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Featuring Trees in the Play Environment – May 2017
Focusing on trees in the play environment, a prime example is golf courses that form green oases in our built up environment.  Whether you play the game or are an avid spectator, the backdrop of trees on an established golf course immediately evokes feelings of relaxation and tranquility.

There are numerous benefits to planting trees on a golf course.  Trees provide

  • A strategic point of interest, for example at the back of a green
  • An offset gateway in a fairway that golfers can play through
  • Definition of a hole
  • Screening between holes
  • General visual impact, particularly or a parkland course
  • Ecological value
  • Carbon sequestration

Turf is normally the prime focus on a golf course, but trees are an important consideration when designing, constructing and maintaining a layout.

Tree planting on a golf course must account for the impact on the play of the game.  Strategic tree placement will directly influence how a particular shot on a given hole is played.  Further to the immediate effect of a tree, one should also keep in mind that as the tree matures, it evolves and there may be long term consequences.  Over time, the tree’s development can enhance or hinder the play experience.

When considering tree species in new plantings, understanding the long-term growth habit of the specific tree is very important.  Trees that have a spreading, dense canopy can impact on direct play or cause increasing shade which may interfere with turf maintenance.  Planting evergreen or deciduous trees will direct seasonal shade, but sheddings could be problematic on the greens.  In addition, drought resistance and frost tolerance in specific species should be considered when planting.  Trees will always need a form of maintenance and by choosing correctly from the start, costs could be minimised in the long run.

Golf courses have a huge visual scale.  When choosing trees (especially ornamental species or specimen trees) thought should be given to the grouping of trees to provide visual impact.  To create a tree display, whether with flowering trees or autumnal foliage, the size of the golf course would dictate the number of trees to be planted together.

Existing, mature trees on a site should be evaluated carefully to see what impact they would have on the overall design.  If the area is heavily wooded, selective clearing while still maintaining a good backdrop of trees, is essential.  By adapting a design solution to incorporate a specimen tree, great and lasting playing and aesthetic value is added to a hole or course.

In some situations it might be necessary to relocate existing trees for preservation.  Foresight in this regard could save money in the long run as mature trees add instant majesty to an environment. However, there are risks involved in relocation mature trees.  Professional advice should be taken as to the moving, positioning and on-going maintenance of these trees to ensure a successful transplant.

Often trees are added at an existing golf course to screen unsightly or distracting views off site.  In addition, trees are planted to buffer distractive noise to enhance the enjoyment of the course.  Here again, species selection is of extreme importance.  By selecting rapidly growing species to screen in a short amount of time, one runs the risk of less than efficient maintenance in the long run.  Many fast growing species are short-lived (10 to 20 years) and have to be replaced as the tree declines.

By planting trees, the golf course can provide environmental benefits to an area.  From providing shade and therefore acting as a natural air conditioner, to reducing wind speed, trees are important in an urban setting.  Ecologically, trees reduce runoff and erosion caused by storms and reduces the effect of greenhouse gasses by absorbing carbon dioxide.  Wildlife friendly trees will attract birds and animals which further enhance the playing environment.

Careful planning, informed species selection and proper maintenance of trees on a golf course are imperative to continue enjoying the beautiful game.