Skylark Golf & County Club in Hampshire has benefitted from a major renovation programme since it changed ownership in 2014, with the latest upgrade featuring a bunker overhaul using EcoBunker‘s synthetic edging system.
Seven years ago, under different ownership, the Fareham-based club, which was known Quindell Golf & Country Club, was in a sorry state, as course manager Simon Bell-Tye explains: “The course was opened in the late 1990s, but when I got here in 2014, it had been neglected and run down for most of that time. It was basically a field with holes in it.”
But the arrival of its new course manager was a sign that the place was on the up. Acquired by local company Just Develop It in late 2013, the renamed venue hasn’t looked back.
“My boss at the time, Dan Richards, an ex-golf pro, had a real vision for the place, starting with making the course more presentable and playable,” says Bell-Tye. “But it was a big job. There was a weed called toad rush in the greens. I didn’t know what it was – I’d never come across it before – and the bunkers were just scoops in the ground.”
Now, though, Skylark’s bunkers are among its best-regarded features, thanks to the installation of synthetic edging system EcoBunker over several years.
“I’m a member at Royal Winchester and I saw them doing the EcoBunkers there,” says Simon. “I mentioned this to Dan and he said ‘Good idea, get them in’. Rich Allen came and explained their process, and we took him and their construction manager Llewelyn Matthews to the 11th hole, which had our very worst bunkers. Then Llew spent a week showing us how to build the EcoBunkers, and we haven’t looked back since.”
But the ‘normal’ EcoBunker method wasn’t enough for Skylark. To reduce the bunker maintenance still further, EcoBunker CEO Richard Allen devised a new add-on, named EcoEdge – which sees top quality artificial grass, backed with rubber, used as a rim for the bunkers. Compared to the usual EcoBunker Advanced methodology, where natural grass is planted on top of the synthetic edge, this obviously reduces the maintenance requirement for bunker edging still further. “Skylark was the first club in the world to use the EcoEdge system, although since, a number of other clubs have invested in it,” says Allen.
The reaction to the EcoBunkers was immediate. “Members loved them, so I got a budget to do a number of bunkers each year,” says Bell-Tye. “Ultimately, we have added 14 extra bunkers to the golf course. We build them all in-house – last winter I used 40 pallets of material in four bunkers – and they look wonderful. They are huge, and they just pop out at you.”
Skylark’s success has come both on and off the course. From hosting one or two weddings a year, the club now does 140-150. And the golf? “When I joined we had 200-250 golf members. Now we’re up to 750, and we are full, with a joining fee,” concludes Bell-Tye.