Founded in 1893 and the oldest of the Surrey heathland courses, Woking Golf Club is a traditional club with immense character and ranked 17th in Golf World’s Top 100 Golf Courses in England.
In the 2020 Distance Insights Report, the USGA and R&A concluded, ‘most golfers don’t hit the ball very far and yet most still play from pretty ambitious tee boxes’.
Woking Golf Club was aware that for some of its existing golfers and beginners, a 120-yard carry over heather could be daunting. The club wanted its senior members to continue to enjoy their game for as long as possible and, at the same time, sought ways to cultivate new interest in golf from younger audiences and attract a wider, more inclusive membership. Appealing to a broader, more diverse customer base would offer the club potential for increasing future revenue opportunities and ultimately result in a more sustainable business.
Listening to members, hearing their experiences and finding out what they wanted helped the club to shape its plans for a two-phase, 18-tee programme.
The first phase would improve playability, creating a course and slope rating that excited, but would be much more suited to different golfers’ abilities and also address what can be seen as a stigma associated with blue forward tees.
Secondly, the project would address the ecological diversity of the historically significant heathland habitat, which requires active management if it’s not to degenerate into woodland or simply be mown. Founded in 1893 Woking is one of the world’s oldest heathland courses, so the challenge would be to respect and restore the health, maintaining a desirable balance between golf and ecology.
Working closely with the Woking team, EIGCA Vice-President Tim Lobb MEIGCA, Founder and Principal Architect at Lobb and Partners designed the project to preserve, enhance and position the heath in front of the tees. Tees were located closer to fairways, blending in perfectly, hidden within the landscape so golfers could enjoy an uninterrupted course view from the other teeing locations.
Serious consideration and detailed planning resulted in a high-standard tee specification and a sustainable maintenance and irrigation management plan. Designed as small tees, two Rain Bird 5004 Series Rotors operated by IC controlled valves were installed on each tee and added with ease to the Rain Bird IC System™ with Stratus™ II Central Control installed in 2020. Irrigation Consultants Irritech had previously designed the system with larger diameter pipe sizes allowing it to be easily extended and any number of IC rotors to be added in the future.
As the course was closed due to the UK Covid 19 lockdown, construction was completed by MJ Abbott in two weeks, with turfing then carried out by the in-house team with tees to open mid-May 2021.
Images supplied by Woking Golf Club
Photography Credit: Jason Livy Photography
“Woking’s gorgeous course has a lasting appeal for both young and old, and to be able to extend the playing enjoyment at both ends of the spectrum is a great and popular development for the members and the game itself. We plan to test even the lowest handicapped members off these new tees in due course!”
—Richard Pennell, General Manager
The first phase is complete, addressing ten tees, seven of which are brand new. The club hopes to complete the remaining tees in the next year or two.
Ranked 16th in Top 100 courses in England, Woking is a well-loved, challenging course so redesigning blue forward tees with a carry of 60 to 70 yards has addressed members’ needs; offers a quicker pace of play, more enjoyable golf, and a sense of achievement.
“Planning was the key to our success. It took us a long time thinking it through, listening to our golfers, to other clubs, debating the details and issues with our committee, working out where best to place tees with Tim Lobb’s professional guidance and how to manage these. 5004 Series Rotors are robust; they’re great rotors for the size of tee. We also installed hosepipe points close to tees for hand watering while the heather was being established. We didn’t have any plans for more greenkeeping staff so we also had to calculate precisely how much extra time it would take to look after the tees; actually, only an extra 5 minutes per tee. Maintenance will be minimal, we won’t use any more water the heather will flower, attract wildlife and we’ve also made for happier golfers.“
—Andy Ewence, Course Manager
Richard Pennell CCM
MJ Abbott Limited
RAIN BIRD PRODUCTS:
Integrated Control (IC) System™
Stratus™ II Central Control V8
IC Connect for Real time monitoring of Pump Flow and Rain Fall
Pro LT Weather Station
875 Rain Bird rotors:
8005 & 5004 Series Rotors on tees
751 & 950 Series Rotors on greens
751 & 950 Series Rotors on approaches
751 Series Rotors on fairways
PEB IC pressure regulated valves
34,000 metres 2-core control cable