• Under newly implemented EU laws, there are major changes to the products greenkeepers can use on our golf courses, can you explain what this means?

New EU regulations are looking closely at pesticide, fungicide and insecticide usage and specifically the affects they’re having on the environment and those people using them. The EU have outlawed all use because these products have proven to be harmful to wildlife and the environment in general.

  • How will these implications affect golf courses?

The removal of these ingredients will cause course maintenance issues across the country primarily due to an inevitable increase in worm casts. There will be far more worms as operators cannot supress them with pesticides. There are things we can do to counteract this, though they will take time to implement and it will be a learning process for everyone.
There will be playability issues because mowing heights will have to rise and there will be more mud spread due to the increase in worm casts. What will inevitably happen is that worm casts will be flattened by mowers causing the cast to produce a small mud patch on the turf. This will affect grass density and obviously make the course muddier to play on during the winter. Getting a uniform cut will be a challenge because this mud will stick to the rollers of the cutting units, raising the cut level somewhat and blunting the mower blades.
With regards to fungicides, we will have to take a proactive view on management. Preventative spray will need to be increased to protect the surfaces as an outbreak will be much more difficult to manage once the disease has appeared. A major factor will be to keep a closer eye on grass growth patterns caused by weather conditions. Growth patterns will determine how long a fungicide will last before we need to spray again to keep the turf clean of disease.

  • Are the new laws specific to golf agronomy?

No, it’ll affect all sports turf. Wimbledon, the Open, Horse racing, Cricket pitches, you name it. They will all be affected and it will be a factor at all levels of professional and amateur sport. The full impact will of course be weather dependent. Adverse weather, specifically rain, will result in more worm casts and ultimately more mud dispersion.  

  • Do the new laws affect all golf courses in the same way or are there any exceptions?

Certain courses will be more susceptible to disease on the surfaces due to soil conditions, grass type and climate. Soil conditions and climate will also influence whether you suffer from worm casts. The sandier the root zone the less likely you are to have an issue with casting worms. To be perfectly honest, no one knows exactly the full extent of what we’re facing as course managers always take a proactive view on management. All I know is that we will invest in the best equipment to deal with it and always maintain a proactive approach. We’re already looking at investing in brushes to attach to the front of mowers to sweep casts away before they stick to the mowers. It’s important to note that every course in the country will face the same issues to some extent so I’ll be working with all our greenkeepers across BGL venues to tackle it head on. 

  • What are the implications for not adhering to these regulations?

There would be a very heavy fine and potentially a prison sentence for anyone using banned products.

  • Does Brexit have any impact on the implementation of these laws?

Not at the moment. Obviously, these are EU regulations and when we leave I’m sure the UK will have to form new regulations. It’s not crystal clear what will happen because no one is sure exactly what Brexit deal we’ll have, but I’d say it’d be highly likely that the UK would continue the ban on these products whatever happens.

  • What are BGL doing to ensure the condition of its golf courses won’t be adversely affected?

We can guarantee our members and visitors that we’re taking a very proactive approach to tackle these challenges. We’ll be working with alternative, preventative fungicides to keep the greens free from disease. We’ll be closely monitoring growth rates and weather conditions so we get the best results from each spray. Ultimately there is no miracle solution but we will do all we can to keep the disruption to a minimum.  As an industry, it’s a concern but as a group BGL is committed to tackling this head on. We have the best equipment available and will continue to invest to provide the best possible course conditions for our members.