Landscape reinvigoration at Beau Desert

Landscape reinvigoration at Beau Desert: In his 31 years at Beau Desert Golf Club in Cannock, Staffordshire, Course Manager Steve Mucklow has overseen a lot of changes.

But few have been on the scale of the landscape reinvigoration he and his team are working towards.

Landscape reinvigoration at Beau Desert

Landscape reinvigoration at Beau Desert

Sustainability – in every sense of the word – is the goal and Steve, along with Head Greenkeeper Luke Sheldon, are seeing the fruits of their labour.

The recent delivery of the first phase of new John Deere machinery marks the start of change in direction in the machinery fleet which will help meet efficiency and productivity targets the team has set itself.

“The course has changed more in the past five years because of all the work that we’ve put into heathland regeneration,” says Steve. “What we’re really about is sustainability and we’ve managed to get the resources to improve and redevelop the golf course. That includes the machinery and with John Deere on board that’s very much part of us moving forward.”

All around the course there is evidence of the work the team has put in to maintain a Top 100-level golf course while allowing the natural environment to flourish around it.

It was Steve who got the ball rolling on the sustainability mission, and the whole club is now driving towards making the 170-acre course as sustainable as possible.

“The one thing that we needed to do after the best part of 100 years was to start looking at redeveloping the course and bringing it into the modern era,” says Steve.

“But for us, it’s also important to keep the tradition of the course. The way in which we’ve redeveloped the holes is in a very traditional way – everything we’ve used materials wise has come from on-site to keep everything sustainable and natural.”

“Beau Desert is not written about in loads of magazines or advertised greatly,” Luke says. “It’s one of those courses where you’ve just got to come out and play it and experience it for yourself, and when people do come and play, they come back.”

Steve attributes the course’s traditional Fowler design and heathland appeal.

“Certainly from the mid 1970s, fuelled by tv, the trend was for green and stripes, fast, receptive greens, that Masters style set up – golf has gone full circle now, the traditional ‘running game’ is back in focus, in vogue, that suits us just fine here at Beau.”

So far, the Beau Desert team has completed the restoration of three holes, the first, fifth and 18th, and their aim is to have the course fully restored by 2030. The club not only has the redevelopment template in place, but also the Heathland and Woodland management plan and a Farming in Protective Landscapes funded scheme.

The club’s 650 members have all been openly communicated to with each step of the restoration, something which the members so far have been pleased with. In recent years, as the club’s member demographic has gotten younger and the club has gotten busier, the playing percentage is quite high, with around 40,000 rounds of golf played a year.

With the course becoming so busy, the greens team go out and prepare the course before play begins at 8am.

John Deere’s state of the art hybrid technology allows the Beau Desert team to work much more efficiently and sustainably. So far this year the team has received seven new additions to its fleet, including a 2750 E-Cut riding greens mower, 7500 E-Cut for fairways, two walk-behinds and an 8800A to cut surrounds. There are plans going forward for more machines to be ordered shortly.

“What attracted us about the machines was the ability to cut down on idle times, save fuel, and cut down on emissions, all of which you can track from the machines,” says Luke.

Using the carbon emission data from the mowers as well as using drones to count how many trees there are on the course, the team can calculate their journey towards carbon neutrality.

“So, for example, if the fairway mowers put out 20 hours’ worth of emissions, we can calculate the carbon offset to be around 12 mature trees – that’s how many trees it would take to cancel out the carbon emissions,” says Luke.

He says the grounds team knew they wanted to invest in John Deere machines right after demoing them.

“When we demoed the machines, we found that the transition from our old machines to Deere was easy as they were so simple to understand and use,” says Luke. “Plus, it wasn’t just the case of the machines being dumped on the team and left to figure it out, there was always background information (from John Deere dealer Farol), and we were given time to get used to the machines as well.

“Before we’d even made the change properly, the lads had a real good idea of what they were using, and achieving a really good performance didn’t take much input.”

As they preach sustainability, Luke and Steve felt that their machinery had to match up to their philosophy. The electric drive on the cutting reels eliminate the risk hydraulic leaks while delivering consistency of cut.

Steve believes that putting the time and effort into making the course sustainable is the most important part of it all.

“It’s a long process,” says Steve. “We started to invest around 10 years ago but with improved budgets really upped the ante over the past five to six years.

“I’ve been able to learn a lot about sustainability on the job, but I’ve also been quite lucky as I’ve met some good people who understand about ecology and the heathland environment.

“We’ve learnt a lot ourselves, improving agronomics whilst maintaining standards has been key.”

Looking to the future, and continuing the redevelopment of the course, Steve is working on trying to get the next grant through for the development of the heathland.

“We also have the redevelopment plan for the seventh hole in place for October, all being well, and that’s the next two stages,” says Steve.

The grant will take care of the woodland and regeneration work and redevelopment will continue into the future.

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