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.
It is often the teeing surfaces which are the first features to give rise to concern, being unable by their size and construction to withstand the higher numbers of rounds and the golfers’ increased expectations. Facilities tolerated even as little as 20 years ago are now not acceptable to the majority of golfers. Muddy, worn out tees in the autumn leading to playing off temporary mats during wetter winter months may have been acceptable then, but the modern golfer expects better.
Golf course architects generally suggest that a minimum of 100 square metres (approximately 120 square yards) should be provided for every 10,000 rounds played annually on a golf course. Based on these figures, it will be realised that 40,000 rounds per year require teeing space of 400 square metres (480 square yards) per hole, the 60,000 round per annum course needs 600 square metres (720 square yards) per hole, figures which would make the teeing area larger than the greens on many courses. However, experience has shown that such sizes are required if the tees are not to show unnecessary wear.
However, it is not only a question of increasing the size, but often the construction and drainage characteristics of a tee can be improved at the same time, often by creating special well-drained grass winter tees replacing unpopular mats. The opportunity should also be taken in tee enlargement to possibly create differing shot lines from the new tees.
The Waterfall Course at Mannings Heath Golf Club in Sussex is an excellent example of a fine golf course, increasingly popular but starting to show many signs of this increased popularity. As many tees required enlarging in a hilly, undulating chalkland landscape, great care was required to ensure the work was undertaken satisfactorily.
Two of the most dramatic holes on the course are par 3s. The 5th hole, known as the Punchbowl, is the “signature” hole of the course and appears on the Club’s scorecard, although the course is named after the dramatic short 97 yard par 3, 10th hole, known as The Waterfall.
DWGD were called in by the Club to extend the teeing area on both holes. However, with the dramatic downhill nature of both holes, it was necessary to undertake precise topographical surveys to ensure that the forward tees did not mask any view of not only the putting surface but also the front bunkers and the stream which ran in front of both approaches.
The 10th, at under 100 yards long, was also deemed too short for modern play. The tees were extended backwards into a clearing in adjacent woodland, the restricted space available necessitating the use of timber sleepers to maximise the level teeing area.
Unsympathetic extensions could have spoilt the appearance and characteristics of both holes both visually and in playing terms but, by carrying out the work in a properly designed manner, members and visitors can now enjoy playing the holes off grass tees throughout the year.