Loch Lomond Golf Club in Scotland is coming to the end of a four-year, £7.5m renovation project during which 85% of the golf course has been sand-capped, its drainage infrastructure rebuilt, its irrigation system completely renewed and its bunkers reconstructed using the Capillary Bunkers lining system.
Surrounded by mountains and next to Britain’s largest freshwater lake, Loch Lomond has always faced huge problems caused by its environment. “We have a lot of bunkers – and a lot of rain,” says David Cole, the club’s director of golf course and estates. “We average around 2,000mm of rain a year, and our bunker design has some steep faces in places. As a result, we have always suffered badly from washouts and contamination.
“Bunker maintenance is our second largest consumer of greenkeeping resources, second to greens – due to the design, the size (8500m2), the amount, the player expectations and the environment, it takes a lot of resources to prepare the bunkers internally and externally for play on a daily basis, and it was frustrating not being able to produce a consistently good product from this valuable resource due to the ageing infrastructure and the uncontrollable element of frequent rainfall.”
Cole and his team, along with contractor Esie O’Mahony of GolfLink Evolve, have rebuilt the course from the bottom up. The new drainage pipes are laid in trenches lined with geotextile to reduce the ingress of fine particles, and the pipes themselves have been resized to deal with the volume of water. The project was planned to be completed over the winter of 2019/20, but the Covid-19 pandemic meant that two holes were left unfinished. Those have been dealt with over this winter.
In among this huge quantity of construction, Cole was determined to improve the consistency of the bunker presentation and reduce the internal bunker maintenance challenge. “We wanted to try to eliminate sand contamination and washouts and ensure we give our members a quality product no matter the weather,” he says. “After reviewing and trialling the options available, we selected Capillary Concrete throughout the project to line the bunkers. The product gives a lot of confidence. It’s concrete, so you know it is going to last, and the fact that you can install in wet weather situations is a huge plus for us as the renovation and installations took place throughout the wettest period of the year. The cost is obviously important – we are spending a lot of money on this project, but we are conscious that it is our members’ money, and we want to get good value for them – and Capillary Bunkers was very competitive.”
Cole says he is already seeing the benefits. “The simple fact is that we aren’t spending hours pushing sand back up bunker faces after rain. Ultimately since the liner has been installed the sand does not slip off the face after heavy rain events and daily preparations to present a good product for our members and guests is less labour intensive than previous. This allows us to focus more time on the detail work of internal bunker maintenance, and/or redirect resources to other priority areas that been neglected prior to this undertaking.
“Most days, three guys can deal with the internal bunker preparation, when previously it was five or six. Quantifying that isn’t easy and COVID-19 has not helped, but I think we may see a 40%-50% reduction in resources we use preparing the internals of bunkers yet still producing a superior product.”