Building on a trend

By Alistair February 28, 2024 10:08

Two leading golf courses in England have begun projects to modernise their courses, both driven by soaring participation in recent years. Here we look at what both will entail.

Royal Ascot Golf Club in Berkshire and Foxhills Club & Resort in Surrey are two of England’s leading golf courses and both have started major course renovation projects in order to modernise them.

At Royal Ascot’s 18-hole course, the move is part of a long-term investment strategy to enhance playing provisions by providing a year-round challenge to golfers of all standards.

Each hole will be upgraded by enhancing drainage and irrigation provisions, bunkers will be renovated and new treelines created. The course will also look to establish signature holes and regenerate pathways on the 150-acre wooded crownland site to improve accessibility.

Stephen Nicholson, general manager at Royal Ascot Golf Club, said course improvements will strengthen the through the door experience and value for members.

“Providing outstanding facilities for club members, guests and those using off-course provisions is our number one priority,” said Stephen. “We are committed to establishing Royal Ascot Golf Club as one of the UK’s top courses.

“Our major investment into all 18 holes forms a key part of achieving this long-term goal and we’re pleased to begin the latest phase of on course developments.

“Golf has exploded in popularity since the turn of the decade, with 5.6 million adults in the UK playing a nine or 18-hole course in 2022 alone. The proven physical benefits of participation coupled with the social aspect of the club’s thriving social scene mean we have experienced this uplift first-hand.

“Our intention is to continue building on this positive trend by delivering the highest quality playing facilities possible – and our investment into the course sits at the heart of this.”

The current phase of works is seeing holes one, nine, 10 and 18 upgraded.

In charge of the renovation is Royal Ascot Golf Club course manager Ian Hockley, who this year celebrates 10 years at the Winkfield Road course, which is Berkshire’s second oldest and the only to have a Royal title.

He said: “It’s an exciting time to be on the ground at Royal Ascot Golf Club as our course undergoes its biggest upgrade since moving over from the racecourse.

“The existing layout has been a popular year-round challenge for both our members and guests. But this investment will unlock the course’s true potential and we’re excited for the future.

Meanwhile, Foxhills Club & Resort is modernising its award-winning golf courses this winter with £500,000 invested into its ‘phase two’ of improvements.

The enhancement and renovation of seven holes on its Longcross Course, renowned as one of Surrey’s top tree-lined layouts, should be completed in March under the leadership of director of golf, Sean Graham, and courses and estate manager, Derrick Johnstone.

Bunker shape and positioning (more than 20 bunkers are being reconstructed), green sizes, shapes and contouring as well as herringbone drainage and irrigation upgrade are taking place, while tee positions will also change on several holes to bring hazards more in play and encourage more strategy and creativity throughout the round.

Following the success of phase one and the opening of the new signature 16th par-three, Foxhills will also be developing a signature hole on the front nine, with the ninth green being completely redesigned and rebuilt, almost doubling in size, with new bunkering on the front left to protect the green and provide a different challenge.

Sean Graham, said: “With interest in golf at record levels, the ambition is to continue to cement our place as one of the best golf courses in the country. This investment will ensure that the courses at Foxhills are enjoyable for all levels of golfer; from the experienced player to those earlier in their golfing journey. There has never been a more exciting time for golf at Foxhills and we’re looking forward to unveiling the outcome of phase two to our members and guests early in the new year.”

Foxhills has so far invested more than £2 million as part of a major five-year plan to improve the year-round playability and enjoyment of its two Championship courses which will make them more suited to the modern style of the game and to players of all handicaps. The project includes the biggest structural changes to the Longcross and Bernard Hunt courses since they were designed by Fred Hawtree and opened for play in 1975.

The same industry-leading team has been assembled to deliver the second stage of the vision. They include architects, European Golf Design, the brains behind the recent Ryder Cup host venue, Marco Simone, as well as Celtic Manor 2010 and Le Golf National, Paris. Foxhills will also continue to use the services of long-term partner, MJ Abbott, one of the most highly-regarded golf construction firms and turf specialists, with experience building the 2010 course at Celtic Manor, The Grove and the rebuild of the West Course at Wentworth. As part of the upgrades, the best-in-class greenkeeping equipment has been purchased from leading suppliers, Toro and John Deere, which will elevate the conditioning and maintenance to even higher standards.


By Alistair February 28, 2024 10:08

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