Blackwell Grange Golf Club in Darlington, England, has started construction work on a new short game area designed by Jonathan Gaunt.
The practice facility represents the second phase of Gaunt’s work at the club since it relocated from one side of the A66 highway to the other, to the Stressholme course previously operated by Darlington Council. The move made way for the council to proceed with a housing development on the site of the club’s original course.
Gaunt said the new site already had good credentials: “The course was built in the early 1970s and designed to a good standard by C. K. Cotton, who was a compatriot of Tom Simpson, Frank Penninck and, later, Donald Steel.”
The first phase of work focused on the ninth, eleventh and thirteenth holes, all par threes, “to create a dramatic first impact,” said Gaunt. With local firm NLS Contracts handling construction, 11 bunkers were remodelled and rebuilt using Blinder liner, green surrounds reshaped and tees reconstructed. Drainage and irrigation improvements were also made, with irrigation supplied and installed by AV Irrigation.
Despite heavy rain, the holes were completed in February 2019 and brought back into play by course manager Richie Pybus. “The members have welcomed the improvements wholeheartedly and fully support the ongoing course improvements,” said Gaunt.
The club is now in progress with the second phase of the master plan that Gaunt prepared in 2014. “This will be a ‘state-of-the-art’ practice facility, not equalled in the Northeast, that incorporates a 400 square metre practice chipping green, two bunkers – pot and a greenside/approach, four artificial turf teeing platforms, and numerous hollows, swales, humps and mounds,” said Gaunt.
“The green has already been turfed – supplied by Lindum Turf – and all surrounds will be seeded in late June with a view to bringing this exciting facility into play in autumn. The entire short game area will be fully irrigated to ensure the playing surface remains in excellent condition at all times, again installed by AV Irrigation.”
Blackwell Grange is expected to continue working on Gaunt’s master plan for at least the next five years.