Lakes provide scenic solution to new "Wet land" Course
By Carol Dutton
According to an English Golf Union spokesman, since the main golf boom of the late 80s and early 90s, so few new courses are being built per annum, that you could probably count them on the fingers of one hand.
If that's the case, then Griffon Forest Golf and Country Club must surely be the exception that proves the rule. Situated on open farmland with views unhampered by anything other than neighbouring farm buildings, the site is nevertheless barely six miles from the centre of York.
Bryan Moor of Dalbeattie based OCM Associates, who was appointed six years ago, and charged with the design, build, grow-in and administration needed to get the 6,700 yard, 18-hole par 72 course into play, was faced with an exceptionally low lying site. "There's virtually no gradient," he says. "We've just a seven-metre fall from one end to the other, a distance of nearly one mile."
"As the course is part of an extensive leisure facility including 50 holiday lodges, an indoor tennis court, a 20 bay covered driving range and a golf academy (due to open later this year) the owners wanted a vista from the clubhouse with a view taking in as much water as possible. To fulfil this brief and drain the land at the same time, I designed, in conjunction with Giles Wardle of Irriplan and Steve Hall the local plant operator, a series of seven interconnecting lakes."
As the water level rises in the first lake (situated in front of the clubhouse), it flows into lake two and onwards into lake three. A channel, filled with clay and shaped to resemble a running burn carries the flow the 400 to 500 metres to lake four, which overflows into lake five and then six. The man made "burn" continues to take water 300 to 400 metres from lake six to lake seven, from where it is pumped back to lake one, and exits via an aquatic fountain in front of the clubhouse.
The blue clay needed to line the man made burn has been provided from excavations for a separate, eighth lake, which means that in total, Griffon Forest houses eight acres of naturalistic landscaped water, whose beauty hides a comprehensive drainage system, which is completely contained on site. All the fairways have herringbone drainage with laterals at 10 metre intervals draining into lake seven, and Griffon Forest's 90 bunkers have all been built across the top of the new drains. As an added precaution against water retention, the course houses two or three "wet lands" away from the playing area which take any overflow.
"We used Lindum's LT1 Tournament turf for the greens and their award winning Ryegreen turf for the collars and tees," he continues. "Having already used Ryegreen on other golf course projects I've found it a good, hardwearing sward which retains its colour even in dry spells. Griffon Forest's owners viewed both LTI Tournament and Ryegreen at Lindum's turf nurseries, and following their visit we decided to use not only their turf, but also the Ryegreen seed mixture on all the fairways."
Stephen Fell, MD for the Thorganby based specialist sports turf growers, operating 10 miles away in the vale of York, says that with a 70% bent and 30% fescue mix LTI is the company's highest quality greens turf. "We aim to produce a very dense, clean sward with a high percentage of bent, and minimum contamination by other grasses," he explains. "Ryegreen, is particularly good for tees and surrounds, but this is the first time we've supplied the seed for fairways. Its hardwearing properties coupled with an aesthetically pleasing fineness of leaf should work well in this situation."
"Obviously we'd put a pre-seeding fertiliser down beforehand, but as we were using washed turf to protect the purity of the rootzone we wanted to get the roots down as quickly as possible," Brian remembers. "We spread the mycorrhizal product at 20gms per sq metre on top of the rootzone and laid the turf straight on top. Basically it did do the job. Speaking from experience (Brian's been in greenkeeping for 30 years), just by lifting the turf now and then I could see that it had rooted pretty vigorously."
"We'll seed the fairways this spring," says Moor. "We were just too late to do it last autumn. This land carries a legacy of potato growing and our last run with the levelling machines before winter revealed too much stone. Further stone picking needs to be performed before sowing."
Thorpe Trees from Ripon will supply the 160,000 mixed broad-leaved whips, which will be planted off the fairways.
"The planting plan is linked to ecology," explains Moor. "We didn't want anything too big, which would encourage predators who would then prey on small birds. As it is, the existing woodland bordering the site is a mixture of well established conifer and birch."
The only major earthworks conducted at Griffon Forest have been the excavation of the lakes, and Brian Hall is looking forward to an increase in wildlife. "There'll be badgers, deer and foxes as well as the birds attracted by the water," he predicts.
Proof that the golf course design blends into, rather than imposes itself on its surroundings comes from the overall atmosphere. Although Griffon Forest golf course is far from finished (it's not due to open until 2005), it already exudes a tranquil, settled quality. In the words of the architect, "you feel at ease with the place."
For further information on Lindum Turf, contact the company on Tel:01904 448675
Or visit their website at www.turf.co.uk