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St Andrews Links Trust and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club are ensuring that environmental issues are given high priority during the Open Championship in order to conserve and protect the very conditions which have shaped and moulded the Old Course.

The Open will bring more than 200,000 members of the golfing public to the St Andrews links and also an advance army of contractors who are involved in setting up grandstands, the tented village, scoreboards, and cameras. Many are on site up to two months before play starts.

This puts great pressure on an extremely renowned local environment, and a sand dune system of some fragility.

Careful planning, in conjunction with national and local environment groups, will ensure that stands and facilities are positioned in areas of low ecological sensitivity and that there will be minimal long-term impact on the golf courses and neighbouring Eden Estuary – a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a European Special Area of Conservation.

These designations demonstrate how important the St Andrews links are for wildlife. The courses harbour a wide range of locally and nationally rare and declining species, providing a stable and managed habitat.

The St Andrews greenkeepers take great care to minimise the use of water, chemicals and fertilisers in order to maintain traditional links of qualities. They are also involved in conservation of habitats through the management of heather, gorse, grasslands, ponds and wetlands.

Efforts will be made during the Open to raise public awareness of golf’s relationship with the environment and a pocket-sized booklet relating to the Old Course and its wildlife will be available at the championship.

The R&A believes that golf should put something back into the environment and has contributed to the Scottish Golf Course Wildlife Group, which is also supported by the Scottish Golf Union, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Greenbelt Foundation. The R&A also funds the Committed to Green Foundation, an environmental programme for golf courses throughout Europe.

Research into heather on UK golf courses has been carried out with assistance from the R&A and the club also hosted a recent conference “On Course for Change” designed to begin discussion on environmental issues affecting golf in the 21st century.

Further information is available from: Jonathan Smith, Scottish Golf Course Wildlife Adviser. Tel 0131 660 9480.