Green Party life pair Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle has called for a reduction in the number of golf courses in the UK, despite receiving evidence that many clubs benefit the environment.

Talk to The Observer newspaper, the former Green Party leader received examples of clubs increasing pollination and making smart use of rainwater for irrigation.

However, while no details are presented in the article to back up her claim, she said golf courses are destroying the earth. She also said they should be “used better”, without specifying what that would be.

“The kind of [biodiverse-friendly] the things they do are on a very small scale and you still have fairways and greens which are an extremely destructive use of the land,” she said.

“I’m not saying shut down every golf course in the country, but I think we need to look at land use and that would mean, very clearly, less golf courses and that land would be better used socially and environmentally. “

The newspaper said several golf clubs had installed starling nesting boxes to encourage birds on their courses because their slender beaks can grab leather jackets without damaging turf, whereas clubs in the past would have used pesticides.

He also mentioned Newquay Golf Club, where a sketchy ecological management plan has seen wildflowers such as cranesbill, scab and knapweed bloom and provide food for pollinators such as dark green fritillaria and burnet at six points, and Weybrook Park Golf Club, near Basingstoke, which has set up Lark Protection Zones, demarcated areas which members happily give way to the ground-nesting bird.

Additionally, he said clubs are drilling boreholes and creating rainwater reservoirs to meet their irrigation needs, as well as to grow more drought-tolerant types of grass.

He also cited the Scottish Wildlife Trust, which works with clubs, and the golfing charity FairWays Foundation, which is co-funding the Irvine to Girvan Nectar Network, a project to bring wildflower meadows back to the Ayrshire coast. .

Network coordinator Lynne Bates visits clubs along the coast and provides flower seeds that can help create a continuous corridor, linking courses to local nature reserves. The project is already having an impact, she says, with the little blue returning to Ayrshire for the first time since the 1980s. Britain’s smallest butterfly needs kidney vetch for its caterpillars, and the plant is now plentiful on many courses in Scotland and on other coastal courses in the UK.

There have been many stories in recent years of golf courses implementing sustainability measures, but perhaps two studies show a better example of why golf can now be considered environmentally friendly. .

First, a group of Australian scientists say the work done by greenkeepers to maintain golf courses can be so beneficial that the sites contain flora and fauna that barely exist in nearby green spaces without golf.

Posted on Phys.org, the scientists studied the biodiversity of Melbourne’s green spaces for three years, comparing them to public parks and nearby residential areas.

“The results surprised us,” they wrote. “Golf courses contained the greatest diversity and abundance of beetles, bees, birds and bats of any green space we studied. We found native ground-nesting bees that are not present in much of the urban landscape because it is dominated by built-up surfaces and exotic flowering plants.

“The minimum number of bird species we saw on a golf course was always higher than the maximum number of other green spaces. We found much more evidence of bird breeding. There was also a wide range of insectivorous birds, which are in decline in many parts of Australia.

Baroness Bennett. Image of Twitter

“Some golf courses were home to all ten known bat species in this part of metropolitan Melbourne. Bat activity was ten times higher than in nearby residential areas. Golf courses also housed twice as many bat species considered “susceptible to urbanization.”

The second, a US study of 135 golf courses in Minnesota found that they provide major benefits to their local environment, particularly surrounding temperatures, pollination, stormwater nutrient retention and biodiversity.

Billed as the largest study ever of the environmental impact of golf courses on their communities, the USGA-funded Community Values ​​of Golf Courses project saw researchers from the University of Minnesota and Michigan State University compare and contrast golf courses with five other land uses: natural areas, urban parks, suburban residential areas, urban residential areas, and industrial parks.

Researchers have demonstrated that well-managed golf courses provide the greatest amount of cooling among land uses, are more pollinator friendly than urban residential or industrial areas, and retain more nutrients from runoff than residential areas. suburban or urban.

They concluded that converting golf courses to residential or industrial use would sacrifice the environmental value placed on their local communities and could lead to reduced biodiversity and even increased temperatures.