Royal Antwerp's Championship course, consistently voted the best golf course in Belgium and, after Pau in France, the second oldest course in mainland Europe, has just completed a major bunker restoration overseen by Dimitri van Hauwaert of Diamond Golf Architects. British architect Steve Marnoch has been consulting on the project.
"The idea was to create a classical style – although there were very few bunkers that could be said to be original – but at the same time be mindful of reducing unnecessary maintenance," said van Hauwaert. "The existing bunkers had completely lost their shape with several out of position, penalising only the poorly hit shot and being a constant drain on resources. They had lost their shapes through minor adjustment and normal edging over the years so that the actual sanded area had expanded. They had lost their relationship with the surrounding topography including putting greens and their influence on pin positions and strategy." Finding the original bunkers also revealed many areas of shaped green that had been lost over the years. "Trees and vegetation growing into the course must be constantly monitored and kept under control," said van Hauwaert. "Great courses have lost much of the wonderful heathland element due to the uncontrolled, even unnoticed growth of trees.
Re-turfing of bunker faces was carried out using 100 per cent fescue from a local source to reduce the need to cut bunker faces on a regular basis. Noses and banks have been shaped to create an aged look. Van Hauwaert said that Golftech, the contractor, did a fine job in this regard.
"At Royal Antwerp there were pure blocks of heather which have been lost through tree invasion," said Hauwaert." We have started a heather re-establishment programme, with large areas being stripped of the existing nutrient rich soil and turf to reveal the heather seed bank below, which can lie dormant for 75 years."