When Stuart Imeson at Dunstanburgh Castle golf club said he was holding a bunker renovation week I jumped at the chance to join him and I’m so pleased I did. Stuart has recently joined the BIGGA North East committee to help with the Education Program, something we both share a passion for. The aim of the week was for Stuart to explain and show the process involved in installing new bunkers and renovating existing ones, for example the design, placement, communicating to members and committee and finally installation of the bunker. In return we provided free labour to assist his staff James Thorpe and Dan Wilkin.
Arriving on the first day I was greeted with a bacon sandwich and introduced to the rest of the crew. We headed out onto the course to have a look at some of the bunkers that had recently been renovated with revetted walls. We then visited the 9th (Stroke 1 Index) hole where Stuart explained how the stroke index didn’t match the way the hole played. Due to this a fairway bunker would be installed and the green side bunkers renovated to toughen the hole up. We discussed various architects styles, yardage from the tee boxes, size, shape, depth and shaping around the bunker. With the rest of the first day we tackled the first bunker at the 9th green that needed a revetted face installed. We also reduced the size of the bunker with the view of installing a second bunker to the right hand side of the green.
By the end of the first day we had lifted an area to create a new ladies winter tee box and used the turf to build our first revetted wall on our new smaller bunker. We altered some of the shaping around the green so that in the future the green could be extended out behind the bunker to allow trickier pin locations. One thing I noticed straight away was how open Stuart was to suggestions from his staff and even his new crew. During the day we discussed that maybe a second bunker added as a cluster of two and joined together with shaping would be better than the original idea of a standalone bunker and more to rear of the green. Stuart agreed to present that idea to the committee the following day.
On Day Two we started on the left side of the 9th green where we reshaped the mounding at the front of the bunker so that a ball would be more likely to end up in the trap. We also moved the bunker more into the fairway making the approach to the green tighter. With the hole playing a slight dog-leg to the left and uphill we decided that the bunker would look impressive if we made the left side of the bunker deeper and it wouldn’t actually make the shot out of the bunker towards the green harder. After lunch some committee members joined us out on the 9th and we presented our ideas for installing the 2 new bunkers to the hole, the ideas were well received and we went on to discuss the new ladies winter tee box and other potential work we may get through. By the end of the day we had constructed the new revetted wall on the left hand side bunker and created the new shaping on the right hand side bunker to tie in the new second bunker.
Day Three, we made a start on finishing the bunkers around the green on the 9th. We had an unexpected visit from The National Trust before the weather bomb hit and conditions were too severe to continue. The land at Dunstanburgh Castle Golf Club was originally leased from the National Trust in 1972 and the current proprietor took over that lease in 1988. There are many conditions and restrictions that come with the lease to ensure that the land, on the whole, remains untouched and native species of animals, flowers and grass types thrive. The site has many SSI’s, hosts an area of grassland remaining from the ice age and is home to the second largest natural newt conservation in the country. These restrictions vary from not disturbing the rough, even to drive through, to not spraying chemicals for the control of weeds, pests and disease. To ensure the terms of the lease are met The National Trust are in frequent contact with Stuart and his staff. On this visit they were concerned about the movement of soil and the removal of Jarrow on a bunker face due for renewal. These restrictions, I feel, add to the magic of the course and increase its uniqueness.
Day Four, after a hotly contested FIFA and UFC competition the previous night back at our accommodation and the green side bunkers prepared for turf we were ready to start the final bunker on Thursday morning. To keep in line with the members, The National Trust and the stroke index, location selection would be vital. It had to fit in with the lay of the land, challenge the tee shot but not be too penal. Once we decided on the positioning we began digging out the bunker and because it was being established into a mound in the landscape very little shaping would be needed to keep the natural look. With the spoil created we were able to construct the new ladies winter tee box from where we had been lifting the turf to build the revetting. During this process we were able to get some good feedback from the members and it was mostly agreed that it improved the hole.
The final day was dedicated to finishing all bunkers and the tee box by laying turf that was ordered earlier in the week. We topped off a fantastic weeks work by playing the back 9 starting with the newly modified hole.
To see a short video of us building the fairway bunker please visit
Following a very successful year for the green staff at Dunstanburgh I couldn’t not link the video to this music 😃.