Cheape’s bunker restoration

Our winter programme has been blessed with some pretty kind weather, so much so that the recent cold snap and sudden arrival of winter hasn’t impacted greatly on our schedules. Over the low season months one of our main projects on the Old Course was to revisit and restore Cheape’s bunker to a shape more akin to what historical records showed the bunker looked like back in the 1800’s. Positioned on the 2nd fairway, this is the first significant bunker acting as a bearing point. ‘Cheape’s’ defines the leftmost side of the hole, sitting on the corner of the dogleg of the 17th. Named after the family who once owned the land on which the Old Course sits, players are mindful to steer right of this hazard from the tee.

Caption – 1836 hand drawn map of Old Course, featuring Cheape’s bunker

Through time the shape of Cheape’s bunker has changed many times from the original layout of this strategically positioned bunker, from long & narrow in 1836 to round and small in 1990, which is how it has remained until we undertook this work.

Caption -1990 land survey showing Cheape’s bunker

Caption – Image of Cheape’s pre-restoration in 2016

During the process we consulted renowned golf course architect Martin Hawtree, who developed the new design and visited us onsite to assist with the project. Before we began the work we spoke with Martin at great length, including a site visit with our committee to discuss what we wanted to achieve. Martin Hawtree took on board our restoration aims and drew up a proposal for the bunker design.

Caption – Plans for Cheape’s Bunker 2016/17

With the design to follow we began excavating the bunker and preparing the site for work.

Caption – Marking out new shape with flags

Once we have a rough shape we start the excavation and begin to mould the new design, removing material and forming the surround.

Caption – Excavator shaping surround of bunker

Once we are happy with the shape we can now get set to form the turf wall, laying the first few rows of turf, creating the foundation and pattern for the bunker.  This is the important part and can take sometime until we are finally happy with the work and direction that the bunker will point in.

Caption – First row of turf being laid

During the work as we removed material we uncovered an old face from the past, which had been superseded by bunker rebuilds and material build up. This old face was cut much deeper into the front and really demonstrates how Mother Nature, successive face rebuilds and play contribute to the shape changing over time and our ambition to return to a more original shape from the past.

Caption – Red arrow shows a part of the old face with start of new face below

Caption – Bunker wall in full flow

Caption – Wall nearing completion

Caption – Re-vetted turf wall completed

Once we have the turf wall in place it is all about preparing the surrounding ground to gather as much as possible so golf balls will freely roll into the bunker. Around this stage of the work we remove excess material gathered in the centre and shape up the base prior to starting re-turfing works.

Caption – Digger removing excess material

Caption – Firming up base with fresh sand to be added at a later date

Caption – Final rake of surrounding area before turfing

Caption – Turfing commences with perimeter of bunker being placed around top & then turfing all other areas.

Caption – Final tidy up and small pieces of jigsaw are done

Caption – The completed work on Cheape’s 2016/17

A huge thank you to all the staff who were involved in the work on just one of our 110 famous Old Course bunkers. We are delighted with the outcome and sure golfers will enjoy the test of strategically avoiding it or escaping from it!

Words by Gordon Mckie, Course Manager ‑ Old Course.

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