Kenny Mackay, Director of Golf Courses and Grounds, Wentworth Club, reports on this world class project
It seems fitting that as the 2016 contest tees off in Hazeltine, the West Course project team is working to restore the 3rd tee to its positioning from the inaugural Ryder Cup in 1953. There are so many elements of the renovation that recognise Wentworth Club’s rich heritage and it has been fascinating to flick through the archives, discovering Harry Colt’s vision for the course.
Colt’s West Course was famous for its heather cover, and a major part of our plan involves restoring that rugged landscape. In a comprehensive planting scheme, we will be adding native plants and trees throughout, ensuring that the fairways blend into their Surrey surroundings.
While recognising that the Club’s heritage is a key part of the project, we are determined to improve and are working hard to strike a difficult balance between challenging the pros during the PGA Championship and offering the membership a playable course for the rest of the year. To achieve this, we have assembled a world class team, combining the local knowledge of Ernie Els Design and the Tour insight of European Golf Design.
Beyond the personnel, we have invested in the very best materials across the course. Last month, we lined the bunkers with a Blinder material, chosen after extensive research into keeping the sand clean and at its optimum depth. Bunker coverage has reduced by 25 per cent and the steeper banks will be softened as part of a reformed course strategy.
In another meticulous research project, we enlisted the help of Sports Turf International to find a putting surface that performs across all four seasons. After trialling ten blends of grass in the nursery over a 12 month period, we are now the first club in the UK to seed with Creeping Bent 007. After extensive consultation with bentgrass expert, Dr Richard Hurley, the grounds team is relishing every moment of the grow-in process.
The next, and most exciting, step on the greens is the introduction of a Sub Air system. We will be the first club in England to benefit from this technology across all eighteen holes and it will ensure that every surface plays true throughout the year. The grounds team will control moisture levels, regardless of the weather conditions, and crucially it gives us the ability to adjust green speeds. During the Championship, we can test the players with a quick pace, while adjusting this for the more leisurely membership.
Many of Europe’s Ryder Cup heroes will experience the familiar journey down Wentworth Drive in May 2017 but it will be a very different Club. The opening tee shot at the BMW PGA Championship will be our first real test and, with the progress so far, I know that the West will pass with flying colours.