Little Aston Golf Club, at Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands, experienced a bunker 'wipe-out' recently when an unexpected storm deposited over five inches of rainwater in an hour. All 93 of the course's bunkers were left severely damaged, yet at no stage was it closed or play suspended thanks to decisive action by Course Manager Neil Baker and contractor Souters Sports response at very short notice. In barely a fortnight all of the 100-year old sand hazards were restored to their former immaculate state.
Neil Baker, who took over at Little Aston last year and had extensive experience of course renovation work in his previous course management role at the Tandridge Club in Surrey, says he was able to organise an effective, emergency clean-up for 30 of them straight away. The remainder, however, were well beyond raking and the energies and skills of his eight greenkeepers and 34 artisans. His assessment of contamination and migration caused by the massive amount of storm water left him in no doubt that outside help from an experienced contractor was essential, and quickly.
"It was obvious to me that we needed to clean 60 of the bunkers out completely, re-bowl and re-shape them," said Neil.
Effectively it was a straightforward replacement of the sand content, but this was a massive task. Neil had had regular contact with Souters Sports' Business Development Manager Gary Cunningham, himself a former local course manager, and through him asked the specialist contractor to tender for the work. This was approved two days after the storm and the company was on site and working four days later, using two six-ton dumpers with flotation tyres and an eight-ton excavator with 360-degree bucket.
Neil has a good working relationship with Cheshire-based sports sand supplier White moss, which meant that all sand could be immediately delivered. 460 tons of Eco Bunker 2 sand was delivered and ready for Souters Sports' arrival on site. The massive renovation task was completed in just 10 working days, averaging six bunkers a day.
"The standard of playing conditions here has to be retained at all times, and any problem - even a grand scale one like this - has to be resolved immediately," said Neil.
"The course was kept open throughout the work and bunkers yet to be renovated were simply taken out of play; players dropping at the nearest point of relief. Every couple of hours we were able to put the rakes back in one more restored bunker.
"The renovation work was quite a sight to see and members were impressed with how un-intrusive it actually was. In many ways it was an exciting project, if one we didn't expect or want. The whole course was quickly back to normal, as if nothing had happened. Souters Sports did a great job for us. I hadn't worked with them before, but on the strength of this they'll be doing a drainage project on the course for me soon too."
Little Aston, first opened in 1908, first designed by Harry Vardon but later re-designed by the famous Harry Colt. The very private and exsclusive,Club which over the years has hosted many large tournaments including the English Amateur, brabazon trophy, Dunlop Masters, and more recently British open qualifying and carris trophy were delighted to see the Course back in play so quickly.