International Design Group (IDG) is under way with a comprehensive remodelling of Ingestre Park Golf Club in Staffordshire, England.
The work is being done following the routing of the UK’s new HS2 high-speed railway line through Ingestre’s golf course.
The proposed route of HS2 passes close to the clubhouse, cutting through the eighteenth hole and bisecting the course in two. Safety considerations and HS2 landscape mitigation requirements meant the club would lose 12 holes and would need to reconfigure two within a small area of the course that would remain after the railway was built.
“Initially, the club proposed a move to a completely new site, but this was not acceptable to HS2,” said Jon Hunt, golf course architect at IDG. “The only option left to the club was to accept two parcels of nearby, open, intensively farmed land on which replacement holes could be built.
“There would only be four holes which were to be left untouched by the train line, which at one point in the course is on a 12-metre-high embankment, although at the western end of the sloping site, the embankment will move into a deep cutting. Great care would be needed in reconfiguring the course to minimise the noise and visual impact of the rail line. This was explained to the House of Commons and House of Lords select committees whilst being under the threat of extinction.”
Negotiations with the Department for Transport and HS2 resulted in “sensible budget considerations” being imposed, meaning if the club was to remain open, an extension to the remaining site was the only possible solution.
“The complex routing involves the construction of 12 new holes on adjacent land, using two road crossings to ensure two loops of nine holes can start and return to the clubhouse,” said Hunt. “Two of the existing holes – the eighth and eighteenth – are being remodelled to allow for the new boundary imposed by HS2. Since the club committee wanted a cohesive and homogenous playing experience on new and old holes, they decided to renovate retained greens, tees and bunkers, and install a new drainage system.”
HS2 accepted that the existing irrigation system was also past its useful life, with a new one needed to be installed.
It would take eight years of negotiations and delays until earthworks – handled by MJ Abbott and P Quinn Construction – would start on the site. MJ Abbott began golf course work in 2021, building two new holes and reconfiguring the eighteenth.
“Getting this project off the ground was the hardest part,” said Hunt. “Since the project is government funded, agreeing a budget which did not provide any ‘betterment’ was an arduous affair. After studies were carried out on the value of the community asset, a final budget emerged which both sides felt was workable.”
The construction of the rail line also involved major diversion works for nearby BPA and Cadent pipelines. The programme for this work was also delayed, and with every delay, new plans had to be drawn up to try to keep 18 holes in play at all times.
A new schedule was created with the aim of completing work by July 2023, with the new holes to be brought into play in groups, as and when they are ready. The club is handling the grow-in with the help of master greenkeeper Phil Helmn and agronomist Jonathan Pendry.
“The land for the new holes is much flatter and with virtually no trees or other landscape features compared to the existing historic parkland course,” said Hunt. “The members have come to expect a certain landscape value when playing at Ingestre Park. When surveyed, the majority of members valued the tranquillity of the site above all other factors.
“The mature parkland site is quite an incredible sight on a sunny day, and we tried hard, within the budgetary constraints set by HS2, to provide something of similar interest. However, HS2 insisted that the size of tees, greens and bunkers had to be kept the same as the existing to avoid ‘betterment’.
“To generate an exciting golf environment and deal with poor quality drainage, the design includes thousands of trees and a complicated series of attenuation ponds and ditches to create a landscape worthy of the original course. Trees are used in the course’s strategy, with zones dedicated to certain species to create a unique feel to each part of the course.”
IDG’s design had to comply with the HS2 environmental statement, which Hunt says was “extremely complex” and saw him reach out to consultant ecologists. Consultancy group ECUS provided assistance in regard to compliance statements, sustainable design inputs, construction environment management plans, health and safety plans, noise and dust monitoring schemes, and many other documents that set the framework within which construction work has to be completed.
“One of the benefits of HS2 is the ecological mitigation for the surrounding landscapes,” said Hunt. “We are planting thousands of trees, creating new ditch habitats, lakes and even playing our part in reinforcing bat navigation routes.
“Extensive rewilding is a major part of the design with wildflower meadows, aquatics and marginals, native hedgerows, and understorey planting helping to deliver a major improvement in habitat diversity. It’s certainly a long way from the monocrop agriculture previously on the site.”
IDG has used water and ditches strategically throughout the round. The new fifth hole, for example, gives golfers two options: a long draw to better access the green from the left, or playing it safe to the right of a ditch but leaving a more difficult approach. The new thirteenth, a medium-length par three, uses the ditch to split the fairway into a lower section in front, and a raised section at the rear of the green.
“Gently undulating fairways are surrounded by rolling mounding and copses of new trees to give this course a character worthy of its predecessor although this will take a few years,” said Hunt.
“Working on the existing course is a different design challenge to the new, open fields of the new course. There is a greater elevational change elevation on the retained course and there are large amounts of very mature trees and wooded areas. However, the greatest challenge has been one of programming so that 18 holes can remain in play at all times. This means the club has been hard at work creating temporary greens and tees to keep holes open as long as possible.”