Mackenzie & Ebert renovates six more holes at Hillside

  • Hillside
    Beyond Drones

    Mackenzie & Ebert has completed a second phase of renovation work at Hillside

  • Hillside
    Beyond Drones

    The first phase involved dune construction between the first (left) and ninth holes

  • Hillside
    Beyond Drones

    Work has also taken place on the second (foreground) and the third

  • Hillside
    Beyond Drones

    A dune has been built along the entire right side of the eighteenth

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Mackenzie & Ebert has completed the second phase of renovation of the links at Hillside Golf Club in Southport, England.

The latest work has focused on the fourth and fifth holes with other changes being made on the second, third, sixth and eighth.

A master plan for golf course renovations was developed in 2018 following a Historic Research Report. The first phase was completed in winter 2019/20, which involved dune construction between the first and ninth holes and along the entire right side of the eighteenth. This phase also included adjustments to fairway bunkers on the first and eighteenth holes, the doubling in size of the practice tee, the reconfiguration of the second tees and the introduction of a new grass path system.

“The second phase has continued the theme of developing dunes between holes to give the front nine more drama, a feature that is so memorable on the back nine,” said Mike Howard, design associate at Mackenzie & Ebert. “The fourth has seen the entire area, apart from the green, reshaped. The tees have been reconfigured with a shorter tee introduced on a friendlier angle and the back tee extended slightly stretching the hole to 203 yards. Dunes have been added right and left with pockets of open sand within them, and the green surrounds have been completely reshaped with the left-hand bunkers removed and converted to a tightly mown runoff and the three right-hand bunkers converted to two.

“The previous iteration of the hole was fairly plain with no feature between the tees and the green, which was surrounded by five small pot bunkers. The unattractive scrub behind the green has been replaced with a dune, and the fifth’s championship tee to the left has been disguised within the new dunes as well.

“The carry from this back tee on the fifth has been transformed with a large dune slack being opened up. The water depth in this feature will be wet in the winter and will largely dry out in the summer and not only adds more drama but creates a highly variable habitat within the course. Both the STRI Group’s ecology team and Natural England were involved in the creation of this new habitat.”

Also part of the second phase has been the removal of two left-hand bunkers on the eighth hole, with new ones added to the right that are set into new dunes. The fairway short of the bunkers has been widened to give golfers more options from the tee, however, it narrows between the second bunker and the large dune to the left to challenge longer hitters. A sand scrape has also been opened in the dune to the left to act as a visual feature.

“Whilst Hillside is rightly considered one of England’s best links courses, one feature that is lacking, which is seen on so many great links venues, is well-shaped, closely mown green surrounds,” said Howard. “In this second phase, the second, fourth and sixth have all had bunkers removed and converted to tightly mown runoff areas that offer so many more options to the golfer whilst lessening the high maintenance burden of revetted bunkers.

“The range of recovery options has been greatly increased with this adjustment and has added some extra visual drama too, especially in the early mornings or late evenings when the sun is low, highlighting every ripple in the contours. On-site turf was used by course manager Chris Ball to blend these new areas seamlessly.”

Grass pathways have been created on the third, fourth, fifth and ninth holes, with contractor LS Systems installing irrigation.

Work so far in both phases has resulted in a combined 22,600 cubic metres of earth being moved to produce the new features and 20,100 square metres of rough vegetation being lifted and re-laid onto the new dunes with poor quality scrub vegetation being discarded and left as sand.

The club hopes to open the holes and reshaped areas in April.