A bunker project across the pond

A bunker project across the pond

Located in the south of England, Skylark Golf & Country Club opted for EcoBunkers for a bunker overhaul.

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Seven years ago, Skylark Golf & Country Club in Hampshire, in the south of England, was in a sorry state.

“The course was opened in the late 1990s, and it was known at Quinn Dell,” said course manager Simon Bell-Tye. “When I got here in 2014, it had been neglected and run down for most of that time. It was a field with holes in it.”

But the arrival of its new course manager was a sign that the place was on the up. Acquired by local company JDI — Just Develop It — in late 2013, the renamed Skylark hasn’t looked back.

“My boss at the time, Dan Richards, an ex-golf pro, had a real vision for the place, starting with making the course more presentable and playable,” Bell-Tye said. “But it was a big job. There was a weed called toad rush in the greens. I didn’t know what it was — I’d never come across it before — and the bunkers were just scoops in the ground.”

Now, though, Skylark’s bunkers are among its best-regarded features, thanks to the installation over several years of synthetic edging system EcoBunker. “I’m a member at Royal Winchester and I saw them doing the EcoBunkers there,” Bell-Tye said. “I mentioned this to Dan and he said, ‘Good idea, get them in.’ Rich Allen came and explained their process, and we took him and their construction manager Llewelyn Matthews to the 11th hole, which had our very worst bunkers. Then Llew spent a week showing us how to build the EcoBunkers, and we haven’t looked back since.”

But the ‘normal’ EcoBunker method wasn’t enough for Skylark. To reduce the bunker maintenance still further, EcoBunker CEO Richard Allen, a civil engineer by trade, devised a new add-on, named EcoEdge — which sees quality artificial grass, backed with rubber, used as a rim for the bunkers. Compared to the usual EcoBunker Advanced methodology, where natural grass is planted on top of the synthetic edge, this further reduces the maintenance requirement for bunker edging. “Skylark was the first club in the world to use the EcoEdge system, although since, a number of other clubs have invested in it,” Allen said.

The reaction to the EcoBunkers was immediate. “Members loved them, so I got a budget to do a number of bunkers each year,” Bell-Tye said. “Ultimately, we have added 14 extra bunkers to the golf course. We build them all in house — last winter I used 40 pallets of material in four bunkers — and they look wonderful. They are huge, and they just pop out at you.”

Skylark’s success has come both on and off the course. From hosting one or two weddings a year, the club now hosts about 150. And the golf? “When I joined, we had 200 to 250 golf members,” Bell-Tye said. “Now we’re up to 750, and we are full, with a joining fee.”

Allen invented the concept of synthetic bunker edges back in 2009 and founded EcoBunker Ltd. in 2014. Since then, the EcoBunker method has been used to build bunkers on about 400 courses in 34 countries.

He later modified his original construction method to create the EcoBunker Advanced system, introduced in 2016. EcoBunker Advanced uses a cement-modified backfill to create extra stiffness and stability, creating stronger revetted walls.