Many keen golfers will be aware of the renowned international golf club at Royal Antwerp, voted by the Peugeot Guide as the number one course in Belgium in 2007 (along with the Royal Zoute Golf Club).
Despite this glowing accolade the bunkers at Royal Antwerp had suffered serious damage over the years, resulting in loss of shape and form with several even losing position.
This deterioration of the bunkers impacted on the overall character of the course and in November 2007 Dimitri Van Hauwaert of Diamond Golf Architects was called in to oversee a programme of renovation on 65 bunkers.
Leading golf architect and long time colleague, Steve Marnoch, acted as consultant architect on the project and Andrew Jeffery from Golf Tech GMBH made their ambitious plans a reality as contractor for the scheme.
Foremost in Dimitri’s mind was retaining a classical style in keeping with the overall feel of the course, which was originally created by architects Willie Park Jr and Tom Simpson, whilst also allowing for ease of maintenance. This duel objective of aesthetics and functionality created some serious issues for Dimitri which he worked hard to resolve.
When the bunkers were marked out consideration was given not only to the style and shape but to the strategy of the hole and the new and exciting pin positions created. Access points for maintenance equipment were included and the heather re-establishment programme in place at Royal Antwerp meant that wonderful native heathers could be used.
As part of the bunker renovations, during Dimitri and Steve investigations they discovered fantastic areas of traditional shaping just off the edges some greens which had been lost due to the ingress of undergrowth and trees over the years.
Trees and vegetation growing into the golf course are an ongoing issue on many courses. They need to be monitored constantly and kept under control with a long term management strategy. Great heathland/parkland courses have had lots of the wonderful heathland element lost due to the uncontrolled, even unnoticed growth of trees.
Sometimes to aid the aging process in the new bunkers and to keep in character with the site, patches of established fescue turf were taken from nearby parts of the site and carefully placed into the banks sometimes with patches of heather.
At Royal Antwerp there were pure blocks of heather which have been lost through tree invasion. Now Royal Antwerp have a heather re-establishment programme with large areas being – stripped of the existing nutrient rich soil and grass dominant turf to reveal the heather seed bank below which can lie dormant for 75 years.
“To a golf architect this is like finding gold,” said Dimitri. “What a fantastic feature to have on a course and if you have it please do not ignore it, use it, it will enrich the course and the whole golfing experience.”
Work on Royal Antwerp was completed in February 2008 and sees the overall harmony of the course restored.