Weybrook Park Golf Club in Basingstoke, England, will officially open its substantially revised golf course next month.
The project has been 17 years in making, with course director Sandy Burrell leading planning, design and construction efforts. For the creation of the new West course, Burrell was assisted in design work by Ken Moodie of Creative Golf Design.
The impetus for the project was to improve the original ‘pop up’ course built with a very low budget in in the mid-1990s and address differences in length between the original nines, with the back nine previously much shorter than the front. A decision was taken to build an entirely new back nine and rework the front nine.
Construction of the practice ground began in 2007 with the new nine following in 2008. The tenth, eleventh and eighteenth holes opened in 2010 and the remainder in 2016. Rebuilding the front nine began in 2016, with the renovated holes opening to members in early May 2021. The cost of construction was funded by importing subsoil from neighbouring construction sites.
Burrell drew up the initial routing for a new back nine, with three new ponds linked by a natural looking chalk stream and a further pond in a separate valley, providing the template for the routing. These features provided the site for two par threes and a par four crossing the stream twice. The routing flowed well but the closing two holes were problematic. This is where Moodie’s expertise really helped. “I revised the layout to create a safer routing with more variety for the closing holes,” said Moodie. “Similarly, on the front nine, I adapted proposals that Sandy had developed to alter the layout of the original course. The main objectives were to eliminate a par three hole that played into the prevailing wind, and to create more strategically interesting and varied holes.
“The golf course was designed as a downland course with gently rolling fairways and mounds in keeping with the surrounding landscape character. The imported soil was either chalk or clay, we used chalk for the construction of the new greens, tees and fairways to ensure that playing areas all drained well. Where we had shortfalls of chalk, we created borrow pits in the areas of rough and then filled these with the clay material that was brought into site.”
Bulk earthworks were carried out by landfill contractor Earthline with Darren Sambrook, who has significant experience of golf course construction, onsite throughout the project. Shaping of greens and bunkers on the new nine holes were completed by Ely Construction. For the later holes, the club acquired a 14-tonne excavator and a nine-tonne dumper to carry out some of the construction tasks. “This is where general manager Martin Hucklesby’s and course manager Jamie Sheeran’s substantial golf course construction experience really helped the project,” said Burrell.
Work included creating a 500-metre replica chalk stream, five ponds and shifting nearly two million tonnes of soil. The front nine construction was carried out by Jeremy Ford, a contractor with extensive golf course construction experience in Europe and the Caribbean. Ford worked with Weybrook Park equipment and labour to construct and shape the new nine holes over four summer seasons.
The design of the new eighth hole draws inspiration from the sixth at Kingsbarns, in mirror image. “It is now a risk and reward short par four, which is driveable for long hitters, but with a high tariff if they get it wrong,” said Moodie. “There is a diagonal sequence of bunkers to the right of the fairway which the golfer can attempt to carry in order to take the more direct route to the green, but a pond will catch a pushed tee shot.
“The new eleventh is a mid-length par three where players hit a tee shot slightly downhill and over a pond to an angled green with a slight step running through the surface. The golfer can bail out to the fairway to the right of the green but will then need to negotiate a bunker in order to reach the putting surface.”
“This has been a massive undertaking for me personally but also for Weybrook Park, which is a small members club, but with a fantastic site for golf,” said Burrell. “I always felt that if we could construct a very good course on this site, it would secure the long-term viability of the club and give the members a great place to play golf into the future.
“As a civil engineer, I was lucky to have a fundamental understanding of the planning process and the approvals needed to take an idea from the drawing board to the site. I am grateful to the membership for having faith in me and allowing me the chance to plan, design and reconstruct their golf course.”
The original back nine holes is now used as the nine-hole East course, a par-35 layout that plays from 2,533 yards to 2,856.