I’ve often dismissed golf courses as being rather sterile habitats for wildlife in the past. Acres of neatly mown greens and fairways. Hundreds of people each week plodding about thwacking balls back and forth. But after a good wander around one or two, they do reveal some splendid habitat in the quieter areas, where perhaps only the occasional stray ball would end up.
With linear features such as drystone walls, hedges, drainage ditches or streams, grassy banks and earth bunds spread around their perimeters and gathered in corners, where there is lots of rough vegetation, it seems I have been wrong to totally dismiss the manicured perfection of the 18th as unsuitable for anything other than soil microbes.
Given that the majority of golf courses are in rural or coastal settings surrounded by woodlands, on the banks of rivers or flanked by dune systems, they can in fact offer good opportunities for reptiles to exist. You need more than just a few good features in one particular spot in order for a population of reptiles to thrive. The surroundings need to allow for the influx of new specimens from other areas. Connectivity is vital for the survival of any wildlife. Birds and most insects can of course fly between different places quite easily. This is how new ponds, for example, become populated with invertebrates. A small copse of trees can provide nesting for birds, but the birds will probably hunt for food well beyond the boundaries of the copse. It is not so easy for reptiles however. They must rely on good vegetation for cover or, as mentioned above, long linear features such as walls and hedges along which they can migrate to pastures new.
Finding the hidden spot where the groundsmen dump grass clippings and arisings from hedge and tree pruning is a bonus also as these places offer reptiles substantial habitat features in which to forage, shelter and hibernate.
So if you’re a keen golfer yourself, why not take time out from the arduous pelting of small white spheres around the landscape, to see if any quiet spots hold hidden surprises such as basking lizards or slumbering snakes.
Most importantly if you do, let us know by recording your sightings here.