Simon Gidman has completed the first phase of work at Stover Golf Club in Devon, UK, where the expansion of an adjacent road is having a major impact on the layout.
The course, which was originally designed by James Braid in 1931, runs alongside the A382 road that connects southern coastal towns to the centre of the UK. Devon County Council made plans to widen this road in 2014 and the club engaged Gidman to create a plan for areas of the course that would be affected by this.
“It is never easy to make changes to an existing golf course,” said Gidman. “There are always disruptions and heartache, more so when the course in question is a very attractive, well-respected course designed by the great and prolific James Braid.
“The A382 has always been far too narrow, slowing tourist traffic to a halt during the summer months. The actual widening itself consisted of barely an eight-metre strip along the eastern boundary of the course but this had a major impact on the layout.”
Holes one, two, three and nine were directly impacted by the extension, as well as the practice putting green, and a further three holes would be indirectly affected.
Gidman worked with the club on alternative layouts over the following seven years until one was selected. Construction was then planned into two phases to limit disruption on the course: phase one began in 2022 on newly purchased land and phase two is due to start in April 2023, focusing on changes to the club’s existing land.
“Phase one constituted four new holes and five new greens,” said Gidman. “The site featured plenty of tree cover and views but the soil was either very stoney in the higher ground or very heavy clay on the lower parts of the site. This, alongside the impact of the war in Ukraine delaying materials, led to a slower start than expected.”
After the first phase of construction was complete, greens were sown with creeping bentgrass and the tees with creeping red fescue and perennial ryegrass. They will be ready for play in June 2023.
“The newly sown greens look immaculate and the early opening of phase one in mid-summer allows any initial wear and tear to be rectified during the summer months,” said Gidman.
To combat the high stone content in the ground, Gidman opted to use Profusion Environmental’s Blinder liner to avoid contamination between the bunker base and sand and ease bunker maintenance.
On creating holes that are in-keeping with Braid’s original style, Gidman said: “We have confined the earthworks to tees and greens (except for hole five), relying on the natural features of the site to provide interest. We are, after all, on the edge of Dartmoor! Stover has relatively subtle putting surfaces that are not overly large so we maintained that style at least until hole four, where the contours of this green might best be described as extremely unsubtle.
“The club is particularly forward looking so the use of creeping bent on the greens and a Blinder in the bunkers – which might have been considered not in keeping with the existing golf holes – makes sense, as the club wants to redevelop the remaining holes and bring these up to the standard of the new holes year on year.
“One thing is for certain though, despite the redevelopment works, the updated specification and whatever happens to the remaining holes over the forthcoming years, the course is and will always remain a James Braid layout.”