Skipton Golf Club in North Yorkshire, England, is ready to officially reopen its 18-hole course following a redesign project by golf course architect David Jones.
The work was required to make way for the construction of a 14-metre-high grass embankment for the UK Environment Agency’s Skipton Flood Alleviation Scheme.
A financial settlement allowed the club to add two new holes and make additional changes throughout the course, as well as improving drainage and developing new practice facilities.
Jones told GCA: “David Llewellyn, a former European Tour pro, and good friend of mine, got in touch to say they could do with some advice. I went over to meet them and suggested that since the Environment Agency (EA) had statutory powers, there wasn’t a lot to be gained by objecting. I thought it could be made a bit of a win-win situation by designing replacement holes using the club’s remote and little-used practice ground with a bit of extra land provided by the EA.”
Jones said: “I also felt that a new green half way up the dam wall would create a dramatic new seventeenth hole and help to disguise the bulk of the dam structure, which was about 350 metres wide and 14 metres high!
“The main issue was really the EA’s requirement in terms of slope control and engineering. As engineers, they tend to think in straight lines and rather dull straight slopes, so they found it hard to get their heads round the more contoured free form aspects of golf design. However, in the end they were fairly understanding, and allowed the seventeenth green to be ‘benched’ into the dam wall.”
The redesign has seen the creation of two new par-four holes, which will become the tenth and eleventh, a remodelled fifteenth green, and the extension of the ninth to a par five following the construction of a new tee.
Jones said: “The two replacement holes, the tenth and eleventh, were quite challenging, as the land was quite steep. However, I managed to choose good tee and green sites and used some earthworks to mitigate the climbs, and the big highlights are the fantastic views of the countryside from both holes.”
The fifteenth green has been completely rebuilt and sight lines to the sixteenth green have been enhanced by the removal of earth, which was then used in the construction of the new eighth tee. Both the fifteenth and sixteenth (which along with the fourteenth form Skipton’s ‘Amen Corner’) have also seen thinning-out of trees.
The new raised seventeenth green extends the current hole to a par four, and there is a new elevated championship tee for the final hole.
When the new holes come into play, the current first hole will be converted to a short game practice area and the par-five second will become the new first.
Construction was completed by MJ Abbott. The project had to contend with adverse weather, but the course is on track for its reopening on 1 August.
“The day after the contractor finished, the heavens opened for three days of torrential rain which did a lot of damage,” said Jones. “That was duly reinstated over the winter and now they’ve endured about eight weeks of drought as they try to grow the new holes in… unlucky but undaunted.”
Jones gave a special mention to Mick Hurst, who led the club’s development committee, and Skipton’s greenkeeper Ian Brown, who Jones describes as “a patient man, given the weather challenges”.
The course now measures 6,482 yards and is a par 71. The club also plans to introduce gender-free tee designation.