This Sustainable Golf Week, Editor Emma Ballard speaks to Tilly, co-owner of Colmworth Golf Club, about how sustainability and the environment are her passions and at the heart of her business
Back in March, I had the pleasure of visiting Colmworth Golf Club in Bedfordshire. It was the second stop on my 40 by 40 challenge, but if I am honest, I had been wanting an excuse to visit this golf venue for a number of years.
Run by Mum and Daugther dynamic duo Julie and Tilly, the welcome is warm, the atmosphere is homely and the golf club just feels so different from any I have visited to date.
Talking to Tilly as we played and afterwards over a delicious home cooked lunch, it became apparent that above all sustainability and the environment were two of her and the club's passions.
Has sustainability always been important at Colmworth?
Sustainability really started with my Granddad, who built the course over 30 years ago. He had his own salvage business and used his knowledge and desire not to waste to carefully use landfill to sculpt the golf course to make it more interesting and challenging.
This extended to the clubhouse itself and still today you will see that the floors are all reclaimed wood, most of the fitting and furniture were built from reclaimed materials.
So sustainability has been at our core from the very beginning without us really knowing its impact at the time.
Another example is our biomass boilers, a heating system that uses natural fuel resources to create heat, which have been in place for a long time.
What about the golf course?
Mum and Dad made the decision to use Symbio from about 2010. This turf treatment basically uses minimal pesticides and herbicides. I believe we were one of the first to take that on. It's just incredible. We are able to use a lot less products than most standard golf courses do. It's about letting the turf take care of itself.
We feel the whole world needs to take a bit more of a stance on this area, Mother Nature knows what it needs, if we just listened to it and stop fighting against it.
Since I’ve come in to run the golf club with Mum, sustainability and all things associated with it has become even more important for us as a business.
Does that go beyond the golf course?
A big driver of us is using local. We've always used local staff to support the local economy, but local produce is a big, big drive for us. Any decisions we have to make will be steered by whether it is something we can source locally.
Covid really highlighted all of that. I got quite excited at the potential long term impact as it forced people to shop local. I was really hoping that more people would stick with it. But unfortunately, we've kind of gone back to the supermarkets. Then there are egg shortages and salad shortages. Except this isn’t the case at the local farm shop.
If you able to support your local economy and your local suppliers, life would be so much better. That’s our ethos and how we work.
Tell us more about your refill service.
The ability to have refillable hand wash, laundry detergent and conditioner came about because we started using it for the holiday cottages on site. It made sense to not waste loads of packaging. You can buy them all in 200 litre drums.
As well as using it in the cottages and the golf club. We made it available to purchase to the local community and our golfers. It's just a nice little addition.
What about your tee amnesty?
The tee amnesty was actually developed by one of our members. I'd wanted to highlight the difference between bamboo and plastic and try and raise awareness. I then received a brilliant idea via text from one of our members. Basically, if you find a broken plastic tee or break a plastic tee, bring it into the clubhouse and we’ll give you a bamboo replacement.
Sustainability is already ingrained into what you do. Why is it such a big leap for other golf clubs to make?
The big issue in golf is the difference between member run and proprietary run clubs. We're really lucky to be proprietary run. If we see a problem or need to make a decision here at Colmworth, it can happen the next day. We can do something about it straight away.
There may be more money at a member run golf club but everything has to go through committees. Which means any changes, especially around sustainability, will take a lot of time to implement.
I think we've stood apart from a lot of golf courses for a very long time. Mum and Dad decided, that we're very different to most golf courses and that we didn’t need to try and be like them.
They used their knowledge from other industries, we can see how other industries work. So it was very obvious to us what Golf was doing wrong. We just need to be a comfortable, lovely place for people to come and enjoy themselves, whether it's for a coffee or for around a golf.
Making those changes away from standard industry decisions was easy for us. We’re just always trying to think outside of the box, whereas I think most places perhaps go with this is what we've always done. They believe it must be really difficult to do the opposite when it's really easy if you're passionate about it.
Find out more about Colmworth, the golf, cafe, holiday cottages and wedding venue by visiting their website.