Centreline Golf Design progresses with bunker project at Rich River

  • Rich River
    Centreline Golf Design

    Centreline Golf Design continues with bunker work on the East course at Rich River Golf Club in Australia

  • Rich River
    Centreline Golf Design

    Ben Chambers has overseen the project, which includes the installation of Kustombind liner in every bunker (pictured, the sixth hole)

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Centreline Golf Design is progressing with renovation work on the East course at Rich River Golf Club in Moama, Australia.

The club, located on the New South Wales side of the Murray River, has two 18-hole courses, the East and West. The West was designed by Geoff and Ted Paslow in 1979, before returning in 1985 to add the East. Peter Thomson oversaw a renovation of the East in the 1990s. The club engaged TP Golf to provide master plans for both courses in 2019. As the construction and design consultant to the club, Centreline is now leading the project, and its work on the East has been focused on bunkers and installing a new irrigation system.

As part of the renovation in the 1990s, deep pot bunkers were installed throughout the East course. Centreline’s focus has been, according to a club press release, to renovate bunkers to be “more visually fitting of the open landscape, with lower lips and wider profiles”.

“They looked very generic, unattractive and were hard to physically get in and out of,” said Ben Chambers of Centreline Golf Design, who is a member at Rich River. “Our main brief was to provide bunkers that drained properly, were easy to get in and out of, provided a better strategy from off the tee, were more playable, and looked more pleasing to the eye. I decided on a sandbelt-style and to reposition the green complexes to create a better strategy.”

Chambers’ plan was to work from Australia’s late spring to late summer (October to mid-February) to take advantage of the growing season.

“Wintergreen couch grass is being used around the bunker surrounds, so it is important not to go too early and let the turf just sit there or to go too late and not give the couch grass time to take root going into the cooler months,” said Chambers. “This season sees us complete another four holes with new bunkering and some fairway contour changes, while some bunkers will be filled in and replaced with short grass hollows.”

The club has an extra hole, a par three, which has been temporarily added to the routing to allow the project team to close one hole while they work on it. When work is complete on a hole, Rich River staff complete a two-week grow-in, first cut, topdress and fertilisation to get the hole back in play as quickly as possible.

“The high, dry temperatures mean there’s a high irrigation output, and this can have an effect on bunkers,” said Chambers. “They either get washed out, or the water that’s in them from the morning dries out in the afternoon, leading the sand to become very crusted and hard, making them difficult to play out of.”

Bunker liner from Kustombind has been installed in all bunkers. “This is a huge benefit for the heavy soils on the river and, more importantly, heavy irrigation cycles over the summer as the temperatures can reach well into the forties,” said Chambers. “Installing Kustombind has allowed us to make all the necessary changes that were in the brief. Irrigation is not a factor at all, and the bunker sand now plays firm and consistent at any time of day. Once completed, I believe that the East course will have the best bunkering on the Murray River.”

Feedback from members and guests has been encouraging, and according to the architect, people that haven’t seen the course since the start of the pandemic have been “blown away by the transformation”.

“The shapes, access and maintenance of the bunkers has been improved hugely,” said Chambers.

Course superintendent Jarrod Castle said: “The new irrigation system has allowed us to grow more areas of couch than previously seen. We are now irrigating treeline to treeline, which has allowed us to alter our cut lines to suit the new strategy of each hole.

“A number of holes are quite large in width, but with an ageing irrigation system cut lines had become quite narrow. Through this process we have created a more modern day look and feel. The linking of green complexes with tees is also helping us achieve a modern look. In some ways we are drawing inspiration from a number of sandbelt courses to help achieve this while also creating a style that fits the landscape at Rich River.”

Following the current phase of work, Chambers and the club will start again in October 2022 on another four to five holes, again, focusing on bunkers and some small changes to green surrounds. The installation of the new irrigation system will continue during the winter on the West course.

“Once the East course bunkers are complete, we will continue the process on the West course,” said Chambers. “The West will see a change in bunker style with a more natural and irregular edge, giving the two courses their own identity.”