Handsworth Golf Club in Birmingham, England, has opened three new holes — designed by Jonathan Gaunt — replacing those lost in a project to reduce flood risk in the local community from the river.
The River Tame flows to the north of the Handsworth property and, in recent years, it has been prone to bursting its banks and flooding the golf course, valley and the area of Perry Barr and Witton. “In 2010, it was so extreme that 10,000 homes were flooded,” said Gaunt.
The UK Environment Agency’s proposed flood storage reservoir sits within the floodplain of the River Tame.
“The flood embankment project, via the use of the Environment Agency’s use of statutory powers, impacted the golf club’s land, which included the existing twelfth hole,” said Gaunt. “This, therefore, would have a major influence on the layout, especially because the twelfth was at the northern end of the site and in order to replace this hole it would involve not just one hole, but a three-hole loop.”
In 2013, Gaunt was approached by John Weir, managing director of Cornerstone Golf to incorporate the flood storage embankment into the golf course at Handsworth.
“We were appointed as a subconsultant to Cornerstone, who act as specialist consultants to C2HM Hill Companies — now Jacobs Engineering Group,” said Gaunt. “Jacobs has been responsible for all design and engineering work relating to the flood storage reservoir and infrastructure associated with it. As golf course architects, we worked closely with Cornerstone and Jacobs to deliver a solution for Handsworth to provide an equivalent golf experience to that which was being impacted.
“Birmingham City Council agreed to exchange land alongside the existing fourteenth hole which allowed two new holes to be built to accommodate the realignment and rerouting of the golf course. The new layout involves the abandonment of the par-three eleventh, which is now replaced with a new 198-yard par-three thirteenth.”
The new eleventh hole is a slight left-to-right dogleg par four, the second shot plays over a new water feature to an island green. The new 422-yard par-four twelfth plays with a left-to-right dogleg and has been created on new land.
“The new layout provides Handsworth with an 18-hole golf course which is slightly longer than the original layout, but remains the same par. The design of the new holes reflects the high architectural calibre of the Colt-designed golf course. This was an important aspect of the design brief — to interpret the Colt design of the existing holes and to create new holes that matched with the existing as closely as possible so as not to create three new holes completely out of character to the existing layout.”
John Greasley Ltd, headed by Charlie Greasley, was in charge of construction, whilst Jacksons Civil Engineering was responsible for the work relating to the flood embankment project. “They worked remarkably well together, and each was able to support one another to achieve all agreed deadlines in what were — on occasions — highly challenging site conditions due to extreme weather,” said Gaunt. “As you could expect, the entire membership of the club could see progress on a daily basis, as they were playing the holes alongside the development site, so every aspect of our work was constantly scrutinised and observed with great interest.”
Greasley completed work from late February 2018 to October. Paul Woodham of STRI Group advised on agronomy relating to the new greens, while irrigation was supplied and installed by Irrigation Control.
“We’ve created some really interesting contours on the new greens that are definitely Harry Colt in style, but not so severe that pin positions are limited,” said Gaunt. “Adam Jones, the course superintendent, is a scratch golfer and I’m really pleased that he gave us the ‘thumbs up’ after playing in the opening event on 31 August. Plus, he said that the feedback from the members was extremely positive. This is the kind of thing that makes the project worthwhile and really satisfying. I’m also delighted that the Environment Agency is happy with the finished result.”
The new holes opened for play in August 2019.