Tom Mackenzie of Mackenzie & Ebert is overseeing the first phase of a range of changes at The Nairn Golf Club near Inverness, Scotland.
The work includes new greens on the first and seventh holes, extension of the fourteenth green, rebuilding all fairway bunkers, reshaping greens surrounds on more than half of the holes, new forward tees on twelve holes and back tees on four holes.
One of the primary drivers of the project was to address the existing disparity of satisfaction of the golf experience between members. “What surprised me was the divergence in opinion between the shorter and longer-hitting players,” said Mackenzie. “For example, how could golfers not like the sixth? It’s such a great golf hole. But when played by shorter hitters into even a moderate breeze, there’s a bunker about 140 yards from the tee that meant that they just had to pull out the driver and take their chance. There was no bail-out option.”
“Over time the revetted bunkers were becoming smaller, steeper and, in some cases, deeper,” explained Mackenzie. "Fairway bunkers that lie alongside rough areas will be converted to rough-edged bunkers, and generally a bit larger and more forgiving. All bunkers in closely-mown areas will remain revetted, although some will be filled in or removed and replaced with hollows and swales, allowing for more types of recovery shot around the green. This work will be done on 12 holes as well as the new greens.”
The club has a strong championship history including the 1999 Walker Cup and 2012 Curtis Cup. As such, the changes have also been designed to retain the challenge of the course for good and elite golfers.
The fourteenth green is being extended and rebuilt to allow for a greater range of pin positions. “The front section was the only area of the green that was pinnable,” said Mackenzie. “The shortage of pin positions was particularly apparent for a four-round tournament.”
A new rear platform will be created on the far side of the valley that runs through the existing green, which will continue to divide the new green diagonally and make more space. Upon agronomic advice, the decision was taken to lift the turf from the entire existing and new areas of the green and reconstruct.
Entirely new greens are also being constructed on the first and seventh holes. “We’ve tried to make more of the coastline,” said Mackenzie. “The greens on both these holes will be tighter to the coastline and raised so you can see right along the beach.
“Our historic study showed that the previous greens were likely just to have been mown out on what was less interesting land. So the new greens will have more contour with ground sloping away on one side or the other.”
1st Golf Construction is handling construction work, with the significant support of the Club’s greenkeeping team who are doing the revetting and turfing of the greens. Peter Easton Irrigation is handling updates to the irrigation system that will be required as a result of the work.
The current phase of work will be completed in early 2019 and the second phase, which includes the remainder of the fairway bunker work and the addition of forward tees, will be completed next winter.