As round one of the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles unfolds, players are finding a very different test to previous years after extensive renovations to the PGA Centenary Course over the last 12 months.
The changes, undertaken in consultation with course designer Jack Nicklaus and his design team, will help deliver even more drama both during this week’s tournament and for The 2014 Ryder Cup in two years’ time.
The course was completely closed from October 2011 until April this year, during which time over 50,000 tonnes of earth were moved, with 30,000 square metres of turf laid, and 1,000 tonnes of new sand used in bunkers, all of which have been improved using the “Better Billy Bunker” drainage method developed at Augusta National Golf Club.
The improvements also include the installation of a SubAir system - an aeration and moisture removal system - on all 18 greens in addition to the putting green while substantial changes have been made to the layout of several holes – with the most dramatic alterations apparent on the 9th and 18th.
Tournament Director David Williams and his team are responsible for the course set up this week, and the 18th in particular, now a classic risk and reward hole, is set to provide plenty of excitement.
“The 18th is now going to be very good as a tournament 18th and as a Ryder Cup 18th,” he said. “It is very birdieable but if you miss the green it is not that easy to up and down it.
“The hole has been shortened from 531 yards to 513, the tees have been raised and while the layup area to the green has been levelled, the green is raised and now fairly narrow. Ideally we want the longer hitters going in with a four iron or a rescue club, and we want everyone to be able to go at it in two so it becomes a risk and reward hole. There have also been some bunkers taken out and changed to run off areas to test the chipping.”
The “Better Billy Bunker” drainage method, developed by former Augusta National superintendent Billy Fuller, sounds intriguing and basically involves putt gravel in the bottom of the bunker then spraying it with “Better Billy Bunker” silicone which binds it but allows the water to go through it.
Other changes to look out for are on the sixth and the ninth. “The sixth green which has been softened,” explained Williams, “and the ninth hole has been changed so when playing as a three shot par five, the lay up is very different.”
Much will depend on the weather, and after so much rain through the summer, there is very little run on the ball.
Williams continued: “We have had so much rain up here and while there has been a lot of drainage work done, the ball will be stopping, so the course is playing long. The greens have come on well and the introduction of the sub air system has improved them a lot by making them much firmer. And if it does rain we can suck some of the moisture out. The forecast is reasonable with some showers predicted tomorrow afternoon and not particularly nice on Saturday but overall should be okay.
“We now have the finished article to 2014 and it just has to bed in. We would like to see next year everything as it should be and then it has another year to mature before the Ryder Cup.”
Priority has been given to producing putting surfaces as close to perfect as possible.
The improvements made to date and those forthcoming reflect this.
Gleneagles are currently at the end of year 4 of the 5 year development programme.
The aeration programme is ongoing to achieve quality-putting surfaces. Hollow coring and ‘Graden’ scarification have been used to remove organic matter from the upper section of the greens rootzone profile. This coupled with regular sand dressings has resulted in a significant reduction in the percentage of organic matter in the greens profile over the past 4 years which in turn has led to the greens surfaces becoming much firmer. As we now have the organic matter levels where we want them we have been able to reduce the amount of aggressive aeration to the putting surfaces in 2011 and this will continue to be the case moving forward.
Works undertaken from September 2011 – August 2012 are as follows:
• Hollow core (13mm tine) October
• Verti drain (25mm tines at full depth) November
• Verti drain (25mm tines at full depth) March
• Pencil tine (Pro core with 10mm tines) April
• Pencil tine (pro core with 8mm tines) May
• Micro core (pro core with 10mm tines to) June
• Verti cut x 6 (April - August)
• Top dress x 8 (November-August)
• Verti drain (25mm tines) March
• Hollow cored (19mm tines) November
• Pencil tine (pro core with 10mm tines) April
• Pencil tine (pro core with 10mm tines) June
• Top dress x 3 (March, May, June)
• Hollow cored (19mm tines) September
• Verti drain (25mm tines) March
• Hollow cored (19mm tines) December
• Top dress x3 (March, May, June)
• Slit x 2 (Feb & March)
• Hollow core x2 (19mm tines) Oct & Jan
• Start scarification works and thatch degrading products – June
• Start top dressing - June
Work remains ongoing with regard to organic matter removal on fairways. Sand banding, hollow coring and sand top dressing have been carried out and these operations will continue over the next 12 to 24 months to help establish a firmer dryer surface and profile of the fairways and intermediate rough areas of the golf course.
18 new sub surface Sub Air units (total of 19 including the 10th which was installed June 2011) have been installed. The results on the tenth green have shown a much improved performance in terms surface firmness, depth of rooting and both surface & sub surface drainage. The system has been fully operational since June 2012 and is working well. The installation included laying 6720m of electric cables. Total cost of project was £500K. This installation has also seen the PGA centenary Course at Gleneagles become the first golf course in the UK to have a fully installed sub surface Sub Air system and one of only a hand full in Europe.
This winter has seen a significant change in the bunkering around the golf course. As part of the course remodelling, led by Jack Nicklaus, the sand lines on the bunkers have been changed so that every bunker on the golf course is visible from either the tee or fairway (with the exception of the back left of hole #8). During the rebuild of the bunkers new drainage was installed along with a new bunker liner system called the ‘Better Billy Bunker Method’. This system, originally developed by ex Augusta National Superintendant Billy Fuller, see’s an application of a liquid polymer sprayed onto a 4 inch deep layer of 2-6mm gravel which lines the bunker. Once set it creates a solid drainage layer which effectively turns the whole bunker into a drain. 72 bunkers of the 80 have been done and the system has performed very well since its installation. The construction process saw 400 Tones of Gravel, 1100 Tones of sand & 9000Ltrs of polymer used at a total cost of £153K. This installation has seen the PGA Centenary Course become the first golf course in Europe to use the Better Billy Bunker Method.
GOLF COURSE ALTERATIONS
HOLE 1: Back left greenside bunker removed and turned into grassy hollow.
HOLE 2: Back left greenside bunker removed and turned into grassy hollow.
HOLE 6: Green contours were softened, greenside bunker remodelled.
HOLE 8: Two new bunkers installed on right side of green.
HOLE 9: Large sand bunker removed and lake extended into the fairway.
Three new fairway bunkers installed on approach to green.
HOLE 10: Tees were lowered by 1.5m and moved to the left, no change to yardage.
HOLE 12: Two left fairway bunkers were removed to open up left side of the fairway.
Approach into the green was re-continued with large bunker removed to open up
the approach into the green and make greenside bunker more visible.
HOLE 14: Two bunkers rear of the green were removed and turned into grassy hollows.
HOLE 15: Two bunkers on the right side of the fairway landing area were removed and one
new bunker installed tighter to the fairway to tighten up the tee shot.
HOLE 16: One bunker removed on the left of the approach at the layup shot of the green.
HOLE 18: Blue/white/Yellow tees were moved slightly forward and raised by 2.5m.
New bunker installed on the right side of the driving landing area.
The final 250 yards of the hole was totally remodelled, with the fairway being
lowered by 5m, new green installed with 7 new bunkers.
NOTE: Over 50,000 tonnes of earth have been moved at the course over the past six months, with 30,000 square metres of turf laid, and 1,000 tonnes of new sand used in bunkers.
|T3||ANDERSSON HED, Fredrik||SWE||18||-11|