Strandhill Golf Club in County Sligo in the northwest of Ireland has embarked on an ambitious programme of improvement works. The scheme, which could take up to five years to implement, is being led by Dublin-based Scottish architect Ally McIntosh.
McIntosh and Strandhill’s greens crew, led by course manager Jason Kelly, have handled construction works for the first phase of improvements in house. This phase has involved rebunkering several holes, and making a number of other adjustments.
At the first hole, for example, McIntosh has removed four greenside bunkers that blocked off the possibility of hitting a running approach to the green, while adding a new, large bunker some 50 yards short of the putting surface. “We are inviting golfers to carry this bunker with room to let the ball feed in from the left,” said McIntosh. Above and to the left of the semi-punchbowl green, where two bunkers previously sat, the architect has created a complex of humps and hollows designed to catch any shot that is played too safely out to the high side.
Other new bunkers have been built on several other holes, including the eighth, tenth and eleventh and seventeenth. These bunkers have been constructed in a ‘hybrid’ style, with clean revetted edges where the bunker faces a playing surface, and chunked rough grass where the sand transitions into out of play areas. The effect is not unlike some of the bunkers created at Castle Stuart in Scotland.
When the rebunkering effort is complete, McIntosh says he expects the total number of bunkers on the course to be reduced from 63 to around 48. “But each one will have a definite purpose in the design and playability of the golf course,” he said.
Phase two of the project involves the construction of two new golf holes in the unused dunes beyond the current fourth green. The club is working closely with the relevant Irish authorities to gain permission for this work, a process that has been given a boost by a recent biodiversity study showing substantially more species in the areas maintained as golf course than on the natural dune, which is largely covered in marram grass. McIntosh also hope to reorder the holes to make Strandhill a more natural walk and eliminate awkward crossing points.