Greenkeepers: How do you build a golf hole?
Golfers are a fussy breed. We turn up on a weekend and expect our courses to look fabulous and our greens to run true.
That’s what we pay our membership fees for, right? But have any of us stopped to think what goes into maintaining a high quality golf course?
At Moor Allerton, near Leeds, course manager Adam Matthews and his team took on a huge spring project
when they rebuilt the par-3 17th at the 27-hole complex. We asked him what goes into it…
What were the issues with the 17th?
The green was the worst on the course for disease and growing grass. It was set in a completely shaded environment. There was no light or airflow. We ripped all the trees out down the right-hand side and the sunlight is there now. That has improved the health of the green massively.
When we did that, we realised how the hole was starting to shape. The old area was so tight and untidy. There were a lot of maintenance issues. The two bunkers were old sump drainage designs and they used to fill with water. They were a nightmare to maintain. The way the green was built, everything runs down the hill into the bunker and there was no decent drainage in there.
What did you do?
The first port of call was to redesign the bunkers. There were two with a small area in the middle. We put in a huge Robert Trent Jones feature bunker. This wasn’t an original hole.
The club built it afterwards so we had to be in keeping with Robert Trent Jones’ original design to match it up with the rest of the course. His designs are just big, powerful looking features – big bunkers, teeing grounds and mounds – and this will potentially be the biggest bunker on the course now.
Visually, it looks a lot more dangerous but, actually, the levels are the same. People will stand there and say ‘that’s a huge ravine’ but that’s only because of the size of the bunker. We have also created an approach area at the front and extended the green. There’s an extra 150sq metres, which gives us another six or seven pin positions.
What impact does that have?
That’s a massive thing. The way the green was designed before, it was very small and, for our EuroPro Tour event, there were probably only three pin positions.
Now we have got 10 or 11. The other bunker that was in there was too narrow and the sand depth was terrible. So we put a pot bunker in and the way it is designed, with the sand coming up to the top of the hill, you can see it from the tee.
You couldn’t before. This is a signature hole on the course.
How brave did you have to be to change it?
We’ve kept the design pretty much the same. We’ve just updated all the features. The main thing was a maintenance issue. While this hole was deemed a feature, for us it was a nightmare. It was the worst hole to cut, to look after, to rake the bunkers.
So how do you go about building a new hole?
From playing golf myself, I know what I want from a golf hole – from seeing a lot of others around the country. With the maintenance, you get a really good knowledge of what will work. We did some simple things – printing out some photographs, put some designs on paper and a few drawings.
We also got landscapers and local architect Jonathan Gaunt involved as well. He listened to what we wanted to do, we drew out what we wanted and he was there as a back up to say ‘that’s fine’ or ‘what about this?’
What’s involved when working near a green?
You’ve got to be consistent with the material that is in there. You couldn’t just put greens turf down on the soil because the green is built out of a completely different structure.
It’s a lot more sand based. We cut back to the nicest point and just extended from there. It’s a bent grass turf, which is in keeping with what we have got on the greens structure.
That was laid and, from there, we have gone into the grading and then the greens turf. It was a slow process bedding it in. We slowly started to drop it down – to semi-rough height, collar height and we slowly introduced it to greens height. It took a lot more feed and top-dressing because the green had a lot of work done to it.