “Green Course”.
The “Biogolf Case Study”, which is the first attempt to use entirely sustainable, ecological systems to manage turfgrass, is an ongoing project that was originally launched in January 2015. The project is being carried out in collaboration with the Universities of Bologna, Pisa, Padova and Torino.
Just a few of the researchers, professors, specialists and experts who visited Golf della Montecchia over the past year to see how the transitioning is progressing were:
• Steve Isaac, the Director of Sustainability of the R&A
• Jonathan Smith, the Executive Director of the GEO Foundation for Sustainability
• Enzo Moretto, the Director of Esapolis, the Insect Museum of Padova
• Students of the University of Padova accompanied by Prof. Macolino
• Students of the University of Bologna accompanied by Prof. Minelli
• Students and researchers from Penn State University accompanied by Prof. Peter Landshut
• Jorge Croda, the Turfnet Superintendent of the Year 2017
• Superintendents and Greenkeepers from many Italian golf courses The study is presently examining:
• The adaptablity of bermuda grass in the context of a Northern Italian climate;
• How to reduce winter damage to bermuda grass by using plant barriers;
• How to optimize the management of bunkers using Zoysia spp. and with the installation of a specific draining porous bonded layer system;
• How to use alternative methods for weed control on the paths;
• How to increase biodiversity in rough areas using Rhinantus alectolorophus (Cockscomb);
• Mechanical methods to selectively control broadleaf weeds;
• Weather data collection methods;
• Experts from Esapolis, Padova’s insect museum, are presently compiling and updating datasets of plant and animal species to facilitate the study of pollinating insects The “Golf Frassanelle,” the “Terme di Galzignano” and the “Golf della Montecchia”, the three golf courses making up the PlayGolf54 group, have been registered in the “European Charter of Sustainable Tourism” network, an initiative of Federparchi and the Euganean Hills Regional Park and supported by Europarc, a professional network of European protected areas.
Working in partnership with all of its members, the Charter aims to improve the management of protected areas for sustainable tourism During the 2017 edition of the Venice Open, the Golf della Montecchia and the US Kids Foundation collaborated with the Golf Environment Organisation (G.E.O.) to create the means to certify that a tournament has met the criteria set for an environmentally responsible event.
A year later and thanks to that experience, the 2018 edition of the Venice Open attained the GEO Tournament Certification for its environmental responsibility. It was the first Italian tournament and the first tournament for junior participants in the world to receive the certification Some of the factors considered important for attaining the certification included:
• The three golf course (Montecchia, Frassanelle e Galzignano) are managed in an environmentally responsible way;
• For the most part, seasonal food products produced by local, biological food companies were utilized;
• Collective transportation was organized whenever possible to reduce CO2 emission;
• Waste and garbage were managed in a responsible way;
• Banners and other materials from precedent editions were reutilized whenever possible;
• There was a fund raising event for a charitable cause;
• The local community was involved in a variety of ways;
• The importance of environmental sustainability was conveyed to the players, to their families, to the public at large, and to the businesses who were involved in setting up the event. As the human-animal bond is mutually beneficial and increasingly recognized by the scientific community as having a therapeutic effect, we have launched the “Pet Friendly” operation.
The Green Course is equipped with water basins for members who want to spend some quality time with their dog friends while they are playing golf.