Increasingly, many forward-thinking clubs are realising that the proper way forward to advance their course into the new decade is to obtain the services and advice from independent, qualified, experienced golf course architects and agronomists.
For too long, most clubs have been altered or ‘improved’ by a succession of unqualified Greens Chairmen, or even Captains, whose aim during their period of office appears to be to create a memento of that period in effecting changes to the layout.
Often, these changes are then reversed by the following officials, leading to a situation in many clubs where bunkers are created then filled in a few years later, paths moved and changed, and a multitude of course alterations without the benefit of a long-term goal.
Prior to understanding any alterations, it is essential to have such long-term aim, whether a 5 year, 10 year or, even, on some courses a 25 year programme of alterations and improvements, so that every alteration is part of that long-term goal.
David Williams Golf Design have been involved in many such programmes, starting with an initial course audit based on a detailed ‘hole by hole’ inspection of the existing layout. A written report, often with plans of each hole, details not only the condition of each individual element, but also that element’s contribution to the overall play and strategy of the hole.
As is stated in the adjacent section on bunkering, often many bunkers are found to be almost completely redundant, yet continue to be maintained (at considerable cost) by existing greenstaff.
With the increasing popularity of golf over the last 20 years, leading to an ever-increasing number playing the game, invariably the first areas of the course which exhibit signs of wear are the tees. Whereas in earlier years, even busy golf courses were often relatively quiet on weekdays and in winter months, many golf courses now experience all-year round play to a level unimagined when the course was initially laid out and constructed.
It is now common to find private courses with over 40,000 rounds per year being played and, in many instances, popular club courses or public facilities in excess of 60,000 rounds per year, figures which would stagger golfers in an earlier age.
Increasingly, modern technology improved techniques and strength of golfers are rendering many features of older courses obsolete. Bunkers which formed distinct challenges to players in earlier years are now carried with ease by today’s longer hitters. The overall result is that many of our courses are becoming undefended to the modern better player, who is able to carry the ball 240-250 yards off the tee, thereby clearing these earlier hazards with ease.
However, these existing bunkers, originally designed to be out of range for all but the better player, are now within range of the average club golfer or even the shorter hitter. Many instances exist where previously challenging cross bunkers now lie at precisely the distance reached by today’s senior golfer or ladies, thereby making the course far more difficult for them than the better player who can carry them with ease.
Increasing numbers playing golf, particularly in the wetter winter months, have given many existing clubs increasing problems with the putting surfaces. Many older clubs reluctantly turn to temporary greens during these conditions, often cut on adjacent areas of fairway, and look on with envy at more modern courses which provide excellent putting surfaces throughout the year and throughout all weather conditions.
What many such older clubs do not realise, is that the underlying cause of their wet greens is the result of deliberate design decisions made at the time of construction of the course.