James Edwards is overseeing a renovation project at Verulam Golf Club in St Albans, England.
“Our old bunkers were very poor and needed upgrading,” said Paul Keen, general manager at Verulam. “They had very poor liners, narrow bases, and faces that were either not steep enough or too shallow. We also wanted a comprehensive overview of the entire course by a top-class architect with a reputation for cutting edge thinking – James was the obvious candidate. This is not just a bunker project; we want to elevate Verulam from a very good local course to one that is recognised with the very best.”
Verulam’s course originally opened in 1905 as a nine-hole layout in the grounds of the seventeenth century Sopwell House, owned by the Earl of Verulam. In 1909, with the club acquiring a further 136 acres of land, James Braid was commissioned to expand the course to a full 18.
The new course opened in 1912, when the club’s captain was Samuel Ryder – who would go on to establish the Ryder Cup, and host the Great Britain team and famous gold trophy at Verulam before they set off to the US for the 1927 match.
Much of Braid’s work at Verulam remains, including the crossing fourth and ninth fairways.
The renovation project will be completed within four years, with Conor Walsh handling construction and new course manager Peter Allam and course director Don Ward representing the club, alongside Keen. The first phase, which also included some work on mounding and swales, began in late November 2022 and was completed in February 2023.
Ten days of snow delayed progress slightly, with Walsh also having to contend with extremely wet conditions.
“We have certainly been challenged in the opening phase, mainly by the weather,” said Keen. “We have also had days where holes have had to be closed to allow contractors to maximise their work and other days where temporary greens have been in play. Overall, members have been very supportive as they can see the new bunkers coming to life and the work we have all put in to create better hazards and enhance the long-term member experience of the course. We brought in James to enhance the layout by adding further character and challenge to the course, whilst ensuring it is fair for all levels of ability.”
The next phase of work will begin in late autumn 2023.