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Canterbury Golf Club


The Natural History of Canterbury Golf Course.

Compiled by Colin Buttenshaw.

Canterbury Golf Course is best played with eyes open! So many golfers, especially professionals, play golf and see only their ball and the shot. So much more can be gained from a round of golf when players can admire the beautiful countryside in which they are playing.

By using the following questions and answers it is hoped that you too will be able to appreciate and enjoy this wonderful course.


Why are some parts of the course wetter than others?


Soil: The course is a mixture of Thanet Beds (Thanet Sand) and London Clay. From the 10th tee through the higher 14 th fairway, 15 th , 17 th and 18 th tee Thanet Sand is the underlying soil and consequently drains much better. In earlier days, bunker sand was extracted from a quarry that can still be seen on the right hand side of the path leading from the 18 th tee. 

Most of the rest of the course has London Clay as its top soil. Clay is far less porous, holding water in wet weather and drying out completely in warm, sunny conditions, making it is also notoriously infertile.

Springs: The course has numerous natural springs on it. The springs mostly begin in the higher Thanet Beds and flow into the London Clay. Where are they found?

6 th green: Has natural springs to the left and right of it.

10 th green: Is affected by a spring that flows under the 15 th fairway and appears on the green itself.

12 th green: This has at least 3 springs beneath it.

The pond by the 1 st tee has natural water supplied from a spring opposite the caravan site facing the entrance to the club.

Ditches on the course are fed by springs. Many now flow through the ever-increasing woodland, but 'older' club members tell of a time when these ditches were open and had clear, clean, drinkable water, running between the 1 st and 16 th /18 th fairways, some 40-50 years ago.


Why is the course a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)?


Most of the course is designated an SSSI and there are mountains of laws, rules and regulations which on the one hand can hinder course management, but on the other sustain its various unique features.

Course soils, as noted above, have led to a growth of certain species. For example, on the Thanet Sands acidic grassland, bracken, scrub and young birch and oak trees thrive, as do heath bedstraw, trailing St. John’s wart and bird’s foot.

Other parts of the course have alder woodland, an uncommon type of woodland, rich in wet woodland plants, including sedges, and rare plants such as alternate-leaved and opposite-leaved saxifrages. Also, there are colonies of southern marsh orchid.

On drier slopes, oak, hazel, silver birch, bracken, gorse and bluebells are abundant.

Due to these rare and widespread species most of the course (and its surroundings), are designated SSSI.


What might I see when on the course?


Flora: The course has an abundance of trees, flowers, grasses, bushes and fungi. As mentioned above some are rare, others plentiful. Native trees such as alder, oak, hazel, silver birch, hornbeam, beech and willow dominate the woodland areas and between fairways. Admire the magnificent display of willows by the 6 th green (stunning any time of year), and the huge Lombardy poplars to the right of the 6 th fairway. Marvel at the fallen, yet still growing, willow on the 14 th ! Spot the stunning false acacias (locust trees), on the 16 th tee and to the left of the 18 th green. And look out for the 'witch' hiding in a tree to the right of the 9 th green!!! See if you can also spot the sapling being strangled by honeysuckle at the top of the 11 th path.

Gorse, broom and bracken grow prestigiously on the Thanet Sands areas of the course especially by the 10 th tee, to the right of the 15 th fairway and on the right approaching to the 18 th green (golfers beware!).

The course also has thickets of blackthorn (sloes), a sea of white blossom in the spring, and hawthorn bushes, plus crab and wild apple trees.

Obviously, the course is dominated by grass! For the connoisseur the grasses are a mixture of bent grass and fescues on the greens, (with some undesirable rouge poa annua and meadow grass). The fairways are also a mixture of bent grass and fescues and annual meadow grass, and cut regularly to allow a better sward density. Similarly, the tees have the same mix with dwarf rye added, and the rough is the same but left to grow longer.

In spring and summer there are flowers abound. On the 7 th and 9 th woodland areas, the bluebells thrive, and to the right of the 7 th , southern marsh orchids can be found, (but it is illegal to pick them)! King cups (large buttercups), and yellow iris (by water) are common, as are ransoms (wild garlic), and wood anemones.

Fungi also thrive on the dead and decaying trees found around the course - should you be unlucky enough to visit these areas! In autumn, a large variety of mushrooms, including white spotted scarlet Russela, shiny brown Boletus and delicate pink field mushrooms, abound. Cut down and fallen trees have been deliberately left in situ to encourage habitation for insects, grubs and bees. Similarly, blackberries thrive on several areas of the course.

Fauna: Golfers cannot help but notice the damage to some areas of the course. Rabbits abound and have seriously holed (no pun intended!) many fairways, especially the 14 th , but they do keep the grass short! Similarly moles leave their mark here and there.

There are hundreds of squirrels thriving in the well-fruited trees, (acorns, hazel nuts, etc.), including, if you are very lucky, an albino, which has appeared regularly over various parts of the course for many years. This is certainly not the same one but a genetic mutation that occurs every so often.

Due to the above foxes are common, but stoats rarely seen. There used to be a badgers set but they have not been sighted for many years.

Birdlife abounds! Listed below are some of the more common birds you might be fortunate to see/glimpse whilst playing:

Green woodpecker, greater spotted woodpecker and wood pigeon, blackbird, thrush, magpie, siskin, crow, jay, gull, pheasant, tits (blue, great, long tailed) pied wagtail, wallow sand martin and mallard.   

Less common birds include:

Skylark, chiffchaff, goldfinch, buzzard, owl,red kite, Cuckoo, blackcap, Nuthatch, marsh harrier hobby, nightingale, Cetti’s warbler

Listen out for the pneumatic drilling sound of woodpeckers, the beautiful song of the nightingale (usually by the 10 th tee), and the chink, cher-chink of the Cetti’s warbler. The last two birds are another reason why the course is an SSSI.

So many birds need feeding, and the course is alive with insects, including butterflies and moths, but golfers beware - where there is water there are mosquitoes, and many a summer evening’s golf have been ruined by these pests! Larger birds flip over the replaced divots to find juicy grubs underneath. Harvestman or Crane flies (daddy long legs) hatch from the fairways, as their name suggests, in late summer and can be most off-putting if you are about to play a shot and one emerges by your ball!

With the opening up of the pond by the 1 st tee it is hoped that this will encourage other pond life such as dragon flies and damsel flies, whose beauty will enhance the course.


Does the course have any unnatural features?


Players cannot help but notice what appear to be meandering water courses on the 3 rd , 4 th , 5 th , 7 th and 9 th fairways, especially in wet weather when they do fill with water! These are, in fact, World War 1 trenches, dug, one assumes, as practice, by the army, (the soil type is much the same in Northern France).

A left-over from the Second World War can be found on the approach to the 4 th green where there are 3 circular, concrete barrage balloon anchor points just below the surface. They really show up during bouts of very dry weather.

Similarly, another WW2 remnant is the bomb crater, now surrounded by willow trees to the right of the 6 th green. There is another bomb crater in the woods between the 7 th and 9 th fairways.

As the course was designed by Harry Colt, there are many dry bunkers, a feature of his, particularly evident on holes 3, 5, 7, 8, 9,10,14,16 and 17.





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