The reconfiguration of Whittington Heath Golf Club
Earlier this year Whittington Heath, which has been reconfigured and extended due to HS2, opened following a massive course redevelopment project under main contractor John Greasley Ltd.
This year has been a pivotal moment for Whittington Heath Golf Club following the completion of the course’s major reconfiguration project in 2020.
The revised layout has now been in place for several months and feedback has been very positive with members embracing the new holes, the consistency of old and new greens being a great success. Beginning in early 2019, the first phase encompassed the reconstruction of all relevant bunkers in the holes that were to remain, as well as the formation of newly positioned tees, fairways and greens/surrounds. A brand new irrigation system was also installed on the ‘long-term alignment’ of the existing course by our contractor Irrigation Control.
In April 2019 we moved to the new ground, allowing the season to run uninterrupted. The club had the advantage of playing in all the newly constructed bunkers by early May that year, helped in part by the early sequencing of surrounding turf through February and March. The turnaround and establishment period was tight, but helped with favorable conditions for both construction and growth (the February heat wave caused some stress for both the contractor and the newly turfed area). laid !)
Phase two really got underway in early April on the adjacent ‘New Land’, with new holes being seeded throughout the summer. A total of nine new USGA-style greens were constructed and prepared in pairs every six weeks to allow for the harvesting and propagation of cores from the existing 18 greens. The six-week “rest” period was to allow sufficient recovery before the operation could be performed again. In order to minimize disruption to golf, we ensured that all coring was done and collected within 48 hours, with temporary greens being used during this short period. An extensive irrigation system, including full two row fairway heads and over 250km of drip line, was also installed by Irrigation Control as part of our contract.
Our contract extended to the initial maintenance of all grassed, seeded and cored areas, before handing over to the grounds maintenance team to carry out the rest of the cultivation.
A new driving range, chipping/bunker green and putting green have also been part of our work on the extension course, these being positioned around the new 1st tee complex for ease of access. More than 4 km of trails were built on the new holes and on the existing holes during the winter of 2019 and 2020 to adapt to the revised layout. This was part of phase three which saw us return to the existing course in November 2021 to build the new 8th hole.
One of the main aspects of the Whittington Heath project is the formation of attenuation lands, comprising both heather and acid grassland. A crucial part of the contract involved the translocation of 700m2 of well-established heather dominant vegetation located within the boundaries of the proposed railway line. This required a pair of RotoTilt 13t 360 excavators equipped with specialist attachments, one harvesting at the donor site and the other laying at the recipient site. We chose to use two nine-tonne dumpers on floating tires to facilitate access, speed of execution and to minimize disruption to the existing route. To ensure the success of the heather, the receiving areas were stripped of all vegetation and samples were taken to ensure the pH was appropriate. Each slab has also been cut cleanly into rectangular slabs of 1.50m x 1m and 300mm thick to retain the original root structure and soil. Independent valves in the overhead irrigation heads have also been installed to cover the receiving area, whereby water can be applied as and when required to prevent the heather from drying out unduly and becoming stressed.
Most of the sandy subsoil attenuation zones between the five new holes are being hydroseeded. Using our own Finn T90, 900 gallon low ground pressure hydro-seeder, we covered over 17 acres of mitigation hydro-seeding. The two main mixes are dominant heather and acidic moorland grassland. The former comprises pure Calluna Vulgaris (linging heather), the latter being primarily a mix of fescue and curvature, with a few specialist varieties such as wavy grass and heather bedstraw.
Establishing new heather plants from seed is a very slow process and can take two to three years if the right conditions are right. In the summer of 2022 we begin to see the first signs of heather from the seed sown over 18 months ago. It’s an incredibly positive sign that others will follow, but it’s a plant that won’t rush!
For more information, visit www.johngreasleyltd.co.uk
Architect Jonathan Gaunt on the Whittington Heath project
We were first asked to participate in the redesign of the Whittington Heath Golf Club golf course in July 2012, after an initial meeting in early February 2012 with John Tipper and Kelvin Edwards.
Our brief was to create a new section of the golf course to match as closely as possible the existing course, which was already highly regarded in the Midlands for its Harry Colt design. It was a tough commission to take on, but really exciting to be asked to do it.
The first difficulty was that in 2012 the club had not yet identified the land to extend the course and the HS2 railway line was, unfortunately, in the process of splitting the existing course in two and demolishing the clubhouse .
So, after surveying four sites, a 25-hectare plot of rolling, sandy farmland was chosen for the five new holes and practice area, to the east of the existing course and the clubhouse was positioned in a central, elevated location overlooking the new ground. . The master plan has been drawn up.
The detailed design of the course, however, took several years to develop with many iterations before a planning application was submitted to Lichfield Council in 2016. Shortly after obtaining permission, the project started on site in January 2019, and that’s when the fun really started.
Progress on the site has been rapid and the contractor, John Greasley, has worked surprisingly well under very difficult conditions (torrential rain, flooding, drought and the Covid pandemic) to complete the golf course in the fall of 2021.
The project far exceeded my expectations and is one that I am really proud of. The construction project team and the maintenance team at Whittington Heath have worked so well together to bring this project to life. The mitigating earth is now establishing well, giving an established heath character to the new holes, with wisps of heather already appearing and thriving. The wild grass between the new holes gives the roughs a rugged appearance which is offset by the well-cut and fast-paced main playing areas – perfectly maintained to a high standard by Course Manager Adam Jones and his team.
It has been an absolute pleasure to be part of the next 100 years on what I consider to be the finest course in Staffordshire.
For more information, visit www.gaunt-golf-design.com