Ernie Els expressed pride and pleasure in the new-look West Course, an Ernie Els Design-led renovation, after carding a one-under par opening round of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. For Ernie, there is a real sense of professional and personal fulfilment in bringing to a close the renovation of an historic course that has long held a special place in his heart.
After negotiating the design with some impressive golf, Ernie said: “It looks incredible. This was our original design intent from the very beginning and we’re so pleased it has finally come to fruition; it’s a moment of great satisfaction for me and for the rest of the team. Big thanks to Jeremy Slessor at European Golf Design, who collaborated with us on this latest phase of works on the West Course, and also to our partners at the European Tour. We’re extremely happy and proud to see the course looking the way it does here this week and to hear the positive feedback from the players and also from the Club’s members. That really means a lot to us.”
Ernie went on to say: “Obviously, a key focus of the renovation was improving the putting surfaces and the recent significant investment by the Club’s owners, Reignwood Group, has allowed us to create arguably the purest, most consistent putting surfaces in the country. In addition, we undertook a further review of the bunkers on the golf course. As a result, all bunkers have been redesigned and reconstructed, with 29 bunkers removed from play. We believe this helps more closely realign the course with Harry Colt’s original vision and, in fact, many of the bunkers are very much in the Colt style now.”
In summary, the key features of this Ernie Els Design renovation include:
- All 18 greens re-built and re-seeded with 007 creeping bentgrass, which was chosen after trialing 10 blends over a 12-month period at the Club.
- The course is the first in England to benefit from sub-air technology.
- A total of 29 bunkers taken out of play to reintroduce some of the original playing strategies and all the remaining bunkers redesigned.
Additional changes include:
- Greens at the 8th, 11th, 14th and 16th completely remodelled.
- Greens at the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 12th and 15th partially remodelled.
- New tees built on the 3rd, 4th and 18th.
- A completely new irrigation system installed.
- Additional drainage added on the fairways.
- All pathways resurfaced.
- Landscaping enhanced throughout to give the course a more natural aesthetic.
Ernie Els Design’s senior design associate, Greg Letsche, is one of the most respected golf course architects in the business, having previously worked with Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus. Greg has overseen from day one this extensive West Course renovation project and he, too, couldn’t disguise his delight at the finished product. “As Ernie has already said, what you see in the West Course today is basically our original design vision made real,” commented Greg as he surveyed the course on the eve of this week’s BMW PGA Championship. “For Ernie and myself, the intention all along was to make sure the course was a fair and strategically sound test of golf, focused on shot values, where well-executed shots would be rewarded. We believe that is absolutely the case here now.”
Speaking also about the newly constructed greens, Greg added: “The new sub-air system is hugely significant as it allows us to monitor and control the various parameters that give a putting surface the optimum playing characteristics. Everything from the smoothness and pureness of the roll, to the moisture content and bounce levels, can be matched across all 18 greens so you can achieve extremely high levels of quality and consistency.”
This fact has been very much reflected in the comments of many of the game’s leading players in the build-up to this week’s BMW PGA Championship. Defending champion Chris Wood said that “the greens are absolutely perfect; every putt is so true”. Open Champion Henrik Stenson said, “The greens are rolling nicely…they’ve done a terrific job getting the greens in this great shape”. Justin Rose added, “I think the changes have been very well received and the greens are as good a set of greens as I’ve seen for a newly laid surface. They are really rolling well and receiving a shot really well, too”.
Stephen Gibson, Chief Executive of Wentworth Club, was full of praise, too: “This is my tenth year at Wentworth and I have never seen the course looking so magnificent,” said Stephen. “The improvements made by Ernie and his team have transformed the course and I’m sure the European Tour players and our members will agree that the West Course is back to where it belongs as one of the world’s great golf courses.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Chanchai Ruayrungruang, Chairman of Reignwood Group, said: “We are determined to make Wentworth the leading venue for Championship golf in Europe and the unveiling of the newly renovated West Course, which we believe to be one of the best golf courses in the world, is integral to this.”
Ernie Els Design www.ernieels.com/design
Wentworth Club http://www.wentworthclub.com/