Greenkeepers chief Jim Croxton has a stark warning as climate change looks to wreak havoc at UK clubs in the next two decades

Clubs that rely on mains water to irrigate their courses may need to find alternatives – or risk being cut off.

Jim Croxton, chief executive of the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association, urged clubs to adopt ways of more sustainably managing their layouts in the face of climate change pressures.

Speaking at the recent Golf Club Managers’ Association Conference at Wyboston Lakes, Croxton told delegates water was going to be an “incredible challenge” over the next few years.

The Environment Agency has warned that an extra 3,435 million litres of water could be required every day for public supply if action is not taken to improve usage between 2025 and 2050.

Population growth, exacerbated by over abstraction, is driving the pressure – even in a nation with a reputation for having plenty of rainfall. 

The National Audit Office told the UK Government last year that parts of southern England could start running out of water within two decades. 

And environmental solutions expert Tony Hanson has said there is a “very real risk that mains water for golf irrigation will not be possible in the next few years”.

Croxton laid out to clubs the ways their courses could become more sustainable within their environment but told them to talk to their water suppliers to find ways of managing an “absolutely crucial” problem.

“I know that climate change is a significant issue,” he said. “We’re seeing a very different world in terms of rain events. We see much bigger rain events than we ever used to.

“We see more or less the same amount of water coming down during a year but there are lots of areas in which water is a challenge.”

Croxton added: “If anyone here is reliant in anyway on mains water in any way, and if they’re south of that line between The Wash and probably the Severn Estuary, you need to give serious consideration to your water source because that pressure is going to come in the next few years.

“It nearly came this summer. There was talk of [water authorities] turning water supplies off for golf courses and other users.”

He continued: “We, as an industry, need to unite on water usage – particularly in terms of how we draw from the mains but also even from your own boreholes.

“If you have your own boreholes on site you may not be aware that, in times of need, the water authorities can prohibit you from abstracting from it. 

“You may need to be reliant only on the water you’ve actually stored yourselves and which has fallen on your golf course.

“Your source of water, and the resilience of that source, is absolutely critical because we simply can’t always manage turf these days, with the weather the way it is going, without some kind of irrigation solution.

“If you haven’t done already, engage with your water authorities, consult an expert, and have a conversation about your water source and resilience and make sure you’ve got something for the future.

“I think if we’re talking about this in five years’ time, it will be too late. This is a very immediate challenge.”

What do you think? How can clubs use less water and make their courses more sustainable? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me.

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Steve Carroll

A journalist for 23 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former captain and committee member, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the national Tournament Administrators and Referee's Seminar. He has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying and the PGA Fourball Championship. A member of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap.

Handicap: 10.9

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