The Environment

The Royal Dublin Golf Club is located on an Island Nature Reserve of great environmental significance and home to one of Ireland's foremost bird sanctuaries. Fronted by the famous 5 km long Dollymount beach, its other unique feature is its proximity to Dublin city centre (7 kms).

The Bull Island, home to Royal Dublin, is celebrated throughout Europe as a wildlife habitat for its unique collection of flora and fauna, and particularly its large concentration of over-wintering wildfowl and waders. It attracts more bird-watchers than any other location in Ireland. This marine environment, with its diverse wildlife, is a constant source of enjoyment to golfers.


In 1981 the island was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the first in Ireland. It was declared a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the 1979 European Bird Directive (79/409/EEC).

Improvements to the port of Dublin in the late 18th and early 19th centuries included construction of a South Wall and a North (Bull) Wall to improve navigation in the shipping channel. The North Wall was completed in 1825 and effectively enclosed an area of the bay on three sides, extending from Dollymount to Sutton. Accumulation of sand north of the wall followed, advancing rapidly northward as a low dune-covered sand spit to reach Sutton Creek by the 1880s, measuring five kms long and one km wide. This island comprises a series of parallel dune ridges, bounded on the seaward side by a beach and on the land-ward side by a salt marsh and tidal lagoon, which at low tide reveals extensive mud flats.

The island is a paradise for botanists, offering a wide range of flora, some of which, e.g. orchids, are regarded as quite rare. Three basic landscapes types have developed over the past century and a half, the elevated dune area formed by wind-blown sand adjoining the beach, the salt marsh behind this, and the mud/sand flats of the lagoon. The latter two are in the inter-tidal zone. Each landscape type has its own distinctive vegetation. An interesting mini eco-system is the Alder Marsh at the north end of the island enclosed within the dunes at water level, and features its own distinctive plant and insect life.

The golf course is sited largely within the sand dune area, but some of the inward nine holes on the western side abut the marshy ground adjoining the boundary dyke. Here the sand-based fairways give way to "peaty" type surfaces on which drainage and water-table are finely balanced.

Sand Dune on the Royal Dublin Golf Course
The fauna is very diverse and most celebrated for its wild fowl and waders, the latter reputedly numbering up to 30,000 on a winter day. Brent Geese which over-winter here in large flocks are a common sight grazing on the fairways. The lark has always been a distinctive feature, livening the summer with its soaring and song. Less heralded are numerous types of insects, flies and slugs flourishing on the island. There are only six land mammals recorded as residents - foxes, hares, rabbits and three rodents, namely house and field mice and brown rats. The hare and fox are a spectacle for visitors and often a source of amusement at major competitions.

Brent Geese on the Royal Dublin Golf Course The fauna and flora have been widely researched and recorded in many academic studies, commissioned projects and reports, and papers to societies. An informative publication available to visitors to the Interpretive Centre is "A Student's Guide to North Bull Island" commissioned by Dublin Corporation. The report on the "Special Amenity Area Order" adopted by Dublin Corporation in 1994 provides a broad ranging treatise on the ecological aspects of the island and the potentially damaging impact of the human activities. In 1999, Dorothy Forde added a further valuable addition to the publications with her excellently illustrated 'The Wild Flowers of North Bull Island'.

Flora which is part of the golf course Despite this wealth of background information, the Captain and the Committee considered it desirable to undertake an audit which would be individual to the course precincts. The well-known wildlife expert and broadcaster, Éanna Ní Lamhna, was appointed to undertake the audit and make recommendations as appropriate on the environmental management of the course. This audit and expert report has been taken into account in formulating the Club's environmental policy.

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