Course profile: Ashridge Golf Club

By Alistair December 23, 2022 09:50

A change of governance structure in 2020 at Ashridge Golf Club in Hertfordshire has seen the quality of the golf course become the new board’s core objective. And this is already proving to be a successful initiative.

At a time when golf is booming, the opportunity to provide better facilities to members is a challenge for any golf club. Ashridge Golf Club situated in Hertfordshire is no exception. Whilst widely recognised for its beautiful surroundings in the Chiltern Hills and high-class member experience, following a change of governance structure in 2020 it was concluded that the new board’s core objective would be the course with the emphasis on improving the existing layout over making any major alterations. Over the last two years the club has been delighted to once again play host to major amateur championships giving the opportunity to showcase the progress that has been made.A competitor in the recent England Seniors Men’s’ Amateur Strokeplay Championship commented: “I’ve played in this event for many years and have never experienced a better overall club experience in all my travels.”

The first phase of changes included introducing a new irrigation system for the fairways to complement the existing irrigation for tees and greens. The fairway irrigation wasn’t intended to change the existing nature of the course, rather to ensure that the fairways were in good condition especially through hot summers that had previously meant a long recovery period each autumn. The next phase was to create a more structured approach to the course through a revised and definitive course policy document covering rough policy, green surround policy and a change in approach to aeration and sanding. An ongoing programme of sand application to fairways, walkways and green surrounds was largely encouraged by restricted chemical usage and the subsequent increase in worm activity.

Ben Lovett

Whilst implementing these policies is one aspect of the improvement, the other major change was the appointment of Ben Lovett as course manager in spring 2021. Ben has a vast experience in course management especially at championship venues in Europe and he joined the team as the new strategy began. His input and vision have certainly brought a new approach to how the course is managed and presented, which has provided his team with different challenges.

The fairways are now cut at 10mm for the summer and approaches at 6mm, all of which means a different skill set for members around the greens. The natural green contours have also been enhanced in order to bring more of the greenside run-off areas into play.

The updated course policy document also concluded that a programme of bunker revetting should start in the winter months, and this is now 50 percent complete, adding a much sharper look to the bunkers from the tee. The bunker raking style was also changed to Aussie raking which supports the shapes of the traditional, but unique, bunkering at Ashridge.

The Ashridge greens have always been challenging with the subtle undulations but the decision was also taken to strengthen the quality of the core grass by overseeding with Crystal Bluelinks as part of a three-year programme. This started in 2021 and has already had a marked impact on the greens with the more robust grass becoming a more dominant grass strain.

Ben explains, “The approach to the greens at Ashridge was to maintain a steady stimp speed of 10.5. We have taken this a step further and aim to produce greens which don’t just align to speed but combine firmness metrics and smoothness to produce surfaces that are both true and challenging.”

The 2022 season saw the course move to a new level as these changes bear fruit. Members are enjoying the course in its best condition since many can remember and this was further confirmed with the recent hosting of the England Senior Men’s Open Amateur Strokeplay Championship. Ashridge had previously hosted in 2019 the final qualifying for the Ladies AIG British Open and in 2021 the R&A Women’s Senior Amateur Championship.

Comments from competitors below confirm that these improvements are very noticeable which, when combined with the feedback received, confirm Ashridge as an outstanding golf club which all associated with the club are very proud of.

“It’s a long time since I played Ashridge and I have to say the presentation of the golf course was simply brilliant, all of my group were full of praise and would like you to pass on sincere congratulations to all the greens staff, the amount of work required to get the course to that level is huge, you must be very proud of them.”

“From the greeting received as you arrived at the car park to the volunteers who included past and present captain, the whole experience was excellent. The course was in magnificent condition and all credit to the greens staff and greens committee.”

Chairman Peter Noble tells us, “Whilst the English Seniors feedback has provided a good point to measure our progress from, the intention of the board, and particularly Ben, is for us to continue the upward progression. The existing course projects will continue but the club also has major plans to enhance its extensive practice facilities. In the next couple of years further investment in training studios and a new enlarged short-game area is planned.”

Emotional Foster wins 2022 England Senior Men’s Open Amateur Strokeplay Championship

Trevor Foster has admitted that his one-shot victory at the English Senior Men’s Stroke Play Championship came as a rich reward after difficult times with injury and mental health struggles.

The Pleasington golfer closed out an emotional victory at Ashridge Golf Club after enduring a rollercoaster ride in the final round of the 54-hole championship.

Foster carded three rounds of 69, 71 and 76 (the middle round at Berkhamsted) to finish on 216 (+1). That allowed him to pip two-time champion Ian Attoe to the trophy by the smallest of margins.

An up and down from a greenside bunker on 17 secured a birdie and left him knowing that a par four at the final hole would earn him victory.

Helped by caddie Andy Walmsley, two putts from the fringe of the 18th green got Foster over the line and left him in tears alongside wife Debbie who had been with him every step of the way.

Foster admitted: “I never thought it would happen. I’ve won the Irish and I’ve won the British, but to win the English is really, really special.

“It was the one I wanted to win – definitely.

“It’s easy to be a loser, but to be a winner you have to work hard and I feel as if I have worked hard at it.

“Debbie has been an absolute rock for me and that’s why I am where I am.

“I’m not embarrassed to say it and I hope it helps people but I’ve suffered with depression and anxiety for 30 years.

“I’ve had a rock of a wife that’s got me through it to help me win majors like this.

“I’ve had a false hip six years ago and for people out there, I thought my golf was over.

Trevor Foster

“But no – I’ve won the British, this, the Irish and the Order of Merit.

“If it helps anybody, you can get out of it and you can get through it.

“It’s not a nice thing – but you can get through it.

“It’s great that England Golf supports things like that – it’s become a big thing has depression and mental health. I help a few people with it and it’s good to battle through it and get to where I am.”


By Alistair December 23, 2022 09:50

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