Renovations at The Club at Nine Bridges ahead of 2017 CJ Cup

Renovations at The Club at Nine Bridges ahead of 2017 CJ Cup
Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley

The golf course at Club at Nine Bridges on Jeju Island in South Korea is preparing to host this year’s CJ Cup.

Ahead of the tournament, the course has been worked on by original architect David Dale of Golfplan, and Steve Wenzloff, vice president and player liaison with PGA Tour Design Services.

A major part of the preparatory work focused on the course’s bunkers, which have been rebuilt using the Durabunker method of construction.

Crews at Club at Nine Bridges had become accustomed to rebuilding the bunkering every two to three years. However, the Durabunker method of construction will help to significantly boost the longevity of the course’s bunkering.

“We’ve been impressed everywhere we’ve seen it done, and we did extraordinary due diligence before finalising this decision,” said David Dale. “The playability over time is exactly what one would expect from stacked-sod, in terms of look and bounce. But the owners here are like owners anywhere: they thought it unnecessarily expensive and disruptive to rebuild with such frequency. Considering this product is built from 100 per cent recycled materials, maintains design integrity, prevents sand contamination, and requires no watering, ever – there’s a lot to like.”

Steve Wenzloff was impressed by the Durabunker method after encountering it at TPC Colorado – a course designed by Art Schaupeter which is currently under construction and set to open next year.

“It seemed like a good design solution; that got my attention,” Wenzloff said. “I had made a visit to Nine Bridges back in 2012, when we were analysing the course as a potential President Cup site. Fast forward to the fall of 2016: I was back at Nine Bridges and I could see several of the revetted bunkers had sloughed off. It came to my attention that they rebuilt them every other year and were planning to do so again. Do the math: That’s 9-10 times they’ve gone through that process. Of course, we’re putting a competition in there, so we wanted to ensure they’re viable. We did a test bunker, got buy-in and decided to rebuild them all using Durabunker.”

The rebuild took place over the course of the winter, with an in-house crew led by Durabunker staff carrying out the work.

Dale himself worked with the project team, while also carrying out other subtle refinements to the course – something he has done with regularity since it’s opening in 2001. These include the introduction of new back tees, and work to enhance the relationship between the pond and putting surface on the seventh hole.

“Stacked-sod bunkering has always been a feature here,” explained Dale. “In terms of terrain, the similarities between Nine Bridges and Gleneagles are pretty striking. From the outset, we wanted to accent this unique upland site in the way James Braid would have. But they are a maintenance headache – to say nothing of expense – if we’re replacing bunker walls every other year. We also wanted to provide players and television viewers maximum visibility. So, over the course of 15 years really, we’ve reduced the number of stacked-sod bunkers by 75 per cent and rebuilt the remainders with Durabunker. We’re also removing several traditional bunkers on the course, again, to provide maximum strategic and visual impact.”

The Durabunker method of construction was co-developed by Rhydian Lewis, the company’s current managing director.

“Having visited site myself I was acutely aware of the particular challenges faced by the golf course in relation to the maintenance and stability of the stacked sod bunkers,” said Lewis. “We sent over a specialist construction manager, with 35 years of experience in the field and specialism in ground and construction engineering. He led the project and together we trained the local contractors and in-house crew. Engineering solutions on site as well as in the planning stages was important to the successful outcome of the project, particularly with certain problematic bunkers, where stability was an issue due to increased lateral ground pressure, caused in the main by staggering rainfall in typhoon season. We therefore felt it important to ensure that first-hand knowledge of the product and an abundance of construction as well as shaping experience was available on site and felt it would have a very positive influence on final outcomes.”

The Club at Nine Bridges will host the 2017 CJ Cup from 19-22 October.