Plastic tees a bad tease for the birds

Royal North Devon Golf Club prohibits plastic tees

Banning plastic tees, harmful to the environment
Image by Brendan Dalley from Pixabay

The oldest golf course in England has shown it is firmly up to date by becoming the first in the country to prohibit the use of plastic tees. Effective from January 1st, it will be wooden all the way at the Royal North Devon Golf Club at Westward Ho!, which was founded in 1864. “The simple fact is that plastic tees are more likely to harm the birds and animals we share our wonderful course with,” said a club statement. “From the start of the new decade we would like all golfers to only use wooden tees and the pro shop will only supply wooden tees.”

Wooden tees, of course, do more easily split (a bit like that infinitive in the previous sentence) but they are naturally biodegradable. While it is probably true to say that most golfers are sufficiently conscientious to pick up a plastic tee-peg after they’ve hit off it, the potentially negative consequences of not doing so have become self-evident to the members. Richard Hughes, who is on the committee, told the Daily Telegraph: “Birds pick up the plastic tees, which are often garishly coloured, and they drop them all over the place, including on the beach and in the sea. We have found tees in birds’ nests before.” For those golfers who arrive from elsewhere armed with a battery of plastic tees there will be sin bins (not what the club are calling them) dotted around the links into which the offending items can be chucked.

To swap newspapers for a moment, The Times has a regular feature whereby it publishes an article from the corresponding issue of precisely a century beforehand. One day last month the offering was about golf, written I presume by Bernard Darwin, its golf correspondent who in those days was not referenced by name. Indeed, none of the correspondents were, which meant that early on in a piece entitled ‘Winter Golf: Play in Snow and Mud’, the author was able to say: “The gentleman who tells us each week in The Times how the sun is blazing down in the Riviera does wisely to remain anonymous, for there must be many people tempted to murder him, and none perhaps more so than golfers.”

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By Robert Green

The matter in that article that caught my eye with regard to the very much more recent story about Royal North Devon was that Darwin wrote “there is one course where fish have been caught on the 15th green”. Granted the golf course at Westward Ho! Is very close to the sea – so close at times that it has lost some parts of some holes to the Atlantic – but, on that marvellously idiosyncratic layout, sheep or cattle are more likely to be involved in the play than anything that spends its life swimming in the shallows.

Anyhow, I wish Royal North Devon good luck in its endeavours to help the environment. And I think we now know from which English golf club Greta Thunberg might most appreciate getting an invitation to become an honorary member.

You can follow Robert Green on Twitter @robrtgreen and enjoy his other blog plus you can read more by him on golf at

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