Dunstanburgh Castle Golf Club was founded in 1900 and has unusually remained a proprietary club. The course underwent a redesign by James Braid in 1920 and subsequent changes in layout have remained sympathetic to the James Braid design.
The current proprietor, Dr Peter Gilbert, negotiated an extended 80 year lease from The National Trust and readily accepted the challenge of the conservation covenants to protect and preserve the outstanding flora and fauna around the golf course.
Stuart Imeson took over the reins at the tender age of 18 and now at the ripe old age of 23 works alongside his James Thorpe, also 23, and Dan Wilkin aged 18.
Stuart joined the BIGGA North East Section committee in 2014 and has championed the idea to enthuse young greenkeepers in the area to gather together to network and learn from each other. Stuart quickly identified that for a young greenkeeper to attend a Section event for the first time was tough, explaining that facing groups of strangers could be a challenge for the average young greenkeeper.
The first of his initiatives was delivered recently with help and encouragement from Simon Olver and Jack Hetherington, both fellow committee members, and the full support of Peter Gilbert.
The idea was to allow young assistants in the area to join the team at Dunstanburgh to learn all about riveting bunkers and to design and build a new bunker in keeping with the superb course.
So, Jack Hetherington (Ponteland Golf Club), Adam Mavin (Bedlington Golf Club), Ben Potter and Scott Robson (Whitley Bay Golf Club) and Jack Friar (Percy Wood Golf & Country Retreat) took advantage of this opportunity.
All of them praised the idea and enjoyed the experience immensely with Stuart’s own team also enjoying networking with greenkeepers from other courses within the area, leaving them feeling more inclined to attend a BIGGA Section event.
Jack Hetherington kept a diary of the week which he discussed the work completed, the reasoning behind the changes to the course and dodging the ‘weather bomb’ which hit the area…
“When Stuart said he was holding a bunker renovation week I jumped at the chance to join him and I’m so pleased I did.
“The aim of the week was for Stuart to explain and show the process involved in installing new bunkers and renovating existing ones, for example the design, placement, communicating to members and committee and finally installation of the bunker. In return we provided free labour to help him and his team!
“Arriving on the first day I was greeted with a bacon sandwich and introduced to the rest of the crew. We headed out onto the course to have a look at some of the bunkers that had recently been renovated with riveted walls.
“We then visited the 9th (Stroke Index 1) hole where Stuart explained how the SI didn’t match the way the hole played. Due to this a fairway bunker would be installed and the green side bunkers renovated to toughen the hole up.
“We discussed various architects’ styles, yardage from the tee boxes, size, shape, depth and shaping around the bunker. We then tackled the first bunker at the 9th green that needed a riveted face installed. We also reduced the size of the bunker with the view of installing a second bunker to the right hand side of the green.
“By the end of the first day we had lifted an area to create a new ladies winter tee box and used the turf to build our first riveted wall on our new smaller bunker. We altered some of the shaping around the green, so that in the future the green could be extended out behind the bunker to allow trickier pin locations.
“One thing I noticed straight away was how open Stuart was to suggestions from his team and even his new crew.
“During the day we discussed that maybe a second bunker added as a cluster of two and joined together with shaping would be better than the original idea of a standalone bunker and more to rear of the green. Stuart agreed to present that idea to the committee the following day.”
“We started on the right side of the 9th green where we reshaped the mounding at the front of the bunker so that a ball would be more likely to end up in the trap. We also moved the bunker more into the fairway making the approach to the green tighter.
“With the hole playing a slight dog-leg to the left and uphill we decided that the bunker would look impressive if we made the left side of the bunker deeper, and this wouldn’t actually make the shot out of the bunker towards the green harder.
“After lunch some committee members joined us out on the 9th and we presented our ideas for installing the two new bunkers to the hole, these were well received. By the end of the day we had constructed the new riveted wall on the left hand side bunker and created the new shaping on the right hand side bunker to tie in the new second bunker.”
“We began by starting the process of finishing the bunkers around the green on the 9th. We had an unexpected visit from The National Trust before the ‘weather bomb’ hit and conditions were too severe to continue.”
“We were ready to start the final bunker on Thursday morning. To keep in line with the members, The National Trust and the SI, location selection would be vital. It had to fit in with the lie of the land, challenge the tee shot but not be too penal.
“Once we decided on the positioning we began digging out the bunker and because it was being established into a mound in the landscape very little shaping would be needed to keep the natural look.
“With the spoil created we were able to construct the new ladies winter tee box from where we had been lifting the turf to build the riveting. During this process we were able to get some good feedback from the members and it was mostly agreed that it improved the hole.
“We then managed to finish all the bunkers and the tee box by laying turf that was ordered earlier in the week. We topped off a fantastic week’s work by playing the back nine starting with the newly modified hole.”