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Save birdies while you score some

London, Feb. 6: They smash the heads off flowers, trample on plants and frighten birds with their curses just because they have played a bad shot. Now Britain's golfers are to be taught a lesson in being kinder to the environment.

The Wildlife Trusts has launched a nationwide campaign to educate golfers and their clubs on how to be more sensitive to their surroundings. 'We want to encourage golfers to look after the birdies as well as scoring birdies,' a spokesman said.

The campaign, called Drive the Green, aims to end the decades-old hostility between golfers and environmentalists. Golfing has boomed in recent years and there are more than 3,000 courses in Britain and Ireland.

As golf courses have proliferated so has criticism from conservationists who blame golfers for damaging wildlife habitat, polluting water supplies with pesticides and fertilisers, over-extracting water for sprinklers and hose pipes, and destroying plants and flowers through ignorance or bad temper.

John Everitt, the head of conservation programmes at the Wildlife Trusts said: 'There are some individual golfers who don't treat habitats the way they should, probably because they are not aware of their importance. But we are also concerned about a bigger issue: the need to design and manage golf courses in a way that helps wildlife.'

Almost 100 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in England alone include golf courses. They contain thousands of species, including woodland birds, bats, other mammals, insects, flowers and plants ' all of which are potentially under threat.

The conservationists have chosen 'ambassador' clubs in the first phase of the nationwide campaign which is backed by Volvo Car UK and follows a successful pilot scheme at Wentworth in Surrey.

The ambassador clubs will give members and visitors leaflets outlining the Wildlife Trusts five-point plan to encourage them to 'green' their game. They include Alwoodley in Yorkshire, Magnolia Park, in Buckinghamshire, The Dukes Course, St Andrews, and Little Aston in the West Midlands.

Golfers were, however, unimpressed by the suggestion that they needed to be educated about protecting the environment.

Peter McEvoy, the chairman of selectors for the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team, said: 'I've never seen an example of golfers wilfully damaging courses; inadvertently maybe, but that can be solved by controlling access to environmentally sensitive parts of the course.'

Mark Reason, The Sunday Telegraph's golf correspondent, said that there were individual golfers who were insensitive to the environment but the vast majority was well-behaved. 'There are golf courses that used bulldozers to cut through woodland, for example, but golf course design has improved a lot in recent years,' he said. 'This sounds a bit like people with a bee in their bonnet about golf.'

Julian Small, the managing director of Wentworth, said clubs should welcome the campaign.

'Parts of our course are SSSI and we believe it is important to manage the areas as sensitively as possible.'

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