Date: Tue 23 Jan 2018

Spotlight on... Heather on Golf Courses

Some information sources for managing heather.

Pristine lowland heath managed for golf and wildlife at Hankley Common. Picture by Bob Taylor STRI Group

Pristine lowland heath managed for golf and wildlife at Hankley Common. Picture by Bob Taylor STRI Group

Yes - there are even a few patches of heather on the Old Course at St Andrews! The archetypal sites however for this most uncompromising variety of rough are in the Surrey heathlands, where it undoubtedly defines the unique character of many of the most celebrated early 20th Century courses. The most common species of heather throughout Europe is Calluna vulgaris, or Ling, to use its Scottish name, where it can dominate vast swathes of upland, especially when managed expressly for grouse shooting. Other species may occur in association with the Calluna, most notably Erica cinerea, Bell Heather, and Erica tetralix, Cross-leaved heath.

There is a growing recognition of the importance of heather as a vital habitat for wildlife and as a part of the golf course. There are particular challenges when it comes to the management of heather and heathland, and in the Library we have a number of books that can help – both general books on ecology and those on the ecological management of golf courses.

Managing habitats for conservation, edited by William J Sutherland and David A Hill, published by Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Collates the available information on habitat management to produce a practical guide to what needs to be done, and includes chapters on lowland heathland and upland moors and heaths.

Lowland heathland

A practical guide to the restoration and management of lowland heathland, by Nigel Symes and John Day and published by the RSBP, 2003.

This practical handbook provides guidance in the techniques of both restoration management and maintenance management of lowland heathland habitats. It emphasises the need for adequate survey, monitoring and management planning and describes suitable techniques.

Birds on golf courses: a guide to habitat management, by Keith Duff and Nigel Symes, again published by the RSPB and the R&A, 2009.

Provides golf course managers with practical guidance on what they can do to support and enhance bird populations on their land, through simple but effective management of the roughs and out of play areas. It includes heathland courses as well as other habitats.

Heather and its management (Studies in Golf Course Management No 7), by Bob Taylor and Lee Penrose, published by STRI, 2007.

This work reviews the status of heather on golf courses in the UK and Ireland and provides practical guidance on maintaining and conserving this importance resource.
Finally we have a couple of books on the courses in the UK which describe those with heathland.

Golf in the heather and gorse

Golf in the heather and gorse: a guide to the inland courses of England and Scotland, by David Worley, 2015.

This book takes you on a journey through over 70 heathland, moorland and parkland courses commencing in the east of Scotland and finishing in Cornwall. There is also a special chapter on the Isle of Arran which has no less than 7 golf courses. Apart from detailed course descriptions there is travel information and over 300 beautiful colour photographs showing the courses and Mother Nature in peak form. Whether it is James Braid's Boat of Garten in the Scottish highlands or Harry Colt's wonderful Swinley Forest in Surrey, the heathland courses in particular are shown at their spectacular best.

Blasted heaths and blessed greens: a golfer’s pilgrimage to the courses of Scotland, by James W Finegan, 1996.

In a loop of a thousand miles that begins in Edinburgh and ends across the Firth of Forth in ST Andrews, this book covers some sixty courses. The author includes the history of the courses as well as descriptions of the scenery. No photos, but perhaps an intriguing read.

Also in the Library we have many centenary books of heathland courses, such as Hankley Common and Swinley Forrest, and, of course, there is much to found online on the subject. Here are a few of the interesting articles I found:

The Heather Trust - - is an independent charity representing the interests of moorland and upland areas. By promoting sound, sustainable and integrated management, they work to conserve and enhance the iconic but often fragile upland environment across Great Britain.

Greener Golf (an interactive website from England Golf, part funded by the R&A and developed by STRI) has some information on its website -

Scottish Golf has a paper on heather management -

There is a case study on how Hankley Common GC has maintained the heather on its golf course on The Golf Business website, published in 2013 -, and an undated article from the BIGGA archive written by the then Course Manager -

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