Golf Course Architecture - Issue 63, January 2021

75 Illenis erume sitatatur maio int maxim alitiis dolor atquatium que vit exeria paritio reiuntia vellest, sequissit voluptis int, alit T he golf construction boom of the 1990s may have been centred on America, but it didn’t skip the UK. A key difference between the two, though, was that most new golf in Britain was low cost pay and play. By comparison with America, there were relatively few big money developments. Chart Hills in Kent, to the south-east of London, was one of them. Designed by American architect Steve Smyers along with signature name Nick Faldo, it was the six-time major champion’s first such project: obviously, he has gone on to build a successful design business. And, even when the Nineties design style started to go out of fashion, Chart Hills remained popular: it has always been known as a very solid, strong golf course. But that reputation didn’t stop the course from falling on hard times. Chart Hills has a lot of bunkers, including the famous Anaconda, apparently the longest in Europe, which stretches for more than 200 metres up the side of the par five fifth hole. The sixteenth hole has a ‘wall’ of bunkers, 19 of them. When the course opened in 1994, there were 25 people on the greens crew. A few years ago, that number had shrunk to five. Five guys cannot maintain that many bunkers; it simply does not add up. So it is unsurprising that the condition of the course suffered. Eventually, inevitably, Chart Hills was sold. On Christmas Eve 2019, the course became part of the Ramac Group, controlled by the McGuirk family, also the proprietors of the famous Prince’s links, in Sandwich on the Kent coast. The family has been involved in the golf business for many years, and has a reputation of being a long-term investor. It is hard to imagine that Chart Hills could have a better owner. It needed it. When Ramac took over Chart Hills, the course was in a mess. Long-time course manager Neil Lowther, who has worked there for almost twenty years, had become so accustomed to making do with very little that he was astonished to be allowed to buy greenkeeping equipment, according to new director of golf Ant Tarchetti. The course’s fairways had deteriorated to the point where they had very little grass coverage; an infestation of leatherjackets had wreaked havoc on the roots. Most pressingly of all, when the course was built in the 1990s, no subsurface drainage had been installed. Bearing in mind that the soil at Chart Hills Photo: GMS Golf The eighth and (previous page) twelfth holes at Chart Hills, where drains have been installed every five metres throughout the course in areas of fairway and semi-rough