Greens maintenance – Dunes course – 28th, 29th and 30th August 2023

flowers golf hardelot

The eco-friendly management of Golf d'Hardelot

Environmental stewardship is central to the ethos across all Resonance Golf Collection courses. The impact of pesticides on wildlife and groundwater, water scarcity and energy costs are daily considerations in striking a balance between sustainability and enduring playability.

Ludovic Hettinger, our Superintendent, discusses the ecological initiatives undertaken at Golf d'Hardelot.


Golf d’Hardelot has been deeply committed for several years already to ecological transition, with every action on the course carefully considered to ensure respect for the natural resources and biodiversity that surround us.


Ludovic, our Superintendent, focuses his work around three pillars that constitute the fundamentals of responsible course management:

  • Water management
  • Preserving biodiversity
  • Controlled use of products

1. Water management

Golf d’Hardelot has the particularity of offering two courses that are close together but require very different maintenance. However, both face the same complex challenge when it comes to irrigation: wind. There is almost always a breeze, more or less strong, which quickly dries out the terrain. This impacts the range of some sprinklers, so we have to be very vigilant. This is especially the case on the Dunes course which, as its name indicates, is laid out on very sandy soil that drains rapidly. If we miss a watering there, it can quickly become complex because the subsoil is very poor. Conversely, the Pins course has richer soil that generally retains moisture better overall.

On both courses, we use hydrometric probes to monitor the soil moisture levels daily. The aim is to water just enough to keep the plants alive and therefore conserve as much of the resource as possible. This is an even more important challenge given that since 1999, the Pins course has been restricted to 50,000 m3 annually by a very specific local decree. This constraint really forces us to tighten watering and be as efficient as possible. Over the past three years, we have carried out a lot of work and no less than €400,000 in investments to reduce the range of sprinklers, rework the irrigation system, and focus exclusively on playing surfaces. We are really managing to save water while maintaining a course in excellent condition.


During the 2022 drought, we couldn’t afford to miss a single nightly watering. We would come at 4 am, checking that everything had been watered with the right amount because by morning, it all had to be finished. Gardeners would go out at night to water with hoses for maximum precision. But we couldn’t all water at the same time because the pumping station couldn’t keep up with the pace we were pushing it to. In the evening, after the regular daytime work, we would stop for 2 hours then come back again for watering. This went on for a month and a half straight. Make no mistake – all these efforts to work virtuously have a real cost for the golf course. All those night hours, weekend days – it amounted to astronomical sums. But the result was visible and some thought we had cheated… When in fact we had just worked twice as hard. While others slept, we were out on the course. We’re also fortunate to have owners who supported us financially to maintain quality. It’s in these kinds of critical periods that we get a clearer sense of the shared values across all the Resonance Golf Collection courses.


Mechanical operations are constant on the Hardelot courses. Every week we topdress the greens very finely so as not to disrupt play, but to regularly work the subsurface. We aerate the greens every two weeks with small spikes. At the start of the season and end of summer, we do a deeper, more substantial coring, around 20 cm, to allow the roots to penetrate deeper. In these intense periods, we spread no less than 90 tonnes of sand over the greens and for a little over two years now, we’ve also been aerating the fairways. The goal is to break up that subsurface layer, decompact the subsurface sand, because contrary to popular belief, it can become too dense and no longer let anything through if we don’t take action. No one had done this until now and we immediately saw the result: the fairways are firm, consistent and simply beautiful. The first time we decompacted the fairways, everything was brown everywhere and questions flew: “What’s going on? We’ve never seen this…” But two weeks later, it was the most beautiful course in the world for those same players. These are phases. But overall, players understand very well what we’re doing and why. We don’t need to explain the purpose behind all these mechanical operations as much.

2. Biodiversity preservation

When I arrived 6 years ago, everything was maintained right into the woods. The thinking at the time was to speed up play overall. Today, we leave much more space for nature to grow freely. We only do two or three cuts per year and even when we do cut, we don’t cut too low so the grass can quickly grow back. Our desire is to let nature take its course while controlling it minimally, otherwise we’d reach a point where it would overrun us. Especially since on the Dunes course we have invasive plants, some of which are even dangerous. Giant hogweed is a very irritating plant when in bloom, so we don’t let it go to seed because contact with one of its flowers can cause very painful blistering for days.

flowers golf hardelot

We communicate about installing bird or bat boxes but not with the aim of “looking good” – these boxes have a precise purpose: to have a biodiversity capable of regulating the development of invasive species like processionary caterpillars that we’re starting to see in our regions. We have every interest in supporting and participating in the development of the densest possible biodiversity to combat these kinds of harmful species, without necessarily using traps. Biodiversity is a powerful ally we don’t neglect.


Biodiversity is much more abundant on the Pins course than on the Dunes course. The forest there is denser and the course is maintained differently. On the Dunes, it’s a bit more difficult to maintain the course in line with this desire to preserve biodiversity, with the villas bordering the fairways, because residents tend to complain… For them a golf course isn’t necessarily a biodiversity sanctuary. They want to live next to the golf course in a forest, but they don’t want trees directly in front of their homes, and they don’t want us to let the grass near their fences get too long for too long. There’s the ecology associated with the golf course, and that perceived by golf course residents. Unfortunately, the two are often incompatible and we have to do our best to reconcile them.

