Loch Lomond Golf Club in Scotland is coming to the end of what is likely to be the biggest renovation project in British golfing history.
By next spring Loch Lomond will have, over three winters, rebuilt all eighteen of its holes, installing a new irrigation system, re-grassing all fairways, rebuilding bunkers and lining them with Capillary Concrete, and, most importantly, entirely renewing the huge drainage infrastructure at the course, which is located next to Scotland’s largest body of fresh water, and in one of the wettest locations in the UK.
The project started in winter 2017/18, when course manager David Cole won permission from members to rebuild holes 14 and 15 as a trial project. These holes were among the wettest on the course, having been built on top of a huge peat bog (famously the location of a near-death experience for architect Tom Weiskopf during the course’s original construction when he fell in the bog and was unable to get out for several hours).
This initial project was well received, so last winter Cole and principal contractor Esie O’Mahony of GolfLink Evolve reconstructed the rest of the back nine of the course and the ninth hole.
Touring the course, the benefits are clear: the rebuilt holes were dry and firm even in November, while those still awaiting renovation were soaking wet. Loch Lomond averages two metres of rain per year and, though previous course manager Ken Siems installed a huge drainage infrastructure around twelve years ago, the ravages of time had rendered these pipes and sand bands relatively ineffective.
Cole’s new project is designed for the long haul. Drainage trenches are lined with geotextile to prevent, as far as is possible, the ingress of particles into the pipe itself. The pipes have been resized to cope better with the volume of water, and all bunkers are being lined with the Capillary Concrete system to ensure that sand remains uncontaminated for as long as possible. And, most dramatically, all holes are being sandcapped to a depth of about 200 millimetres to remove, as far as is possible, the impact of the native clay. The whole project is valued at £6.5 million, meaning it is likely to be the most costly renovation in the history of British golf.
Loch Lomond has been owned by its members now for eight years, and the pressure on Cole to deliver superior surfaces is intense. The course closes in winter; but a condition of permission to undertake the renovation was that eighteen holes would be open throughout the golfing season, which starts in April each year. A key consequence of this is that fairways have and are being turfed (there is not time for seed to establish itself). This winter alone, when the last eight holes are being rebuilt, the club has an order for 100,000 square metres of washed turf from supplier County Turf. Last spring, golfers were playing the rebuilt holes only a week after turf was laid, albeit on mats for the first month or so.
A full report on the work at Loch Lomond will appear in the January 2020 issue of Golf Course Architecture. Visit our subscribe page to sign up for a free digital subscription.