England’s oldest club completes six-year renovation project

  • Blackheath

    Ken Moodie aimed to introduce more heathland character to Royal Blackheath, as seen here on the tenth

  • Blackheath

    Work on the sixteenth included extending the green back-left to accommodate more pin positions

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Royal Blackheath Golf Club in London, England, has completed the final phase of a six-year renovation plan, developed and overseen by Ken Moodie.

“This phase of work consisted of course improvements on holes nine, ten and eleven and included the introduction of new drive bunkers on the tenth, the extension of the eleventh green to the back-right, and the modification and renovation of all the remaining bunkers,” said Moodie.

Royal Blackheath – the oldest club in England, formed in 1608 – has been at its current site since the mid-1920s when James Braid redesigned the golf course – originally laid out by Tom Dunn in 1892. Most of the bunkering dates from 1926.

“We have remodelled the bunkers in a style which is sympathetic to what Braid was producing at that time,” said Moodie. “The clubhouse dates from 1664, so is almost as old as the club, and used to stand in the grounds of nearby Eltham Palace.”

The final phase of construction was completed by Profusion Environmental in September, with MJ Abbott involved in the earlier phases. “Unusually, the golf club was able to have the work carried out through August since many of their members are away during that month and so no competitions are organised,” said Moodie.

“I was particularly pleased with the removal of many ornamental trees — in conjunction with environmental consultant John Nicholson Associates — which had spoiled the character of the course. I am also happy with the introduction of long grassland areas to create a heathland character in-keeping with the club’s name and long history.”

Among the changes introduced over the six-year project, Moodie highlights the work on the first and sixteenth.

The first has been transformed into a short par five by moving the green back 25 yards to provide an opener that he describes as “gentle and enjoyable”, as well as helping to better balance par. “The drive’s landing area was tightened with bunkering on the left and a new ditch on the right, to pinch the fairway with distance in order to challenge the longer hitter,” he said.

The sixteenth green has been rebuilt and extended back-left to accommodate a range of possible pin positions, and it now has asymmetrical greenside bunkering.

The final phase of work will open for play in April 2020 and there will be a celebration in June to mark the completion of the project.