3. Controlled use of products

Nature will always dictate its own rhythm, with or without phytosanitary products. At the start of the season we would try to have the best possible course in view of a major tournament. Except no matter how many products we used – organic fertilizers, biostimulants – it wouldn’t take, and in barely two weeks, the course became perfect. Because nature had decided to put in place the conditions for things to go well. It’s nature that dictates its tempo to us, and typically, when we talk about diseases, we have to realize they’re always there. We’re fortunate this year not to be too pressured, but who knows how the end of the year will go? Of course we’ll be able to treat certain diseases without phytosanitary products. But for others, like fusarium or dollar spot, it will be very complicated. Players will thus have to be much more tolerant, because certain periods will clearly be more difficult to manage without products. At the same time, everything has enormously evolved in terms of mechanical operations and overseeding with more resistant grasses. We may not spend 1,000€ on products anymore, but 1,000€ on seed so an affected area starts growing better and faster again. However, the overall course quality will no longer be the same. That’s what stresses us out the most – knowing we’re necessarily going to lose some quality. It’s going to be hard to work without any phytosanitary products, but I think the most complicated will be for the players.


Today, we prefer to use liquid products to avoid disrupting play and to really control the inputs we’re bringing to the plant. We fertilize with organic biostimulant fertilizers. In fact, we go over both courses every week to provide just what is needed in a targeted way – it greatly helps limit excess. The idea is to achieve very linear grass growth because we don’t want to over-stimulate it all at once. Overfeeding the plant is the best way, once it’s no longer stimulated, to weaken it and make it vulnerable to disease. We accompany it, we don’t boost it. That’s the difference between eating healthy and balanced every day, and eating poorly and needing medication to digest it all…

The difficulty with choosing liquid fertilizers is that we’re required to wear white hazmat suits during application. Even though the liquid products we use are harmless – simply biostimulants or bacteria – the law obliges us to protect ourselves when applying them. This wouldn’t be the case if the fertilizer was solid. So we’re frequently chastised by nearby residents… Even as our method is more effective for the course and the broader environment.

Biodiversity label


The biodiversity label has value in terms of communication outside the golf club. Because for years already we had addressed all the topics covered by the label sponsored by the French Golf Federation. We had even obtained the GEO label at Hardelot a few years ago. But at one point it cost really significant amounts to tick all the boxes. We needed around €30,000 in equipment to comply. It was a bit much. Today the FFG label allows us to showcase the initiatives we’ve led over all these years. It enables us to highlight what we’ve accomplished and in that sense it’s a very good thing.

Interview with Richard Desort, Manager of Golf d’Hardelot

1. Water management

Mechanical operations on the course are non-negotiable. When you have a quality requirement for the courses, it’s essential to carry them out. Of course we try our utmost to organize, plan, and therefore inform our players. The coring dates are already set for next year – we put them in tour operator contracts now so there are no surprises for anyone. After that, if we need to do a small, unplanned operation – a light verticutting – we adapt. But we don’t compromise because these operations are vital for us.

2. Biodiversity preservation

The golf course is not a separate zone, it’s not a closed biodiversity ghetto. Courses are embedded in their surroundings. And very clearly, the bees that nest on the Dunes course will forage neighbors’ flowers as much as those on the course itself. Biodiversity doesn’t stop at the golf course borders. So everything we do impacts the biodiversity of the courses, but also that of their immediate environment. We’re part of a certain continuity for this wildlife and flora. Our responsibility is all the greater for it.

3. Controlled use of products

Some players have trouble understanding the profound change that the arrival of zero phytos will bring… For example, this winter, we had quite a few very intense cold spells, so much so that we quickly had to switch to winter greens, while at Le Touquet or Wimereux the greens were open. Of course the courses are different, but it was also a choice on our part. We didn’t want to take risks for the rest of the season by allowing foot traffic on frozen greens, which weakens them enormously and opens the door to disease. Similarly, when we no longer allow carts on the fairways, it’s to protect the course. Clearly we lose revenue with these kinds of decisions. But we also know that as soon as the good weather arrives, the fairways are magnificent and the greens healthy without needing treatments.

Biodiversity label

We’re working towards the silver label for biodiversity. And typically, we have five actions to take, like installing more nesting boxes, which we had already started doing as part of combatting invasive species. We’ve also had beehives for quite some time now in the woods to the right of hole 1 on the Dunes. We’re creating more and more natural areas, flower meadows that are out of play. We’re going to improve the existing pond on the Pins course, develop it so it’s a bit more visible and supports more frogs. We’re going to restore the original shape and depth of this ditch that’s half clogged up today – it will be all the more lively in the broad sense. But this isn’t just cosmetic. We have every interest in defending against invasive insects and anticipating their arrival by encouraging the settlement of birds or bats that will help us self-manage this biodiversity.

The cost of responsible maintenance

In the coming years, if players want quality, they’ll have to accept paying a corresponding price – and this is not an unfounded stance. It’s tied to all these notions of maintenance in the broad sense of the term. As is, we have 13 permanent staff and three seasonal workers to care for two courses. All the while knowing that due to the watering restrictions we adhere to strictly, we have to allocate an increasingly substantial overseeding budget. On top of that, we’ve experienced price hikes around 30% for seed – and when we’re talking several tonnes per year, it’s clear that complying with regulations around water management comes at a high cost for the golf club.

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