A golf course believed to the oldest in the world is using some of the newest course technology to make its bunkers last longer and look better.
Musselburgh Old Course, where golf has been recorded as played since at least 1672 – although Mary Queen of Scots is believed to have played there more than a century earlier, in 1567 – is using the EcoBunker synthetic revetting method in its bunkers, to extend their life and reduce costs, and, as Andrew Hogarth, of course owner East Lothian Council, explains, both the council and the players are very happy with the results.
“Although Musselburgh is considered to be the world’s oldest course and hosted The Open six times in the Victorian era, it is also a working municipal, played on every day by the people of Edinburgh and East Lothian,” said Hogarth, the council’s operational manager for amenity services. “As such, cost drives everything that we do. If you revet bunkers with natural turf, they have to be rebuilt every few years, and that costs money – money we can ill afford to spend. With EcoBunker, it is a question of spending once, and then the bunkers are set for a long period of time. There is a 20-year warranty, but we think they’ll last a lot longer than that.”
Musselburgh started using Richard Allen’s sythetic revetting method back in 2012, and it has continued to use the method to rebuilt its bunkers – now, almost of third of the historic course’s sand hazards have the technology built into them.
“We had a letter from the R&A that confirmed it was OK to use the product,” said Hogarth. “We did the south-facing bunkers first, because they were the ones that decayed fastest, and then, bit by bit, we started on the others.”
As well as cost, safety considerations come high up Hogarth’s priority list. “The EcoBunkers help us reduce the hand/eye vibration caused by flymowing,” he explained. “Flymoving is a notorious cause of vibration white finger and we have almost eliminated it. That’s a huge help.”
He adds that players love the bunkers too. “I can’t think of a single complaint or issue received. No news is good news, as far as we are concerned,” he said. “Probably the lack of player response tells you everything you need to know. The club is happy, because the bunker faces always look good. It isn’t obvious that they are synthetic – ordinary golfers don’t wander round the course examining the revetting. As long as budgetary constraints allow, we will keep on doing them.”