While the playing surfaces of the new Peninsula Kingswood Country Golf Club are a level above, as Kate Torgersen writes it’s the out of play areas where some of the most significant transformations have taken place.
Peninsula Kingswood Country Golf Club (PKCGC) is a special place for me as it was here that my passion for golf and its interaction with the environment began 15 years ago. I am still in awe of the beautiful natural surroundings there and feel privileged to have found my way back there to be involved with the course vegetation management as part of the redevelopment.
The story about the transformation of the out of play areas started long before my involvement. As part of the redesign, architects Ogilvy Clayton Cocking Mead (OCCM) had the management of the existing vegetation and incorporation of new areas of revegetation as a major component, given how the areas off the fairway contribute so much to look and feel of the golf course. This is especially true at PKCGC as even though there were many degraded areas, there were also some fantastic remnant patches, particularly on the North Course.
Once the masterplan had been approved, OCCM started working on more detailed plans including a vegetation removal plan and, most importantly, a landscape plan for the site, along with ensuring appropriate budgets for all removal, slashing, burning, mulching, seed collection and propagation of new stock. To assist OCCM, highly-regarded ecologist Jeff Yugovic, who has a great deal of experience and passion for the Sandbelt vegetation communities, was engaged. He identified the various EVCs (Ecological Vegetation Classes) across the site both through the study of plans but also field work. In one instance he even brought a geologist to the site who dug some observation holes as he wasn’t confident that some of the plans were correct. Through Jeff’s work on the EVCs, OCCM developed a palette of plants for each area of the golf course and then started interviewing a number of nurseries to find a suitable partner to collect and propagate stock.
The revegetation of the course was overseen and implemented by the construction team working under OCCM. It was around this time that, together with director of courses Glenn Stuart, thoughts started turning to employing a dedicated team to oversee the vegetation moving forward – looking after what had been planted but also progressing the vegetation across the site. Glenn has always been a strong believer in managing out of play areas and right from the start his vision was to have the vegetation mirror the quality of the course design and playing surafces. To that end he now has a full-time horticulture team of five, well led by Andrew Brabner, and a specialised consultant (myself) managing the many hectares of vegetation. Included in their remit is the management of the creek system that runs through the South Course through several wetlands, as well as indigenous gardens surrounding the luxury accommodation, bowling green and tennis courts.
The PKCGC site would have to have some of the best areas of remnant vegetation on any golf course in Victoria. Throughout the site you will see a variety of heathland species, wildflowers and orchids, with some rarer species of significance being found. Among those include Red beaks (Pyrorchis nigricans), Rabbit ears (Thelymitra antennifera), Tiger orchids (Diuris sulphurea), Early Nancy (Wurmbea dioica), Blue stars (Chamaescilla corymbose), Cranberry heath (Astroloma humifusum), Clustered bushpea (Pultenaea dentata), Showy parrot-pea (Dillwynia sericea) and the Twining fringe lily (Thysanotus patersonii). An abundance of local fauna also calls the site home.
As mentioned, before construction began, a total of 11 EVCs were identified, which shows just how diverse the site is. Many sites of this size may only have one or two EVCs, so it gives a very clear indication as to its ecological significance and the importance of managing, preserving and enhancing it.
There were many challenges throughout the construction phase, grow-in period and once the courses were open for play. There had been many areas that were weed infested, but through the construction process many of these areas were turned into revegetation sites which are now providing a vital habitat for local fauna.
One challenge prior to and at the beginning of the project was the excess water being thrown into the native areas to grow in the playing surfaces. This saw an influx of weeds and fescue that outcompeted and smothered many natives, making it difficult to manage. Through many herbicide applications, hand weeding and prescribed burns, these areas were brought back to how OCCM envisaged them to be.
One management technique that has and will continue to be frequently used is fire. Regular prescribed burns are used as a management technique and have proven to be very successful, with an abundance of native indigenous species thriving.
As there have been so many areas untouched for so long, this has allowed the seedbank to build and throughout the construction process there have been countless examples of species germinating after some disturbance and burns. Among these are species that local nurseries have trouble germinating, such as Wedding bush (Ricinocarpos filiformis). There are many out of play areas throughout the course that are also providing the club with an abundance of species germinating naturally, which is
allowing staff to transplant these into other areas around the course.
Since construction began, about 500,000 indigenous trees, grasses, shrubs and wildflowers have been grown and/or planted. The club supported local nurseries by engaging them to contract grow all the stock that has been planted thus far. In the next few years about 50,000 indigenous plants per year will be planted to replenish areas. One species that has been used widely throughout the roughs is Wallaby grass (Rytidosperma geniculatum). As OCCM’s Mike Cocking notes, the best Sandbelt roughs are typically a mixture of wispy grasses, sand and heathland plants. When it came to PKCGC, especially on the sandier soils of the North Course, OCCM saw a perfect opportunity to use Wallaby grass extensively. So far it has proven a great success and its colour, seed head and wispy appearance gives the course a unique character.
Critically, throughout the project the club has worked very closely with Frankston Council consultant ecologists to develop an agreed Land Management Plan (LMP). This LMP will provide guidelines with responsibilities attached to all future maintenance and management of all the vegetation communities across the site.
The horticulture team has played a huge role in the redevelopment and what is now on show at PKCGC. It has been extremely rewarding, but more exciting is the prospect of what lies ahead. PKCGC is a club to watch in terms of the management of the out of play areas and Glenn, Andrew and their dedicated teams have so far done an amazing job. And the benefits will not be just for the golfers, but for the community, local flora and fauna and future generations to come.
Originally published in Volume 21.5 (Sept-Oct 2019) Australian Turfgrass Management Journal. To subscribe to the journal click here.