After more than a year of careful planning and consultation, followed by an extensive construction programme, Wentworth Club’s newly renovated West Course has been unveiled at a VIP and media day ahead of the 2017 BMW PGA Championship.
The latest phase of works was led by Ernie Els Design in collaboration with renowned consultants European Golf Design. The two parties also worked closely with an advisory team, which included Thomas Bjørn, Paul McGinley and David Jones, representing the views of the Tour players, and Wentworth’s Director of Golf Courses & Grounds, Kenny Mackay. The comprehensive changes to the famous West Course focused on the greens, greens’ complexes and bunkering.
“The guys have been working flat-out there for the past 12 months,” commented Ernie Els, “and the results of this collaborative endeavour are impressive to see. The key objective was significantly improving the putting surfaces. All 18 greens were stripped of the old turf and re-seeded with a new 007 creeping bent, which improves the appearance and playability of the putting surfaces. A new sub-air system has been installed on all 18 greens, a first in England, which allows the grounds team to control moisture levels, regardless of weather conditions. New irrigation and drainage was also introduced.
“In addition, we undertook another review of all the bunkers on the golf course. As a result, all bunkers have been redesigned, softened and reconstructed, with many removed from play altogether. We believe this helps more closely realign the course with Harry Colt’s original vision, whilst also being mindful of the demands of the modern game – always a delicate balancing act. All in all, the completion of this project is great news for Wentworth and its members, for BMW and the European Tour, and for the players.”
Indeed, defending BMW PGA Champion and Ryder Cup player Chris Wood (pictured below) was one of the first professionals to play the new-look West Course during a dedicated media day on 4 May, and he was clearly impressed with what he saw. “The greens are absolutely perfect; every putt is so true,” said Wood to the assembled media. “You could play a Tour event here today and there’d be no complaints from the players.”
The £5m renovation is part of a wider £20m investment commitment by Reignwood Group to improve facilities throughout the Club, with the aim of becoming the world’s premier, private golf and country club. From the outset, a key element of the investment (which is more than has been invested in the Club in the past ten years combined), was earmarked for the West Course, widely regarded as the jewel in Wentworth’s crown.
Enhancing playability for the members, while retaining the challenge for Tour players, has been at the heart of the renovation. “Our intention was to make sure the course was a fair test focused on shot values, where well-executed shots would be rewarded,” commented Greg Letsche, senior design associate for Ernie Els Design. “This is what our intent was from day one on the West Course renovation project…and now it has come to fruition.”
Key highlights include:
- All 18 greens have been re-built and re-seeded with 007 creeping bentgrass, which was chosen after trialling 10 blends over a 12-month period at the Club.
- The course becomes the first in England to benefit from Sub Air technology.
- 29 bunkers have been taken out of play to reintroduce some of the original playing strategies and all the remaining bunkers have been redesigned.
Additional changes include:
- Greens at the 8th, 11th, 14th and 16th have been completely remodelled.
- Greens at the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 12th (pictured above) and 15th have been partially remodelled.
- New tees have been built on the 3rd, 4th and 18th.
- A completely new irrigation system has been installed.
- Additional drainage has been added on the fairways.
- All pathways have been resurfaced.
- Landscaping has been enhanced throughout to give the course a more natural aesthetic.
Dr. Chanchai Ruayrungruang, Chairman, Reignwood Group, said: “We are determined to make Wentworth the leading venue for Championship golf in Europe and the unveiling of the newly renovated West Course, which we believe to be one of the best in the world, is integral to this.”
Stephen Gibson, Chief Executive of Wentworth Club, said: “The West Course has always been the jewel in Wentworth’s crown and after many months working alongside some of the finest minds in golf, we have delivered a course which we believe reflects Wentworth’s history, providing enhanced playability for members and professionals alike.”
Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour said: “We welcome the substantial investment and renovation work which has gone into the West Course over the past 12 months, taking on board the view of our players, and we are confident the changes made will lead to a significantly improved playing experience at the BMW PGA Championship.”
Jeremy Slessor, Managing Director of European Golf Design, said: “We’ve worked alongside Wentworth’s team and Ernie Els Design on the development of the West Course and have consulted the leading European Tour players throughout. Through doing so we have ensured that the design reflects the views of some of the world’s best players and provides a truly outstanding Championship golf course.”
Kenny Mackay, Director of Golf Courses & Grounds at Wentworth Club, said: “From day one, the aim has been to make improvements to enhance playability for all. This has been achieved through wide-ranging changes and installing industry-leading technology that allows us to control how the greens play. We’ve called on a vast amount of design and playing experience and believe this is Wentworth’s best ever course.”
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