The European Tour’s leading players will encounter a new-look West Course for this year’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club, and the team behind the multi-million pound revamp have given the first glimpse into what the professionals can expect in May.
Ernie Els Design, spearheaded by the South African four-time Major winner, and renowned consultants European Golf Design led the extensive renovation programme over the past nine months, working closely with an advisory team which included Thomas Bjørn, Paul McGinley and David Jones, who represented the views of the Tour players, and Wentworth’s Director of Golf Courses & Grounds, Kenny Mackay.
The comprehensive changes to the famous West Course – home to the BMW PGA Championship since 1984 – were shaped by the feedback given to Bjørn and McGinley by current European Tour players, with the improvements focusing on the greens and bunkers.
All 18 greens were stripped of the old turf and re-seeded with a new creeping bent, improving both the appearance and playability of the putting surfaces, while four greens – on the eight, 11th, 14th and 16th holes – were completely rebuilt and five greens – on the third, fourth, fifth, 12th and 15th holes – were partially rebuilt. A sub-air system was also installed on all greens to help make them firmer and faster, and new irrigation and drainage was also introduced.
Furthermore, all bunkers were redesigned and reconstructed, with 29 bunkers completely removed from play, helping to more closely realign the course with Harry Colt’s original vision, whilst also being cognisant of the demands of the modern game.
Work began eight days after Englishman Chris Wood won the 2016 BMW PGA Championship and the renovation programme is due to be fully completed towards the end of April in time for this year’s Championship, which launches the European Tour’s new Rolex Series from May 25-28.
Els said: “It’s been a real team effort. It’s been hard work, but it’s been a wonderful experience. I think the product you’ll see this time will be something the players will really enjoy. The guys will have smiles on their faces again. Their bad shots will get punished, but not as badly as before.
“We’ve improved the greens and taken bunkers out, and restored holes to their former glory. Some holes won’t even have bunkers on them anymore. The crowds will enjoy it and the players will too.”
Bjørn also believes the European Tour’s leading players will appreciate the changes when they get the chance to see them for themselves at May’s BMW PGA Championship.
“There was certainly a feeling to get this golf course back to where it was,” said the Dane. “It will still be a really tough test, but we’ve taken some of the tough obstacles out which we didn’t think Wentworth was all about.
“It is an old style course and it had probably been a little over-modernised, so we brought it to where we think it should be and back to the traditions of this golf course.
“We listened long and hard to the views of the Tour players. You have to when you have such a big event on a traditional golf course with so much history. The BMW PGA Championship is a fantastic event, one of the best in the world, and now there is a golf course here which is really worth playing, and which is right up there with the very high standard of the event.”
McGinley said: “The players wanted to go back in the direction of the old Harry Colt design. They wanted the contours on the greens to be softened, and the bunkering to be changed. I certainly couldn’t see out of the bunkers before, and not many guys could. So those were the two big things we changed.
“We’ve also put in a sub-air system into the greens which will dry them out and get it back to a firm, fast golf course, which players have always loved playing in the past.
“It’s going to be a stellar field for the BMW PGA Championship, with all the leading players on the European Tour, and with the new golf course it will be great for Wentworth, great for BMW and great for the European Tour, so I think we are going to have a terrific event this year.”
Jeremy Slessor, Managing Director of European Golf Design, added: “The feedback from the Tour players over the last few years was so consistent about what needed to happen.
“Working with Ernie Els and his design team, and working with the advisory group of Thomas, Paul and David Jones, we were able to come up with a cohesive plan which will give the members and the Tour players a much more honest test of golf.”
Four-time Major Champion Rory McIlroy, who won the prestigious title in 2014, will get his first chance to see the new look West Couse when he headlines the field for the 2017 BMW PGA Championship from May 25-28.
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