One of English golf's most spectacular destinations is preparing to host its first European Challenge Tour Event.
Estate Manager Matthew Cropper and his 12-strong team at Heythrop Park Resort, near Oxford, have spent the last few months working closely with the Tour to produce optimal playing conditions during the forthcoming Bridgestone Challenge event, which runs from August 25th - 28th.
"I'd say it has been more of a polish than a transformation" said Cropper, aged 26, who took up his new post at Heythrop Park Resort in February of this year. "The Bainbridge golf course has been in very good condition this season anyway, and it was fundamentally designed as a Tour layout, so we have been mainly taking care of the finer details such as achieving the right green speeds and cutting heights as specified by the Tour."
Cropper, a Bristolian who previously worked at Chipping Sodbury GC and Wentworth Club, feels that the golf course is now Tour-prepared. "We had the Championship layout" he said, "and we have now taken it to Championship standard as regards course conditioning.
"We have increased our mowing regime, and have topped up bunkers where necessary to achieve the required depth of sand for the European Challenge Tour. We have also recently improved not just our bunker drainage, but our whole drainage system for a sustainable future here at the Resort."
The giant 440-acre Heythrop Park Resort keeps Cropper's team busy away from the golf course too, with extensive gardens, lawns and woodlands to maintain, as well as a FootGolf course, croquet lawn and tennis courts.
"Heythrop Park Resort is about so much more than the Bainbridge Course for golfers" said Cropper, "but this month we are definitely focused on delivering the best-possible track for the Bridgestone Challenge competitors to enjoy. We can't wait to earn our Tour spurs, and it is an important step forward in the development of golf at Heythrop Park Resort."
The 7,088 Par 72 Bainbridge Course at Heythrop Park Resort will be closed to all but Bridgestone Challenge competitors during tournament week, which starts on Monday 22nd August.
A strong entry is expected as European Challenge Tour golfers compete to top the Road To Oman Rankings. "We are particularly honoured to host this event when you consider that Heythrop Park Resort will be the only official European Challenge Tour venue in England in 2016" said Resort Director Paul Russell.
"It has long been our aim to host a full Tour event" he said, "and hosting the Bridgestone Challenge later this month will see the culmination of a lot of hard work by the superb team here at Heythrop Park Resort.
"We are determined to make the most of this rare opportunity, which will finally see Heythrop Park Resort join an exclusive club of fully-fledged English Tour venues. We hope to attract more Tour events in the future - but most of all, we encourage golfers from across the UK to come and sample what Tour-quality golf looks and feels like, and also stay a while to sample our renowned hotel and hospitality!"