Building a golf course on a factory site in the middle of Ipswich may seem like a crazy idea, but not when the client is Ransomes Jacobsen, the UK based turf equipment manufacturer. This exciting course construction opportunity fell to Essex based Grassform Ltd., who built the three-hole course on the site during 2007. Known unofficially within Ransomes Jacobsen as the “RJ National”, the course features a challenging set of holes, bunkers and water hazard just yards from the manufacturing facility and offices of the well known mowing machinery company.
A variety of challenges in designing, constructing and implementing such a course in such proximity to a working factory site were in evidence, but Ransomes Jacobsen were adamant that the project did little to impact on the environment as well as giving an aesthetically pleasing sight to both staff and visitors alike.
The course is also available for use on open days and for demonstrations of Ransomes Jacobsen’s range of fine turf mowers, showcasing their work on very fine turf. With this in mind, the design of the course fell to Swan Golf Designs, who were required to incorporate best practices and principles in environmental sustainability into their concepts and final plans.
Built on a piece of bare wasteland, Grassform’s skill in constructing the challenging course from a level site is a testament to their skill in landscape creation and shaping as well as interpreting the ideas of the architects. Part of Grassform’s remit was to remove a vast area of heather to be stored and utilised later on the finished site, giving a natural feel close to the predominantly heathland area to the east of Ipswich.
Grassform Ltd also built a bespoke multi-purpose decking area between the car park and course, adding to the aesthetics and providing a raised platform for hosting events overlooking the course.
Simple yet effective drainage
Although the site is fairly free draining due the sand based heathland soil, the RJ National still required a basic drainage scheme. Grassform built a system that included gentle slopes and open swales to shed water, installing pipe drainage as and where required. Although deliberately low on pipework from its design, the course features the best in the business, expertly installed by Grassform’s team of specialists. The course drains into the centrepiece of the site, the lake, which includes a fountain.
The introduction of the lake not only allows for drainage outflow and water harvesting but also increases biodiversity, a key part of the course’s existence. Grassform removed some 5,000 cubic metres of material to form and shape the lake to its final design, utilising this to help create the course’s topography. Little material was imported to the site, with recycling an important aspect to keep in with the environmental theme.
Varying seed types
Once the main shaping and drainage had been completed, Grassform set to work in seeding the site. A variety of different grass types were utilised on both the tee and green areas to not only show the latest in breeding developments but also to give differing sward types to test out Ransomes Jacobsen’s mower range.
All fairways and rough were seeded with the same Bar 5 variety. Long-term management of the site involves minimal water usage, utilising recycled resources from the factory to irrigate the course via a Rainbird system. The small site offers a snapshot view on the way a golf course can and should be constructed, using Grassform’s skills and experience to give a diverse yet challenging layout within a very small area.
Also part of the Grassform project was a noise testing area, situated to the side of the course. This is part of Ransomes Jacobsen’s machine testing policy and allows machines to be checked for peripheral working noise in a grass based environment, as would be found on a golf course or sports field. This area also doubles as two 5-a-side football pitches for staff use.
David Withers, managing director of Ransomes Jacobsen, commented, “This has been a great project, and we are so pleased with the result, which reflects the quality of the team we put together. Our main contractor Grassform did a fantastic job and sitting here in my office on a sunny March morning I can see that the course is looking superb. The growing in is going well and the sward is definitely getting thicker.
“It’s obvious that Grassform did a fantastic job and we can now fully appreciate their efforts and that of the team that was assembled to produce it.” David continues. “We have taken the decision to allow the course to grow in through to September and then celebrate the opening with an event to thank everyone who participated in its construction. It is a superb addition to the facilities we have here at Ipswich and will enable us to demonstrate our machines as well as our acknowledged environmental leadership.”
Mark Dunning, managing director of Grassform, said of the project at Ransomes Jacobsen, “It was a pleasure and a joy to work with both a client and architect whose aim was to achieve the best practice, utilise sustainable materials and a first class result. Grassform Ltd has delivered all three on time and within budget.”