Frank Pont of Infinite Variety Golf Design is overseeing renovation work at New Zealand Golf Club in West Byfleet, England.
“The club has decided to renovate the course slowly and systematically,” said Edward Cartwright, head of IVGD’s operations in the UK and Ireland. “In particularly, the desire is to return the green complexes to their former glory by restoring Simpson’s laced/diagonal fingered bunkers and their asymmetric aprons.”
Infinite Variety and contractor Conor J Walsh Golf started with the renovation of the green complexes on the first and fourteenth holes in 2017. Since then, work has also taken place on second, third, fifth, eighth and twelfth.
“People can look out of the clubhouse and see the changes made to the first hole,” said Cartwright. “These have included a striking renovation of the bunker that guards the front of the green, which is a key feature of the hole, replacing it with a lacy Simpson bunker, something much more in keeping with his original design.
“The changes to the renovated holes are exactly as we had hoped for,” said Roger Marrett, New Zealand’s secretary. “The course manager and his staff are very comfortable working alongside the teams from IVGD and CJW Golf and the feedback from members has been uniformly positive.”
Cartwright said: “The most radical work undertaken to date has been to the par-four second, where we have slightly rerouted the first half of the hole in order to return the hole to the original subtle dogleg and create more separation between the first green and the second tee. This has necessitated the creation of a new teeing area. By straightening the fairway, we have challenged better players to take out the driver more often on what is undoubtedly one of the course’s most difficult par fours.”
“There was originally a bunker on the left side of the fairway about 230 yards or so from the tee, which was abandoned many decades ago, certainly prior to the 1960s,” said Walsh. “When our team set to work with the digger in order to restore it, the original pre-war sand was found beneath the heather within ten minutes. It was reasonably simple to put the feature back in, immensely gratifying and has added to the hole’s definition and beauty. Working closely with IVGD and its well-researched plan has made this project much easier to execute and very rewarding.”
“The green complex has been renovated with a significant number of trees and other vegetation removed from behind the green and along the right side of the hole,” said Cartwright. “Simpson’s foreboding bunker complex in front of the green has also been restored to its former glory.
“To date, it is the changes to the first three holes which excite us most, as several lost features have been reintroduced and a more striking aesthetic has been delivered which is much more evocative of the original design.”
The course was originally designed in the nineteenth century by Samuel Mure Fergusson. Simpson undertook a significant redesign of several holes in the 1920s. “Simpson was a wonderful illustrator,” said Pont, who is an avid student of his work having previously restored Hardelot in Northern France and is presently renovating Blackwell in Worcestershire, which Simpson built in partnership with Herbert Fowler. “Most fortunately, we are blessed with having his detailed sketches of some holes, both from top down and lateral perspective, particularly the third and seventeenth. The work we did last winter to renovate the green complex on the par-three third was heavily influenced by those drawings, which Simpson created at the time of his work here.”
Pont and Cartwright have also made use of aerial photography from immediately after the Second World War and the 1990s. “Whilst we are mindful of the fact that it is 2019, in many cases, the green complexes are not just beautiful, they remain totally pertinent in the modern age,” said Cartwright. “It tends to be the passage of time and the associated decay or works undertaken without sufficient research and consideration for the original architecture that leads to a degradation of the situation.
“We at IVGD are driven by the need for preliminary detailed research and a sound comprehension of what was built initially, which is I think second to none. We never scrimp on our preparatory work when returning masterpieces like New Zealand to their former glory. It is a formula which has worked with great success in continental Europe and is no less valid here in the UK.”
The firm will also be addressing some of the areas where there has been an overmassing of rhododendrons and trees. A reduction in those is aimed at improving the corridors and playing surfaces.
“We are at present in discussion with the club about what work will be undertaken this winter and hope to be able to finish the front nine,” said Cartwright. “Much though we are itching to restore some of the most interesting lost features on the back nine, the club is keen to move forward in a sequential manner, which makes great sense. The aim is to complete the project within the next three years.”