A rainy summer gave everyone huge headaches at Huddersfield Golf Club but, after a multi-year restoration project, bad bunkers are a thing of the past
When the rain came, the greenkeeping team at Huddersfield Golf Club would watch and wince.
The bunkers at the historic Yorkshire course would washout, the drains would fill and repairing the damage took four guys six hours.
Even then, it could take up to a week for the sand to recover and playing conditions to return to the way members expected.
Then it would rain again. Rinse, wash, repeat.
Revered names in golf design have taken a crack at the course affectionately known as ‘Fixby’ down the years.
Tom Dunn laid it out, but Sandy Herd, James Braid, Herbert Fowler, Dr Alister MacKenzie and Fred Hawtree all laid spades down during the golden age of architecture before, latterly, Donald Steel made his own changes.
Now Suffolk-based Swan Golf Designs are the latest to make their mark – having just completed a multi-year project to alter the bunkering at the 128-year-old course.
Led by William Swan, the brief was to make the hazards more attractive, while also equipping them for the rigours of the Yorkshire weather.
After two years of planning, and three years of construction, the club have enjoyed all new bunkering this summer.
“This wasn’t a restoration project, per se,” said Swan. “It’s a renovation project; but the opportunity presented itself to restore the traditional, slightly ragged, style of the bunkers present in the 1920s and 30s.”
Swan studied archive photographs and plans, including some aerial images, from 1926 when Fowler was said to have been on site.
“That showed us how the course was laid out and how the bunkers looked at that time. And that’s from where we took our inspiration.”
“We had some really wet summers and there was significant washout,” said course manager Ben Turner of the club’s motivation to make a change.
“We have high sand faces – a flash face design – which suits the character of this kind of landscape and allows the golfer to see what’s in front of them.
“We wanted to retain that type of design. When they were washing out the drains were getting clogged up.
“When you throw the sand back up, the characteristics have changed and it doesn’t play for a week or so like it was previously.”
Swan added he’d used a specific bunker liner to solve the washdown problems, while employing shaping techniques to divert the water and deal with the migration of sand.
“The bunkers weren’t playable for six months of the year. They were just impossible,” he explained.
“The other issue is that it can be quite windy up on the hills and sand can blow about, while water runs down the slopes.
“The obvious thing would be to drop the sand faces down to the bottom and, practically, that would be much easier.
“But you would lose so much of the character and the visibility of the bunkers. You would lose the visual appeal of the bunkers and so we had to find a way around it.
“The working areas around the bunkers were pretty big and so we did a lot of shaping outside of the bunkers to make sure the water running off the greens and down the hills could be moved away from the sand before they got there.”