London golf venue Stoke Park is to invest a seven-figure sum in a facelift of its 27 holes, which were created by Harry Colt in 1908.
The first phase of works, which begins this month, will involve rebuilding every bunker on the Colt course – holes one to nine -- with some minor design changes being made to their shape and size. The holes will reopen next April.
The historic course played host to its first tournament, the PGA Matchplay in 1910 and, more famously, was the venue for the golf match between Sean Connery’s James Bond and Auric Goldfinger, in the 1964 film, Goldfinger.
Director of golf Stuart Collier explained: “We are very fortunate to have three nines of outstanding quality which enables us to close one for a brief period while maintaining 18 championship holes for members and visitors. So, holes one to nine will remain closed during the works period this winter, while holes 10 to 27 – the Alison and the Lane Jackson – will ensure our members always have 18 holes on which to play.”
Leicester-based contractor John Greasley will handle the works, under the supervision of Collier and estate director Alex Millar. Collier added: “The remit for the contractor is to ensure there is consistency in shape and design for all fairway and greenside bunkers. John Greasley uses a proprietary bunker liner called HyLine, with which we have been very impressed, and which is designed to eliminate the possibility of stone contamination. Two new bunkers were constructed on the short-game area last winter, as a test, and we are very happy with both the look and playability achieved by the contractor.
“The bunker rebuilding will take approximately 20 weeks to complete, plus, there is a large area of turf to be laid around each trap which will need time to settle in before we are ready to re-open the golf course.”
Each of the nine-hole loops will be addressed in turn, with the Alison (holes 10-18) being renovated in winter 2016/17 and the Lane Jackson (holes 19-27) the following year.
Perhaps surprisingly, no architect has been hired to oversee the works. Collier told GCA “At this stage we have not engaged the services of an architect because modern architects tend to want to put their own personal stamp on the course – and we want to return to the original Colt style. For 2015/16 the bunkers on holes one to nine will be reshaped and reconstructed to provide some Colt consistency and improve playability. However, the strategy of the course will not be changed. That does not mean we will not be engaging an architect for holes 10-27. John Greasley Ltd has significant and proven experience in restoring courses to – as close as is possible in the 21st century – the original Colt design, at courses like Tandridge, in Surrey, and Le Touquet, in northern France.” Architect Frank Pont was responsible for the design at both project cited by Collier.