John Collier FAQ – Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs)

By Alistair Collier | From BG Magazine


I noticed a report on Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) concerning Royal Durban. As a general rule, how much should we be doing in terms of habitat on our course, which is on a golf estate?


What we need to be doing as a community – irrespective of the size of the golf club or its location – is to be aware of our environment, and involve ourselves with as many positive interventions as possible. These do not have to be ‘expensive’ initiatives, as David Christie, the GM at Eagle Canyon, pointed out in last month’s Weatherproofing and the environment discussions (see how Eagle Canyon has introduced bat hotels and owl houses to their estate on the following 4 pages). Putting out bird boxes, planting water-wise species, seeding wildflowers in non-mown areas such as ESAs, declaring ESAs, etc., are all interventions that can be implemented for a minimal cost. Royal Durban Golf Club is to be lauded for having taken the time and made an effort to declare the ESAs mentioned in the ‘From the Fringes’, and I’m sure that any disruptions caused to these areas will soon be repaired.

From a golf compliance perspective, the R&A rule states where the entrance to an ESA, or playing from an area has been prohibited for environmental reasons, it is the committee’s responsibility to decide whether an ESA should be defined as the ground under repair, a water hazard, or out of bounds. Furthermore, ESAs should be physically protected to deter players from entering the area, and should be marked accordingly. It is recommended that stakes with green tops are used to designate an ESA. ‘Life’ happens, whether we like it or not! and one way to help monitor these types of areas and activities is to set up an ‘environmental’ sub-committee.

This committee would be tasked with identifying appropriate interventions that would suit a particular facility, and then monitor their development and well-being. These types of committees do not have to be ‘voted in’, so as long as the people who have volunteered to work on them and are happy to please continue to give their time, and effort, they would remain unchanged, which protects the institutional memory, as it is developed, and will also help to ensure a continuity of effort.