Chelmsford introduces new bunkering and improves drainage

  • Chelmsford
    Chelmsford Golf Club

    Mackenzie & Ebert and MJ Abbott have transformed bunkering at Chelmsford Golf Club (eighteenth, pictured)

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Work by Mackenzie & Ebert and MJ Abbott on bunkering and drainage at Chelmsford Golf Club in England is nearly complete.

With construction firm MJ Abbott hired to install green drainage, the club asked Mackenzie & Ebert, who had created a master plan in 2009, to return to oversee design changes. Work on rebunkering nine holes began in October 2019.

“We have completed the reconstruction of greenside bunkers on nine holes and are moving onto construction of new bunkering to the fifth and eleventh fairways, which was added to the scope of work part way through the project,” said Graham Humphries of MJ Abbott.

“The short par-four fifth was reachable for longer hitters, so there was little to think about and little consequence to not finding their target with there being lots of room to the right,” said Mike Howard of Mackenzie & Ebert.

“A bunker 50 yards short and right of the green has been added to introduce some risk to those attempting to drive the green. Two staggered bunkers closer to the tees adds some strategy for the average golfer and for better ones choosing to play more conservatively. When finished, this should make the hole ask all golfers what to do from the tee, rather than simply reaching for the driver, as is currently the case.”

The par-five eleventh previously favoured long hitters, who could take on the corner of a dogleg, with even a poor shot leaving the green accessible. “Shorter hitters are presented with a narrow corridor to the dogleg point, a much tougher shot compared to those able to carry the corner,” said Howard.

“Now, a line of three bunkers narrows the landing area for those cutting the corner. Anyone flying over these bunkers is likely to kick forward, through the fairway and will be blocked out by trees for their second shot.”

“The reconstructed bunkers have transformed the holes,” said Humphries.

“Also, the par-three eighteenth green was always puddled with old ponding bunkers around the green. The green is now dry in all weathers and the bunkering has transformed the view from the hole and clubhouse.”

Howard said: “Golfers will notice a change to the bunker style with more variety in the sand line. The sand lines had been edged a great deal over the years to give very high faces, and sand had built up around all sides to create a high lip, giving an odd look of the bunkers seemingly sitting above the adjacent playing areas.

“A reshaping of the surrounds and a deepening of the bunkers, while respecting the drainage requirements, has taken place to make the bunkers sit more comfortably within their surroundings. The sand lines are generally soft and can be maintained by course manager Stuart Caws to produce a quite formal look, befitting the landscape in which the course sits.”

MJ Abbott has had to contend with difficult conditions, including heavy rain events.

“The course lies on very heavy clay and getting around the site has proved challenging,” said Humphries. “We have needed to regularly move haul routes and change working plans to suit the ground conditions. Large areas have had to be boarded to protect the underlying soils from damage, which means every process takes a lot longer.”

This article is based on material that first appeared in the April 2020 issue of Golf Course Architecture. For a printed subscription or free digital edition, please visit our subscriptions page.