Bannockburn Golf Club near Geelong in Victoria is in the midst of installing couch grass greens after the club inherited nearly $1 million for the development of the 18-hole golf course from an anonymous benefactor.
The club conducted a strategic study to determine the best way to use the money and it was decided that they would say goodbye to the sand greens that have been in play since the 1970s.
The final putts were hit on those sand greens in July and the volunteers, who have always maintained the golf course, are now lending a hand to new superintendent Dave Johnson as the construction works are underway.
“The golfers are champing at the bit,” he said. “The members are coming out, volunteering and watching it every step of the way. Putting in the new irrigation, all the volunteers have asked if they can help out wherever they can.
“There’s a bit of buzz around the town. The town is growing and the course is growing with it. The Golden Plains Shire is booming.
“The whole area is getting big but to play quality golf you kind of have to go through Geelong and out the other side to Barwon Heads, 13th Beach, Curlewis and those sorts of courses. Hopefully we can cater for people who drive past us to go play golf elsewhere.
“They can feel now that they can also go to Bannockburn.”
Johnson, who previously worked at Barwon Heads Golf Club, 13th Beach Golf Links and Metropolitan Golf Club, began his new role only a week prior to constructions of the new greens beginning.
He admitted it was quite the “baptism of fire” but he is relishing the challenge.
The greens are being constructed according to USGA specifications with 100ml of gravel underneath 300ml of sand at the base before the grass comes through.
Johnson expects the front nine to be re-opened in March next year and the members, who have become accustomed to landing the ball short and running it up to small sand greens before putting on slow, fairly straight surfaces, will need to embrace the new tests thrown their way.
“You come out here and you wouldn’t know that it’s just the volunteers who have looked after it. They’ve done a fantastic job over the years,” he said.
“We’re going to have greens that will play vastly different depending on the pins. The greens will have upwards of ten different pin positions and it’ll be a learning curve for the members.
“There are some greens that are really long and narrow. It’ll be a very different second shot in and the mounds and contours will push the ball towards or away from the hole. It’ll be a different experience for the golfers.”
The greens have been designed by Pacific Coast Designs, a company who have worked on more than 50 golf courses, with a vision on following the natural contours of the site to create challenges around the greens when there are no bunkers.
“We’re using mounds and swales so that if you miss a green on one side it’s an easier shot than from the other,” said Paul Reeves, Pacific Coast Designs Director.
“Little things like that make a green with no hazard have obstacles that you have to work your way around. It’ll be a different product.
“Someone who lives in Geelong is going to have another course to the ones on the Bellarine Peninsula that is a different beast. It’s shorter, it’s fun. It’s tight but there’s different shot options.
“Bannockburn is a growing area and there’s a whole lot of people out that way that should make Bannockburn their home club. I don’t think it’s intimidating. It’ll be a great beginners course but it’ll still be a challenge.
“There’s some holes that are surprisingly tight. Some of the doglegs you have to play some pretty good golf shots.”
The increased size of the grass greens has given Reeves and his team room to be creative.
The sand greens were on average 100sqm in size, where the smallest of the new greens is 330 sqm, and as a result they took inspiration from club iconography and the home of The Masters.
“The first green, which is probably the most elevated hole, we started with the concept of making it look like a koala because that’s the logo of Bannockburn,” Reeves said.
“It probably still does look like it for me because I know what I’ve drawn but the average punter will never guess it. The green shapes like a koala’s nose and there are two parts which kind of look like a koala’s ears.
“It was something we started with as a concept and then the 11th green sort of channels the 12th at Augusta National where the green sits across the line of play and rather than have water across the front, it has a grassy swale. It’s a wide green, but it’s shallow and it demands you hit the right club.
“We’ve done a few little things but I haven’t tried to build replicas. It’s just the same principles.”
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