Both courses are part of Ashdown Forest and have to comply with the overall policy laid down by Acts of Parliament and the Board of Conservators of Ashdown Forest.
The courses were originally laid out on the heathland with nothing more than grass, heather and gorse. The oldest trees on either course are about 80 years of age, and the vast majority less than 40 years of age.
The reasons are the cessation of grazing and the decrease in timber-cutting by commoners. We are actively working alongside the Conservators and Natural England to redress the balance and return the courses to their heathland character.
This involves felling large areas of invading birch scrub and surface stripping bracken. As heather seed can survive for more than 40 years in the ground, areas stripped of their bracken and peat layer will produce heather from this seed bank.
A major initiative is currently being promoted by the R&A and is referred to as “sustainable golf.”
What this means is a departure from heavy reliance on pesticides, fertiliser and water; working with Mother Nature as opposed to fighting her.
This means encouraging the fine fescue and bent grasses instead of the heavily watered and fertiliser-reliant annual meadow grass which gives a very poor winter surface.
In the height of summer your ball will bounce and not be greeted by a soft, over-watered green. The grass will be brown, not lush emerald green.
The upside of all this is that, as we confront more and more EU legislation regarding pesticide use, courses adopting this type of policy will be one jump ahead of the rest. The other benefit is the reduction in costs.
At Royal Ashdown, greens receive a very small amount of nitrogen each year, as do the tees. This is then backed up with applications of liquid seaweed and iron.
The fairways are never given any fertiliser nor is there fairway watering. Water is applied to tees and greens simply to keep the grass alive. This all leads to the rebirth of the traditional bump and run game as opposed to target golf. If we have a problem with fungal disease on a green, which is rare, only the area affected will be treated and only as a last resort.
At Royal Ashdown we are very aware of the unique environment around us and try to work in such a way as to enhance it so that it remains for all to enjoy. Come out and partake in everything Mother Nature has entrusted us with!