Bunker reconstruction work at Hankley Common Golf Club in Surrey, England, has taken another step forward following recent construction work by MJ Abbott, to a design plan set out by Martin Ebert of Mackenzie & Ebert.
The course originally opened in 1897 as a nine-hole layout, with James Braid expanding it to 18 in 1922. Harry Colt remodelled parts of the course in 1936 and, according to Ebert, it is one of the finest heathland settings in the country – located on a Site of Special Scientific Interest on the North Downs.
In 2020, the club engaged Ebert to develop a masterplan, and he proposed reworking bunkers and creating new sand areas for greater harmony with the course’s heathland landscape. Ebert’s plan also covered greens surrounds, areas of heather, tees and paths.
“The project has focused upon bringing the bunkers to life, making them blend into the heather surroundings and giving them a more classic, rugged look,” said Ebert. “The majority of the old bunkers were very simple in shape with little to commend them visually. There have been some adjustments to the bunker layout as well to ask the right questions of the better players.
“The green surfaces have not been touched but there has been quite a lot of work to the green surrounds, which has raised the interest level around the putting surfaces. In some ways, that seems to have drawn out the features of the green surfaces themselves a little more.
“Some bare sand areas have also been developed which make a real impression. They provided heather for the bunkers and other areas and these will soften into the landscape as they establish.”
Following a pilot project and two phases of construction work, 14 holes have now been completed. Shaper Quinn Thompson, who worked on Mackenzie & Ebert’s project at Hirono in Japan, joined the project team of MJ Abbott and Hankley Common’s greenkeeping crew.
“The club wanted to carry out all lifting and replacement of existing turf and final sanding of bunkers,” said Steve Briggs of MJ Abbott. “Quinn fitted into the project on one of our excavators working with the club and Martin to agree final shaping and the club slotted in as required to open up and close out areas.
“The site is blessed with fantastic heather coverage and the redesign brings heather closely into bunker complexes and lines of play. Clearance of sightlines between back-to-back greens on the fifth and eighth holes has transformed those green complexes, and the large sand scrape bunkering on the second is a dramatic contrast to what was there previously.”
Ebert said: “In terms of bunkering, I think that the changes have been as dramatic as any project we have been involved with. Some of the bunkers were so simple and, frankly, disappointing. There is still another phase to go to complete the implementation of the plan, but I think we are well on the way to achieving the overall vision for the course and the members seem to be very supportive of what has resulted, which is the most important result of course.”
Watch: heather preservation efforts at Hankley Common
The club plans to complete the third and final phase in winter 2023.