The Wisley Golf Club
A WORD TO THE WISE
With knowledgeable members who expect the best, The Wisley required a bunker sand that would exceed expectations. As the club’s director of Golf Course Maintenance explains, the solution was Hugh King’s Bunker 5 sand.
The Wisley is one of those special places where the presentation of the course and the experience you have while playing it are deemed an integral part of the club. This unashamed emphasis on quality perhaps explains the 39 full-time green-keeping staff and the fact that 14 PGA Tour players call it home.
It also goes some way to explaining the assumption that John Lockyer will produce tournament conditions at the prestigious 27-hole Surrey club every day. “The biggest compliment we can get is not receiving any complaints,” says The Wisely’s director of golf course maintenance. “We have suffered in the past, especially when we got to the summer months and the sand was too dry. The combination of Hugh King’s sand with our existing sand has worked really well and we haven’t had any comments at all about it this year.”
As well as the issue of dry sand, the club also has to contend with the inherent threats associated with being located in the River Wey’s floodplain. As Lockyer explains, a theoretical 100-year flood event has happened here twice in the last decade.
To protect the course and its bunkers from the periodic soakings, the club took action. “We decided to introduce porous tarmac asphalt as a bunker lining,” says Lockyer. “We decided to use this because we’re on a floodplain. We needed a liner that would not only separate the sand from the soil to prevent erosion and contamination, but would also be strong enough to withstand floods.”
He continues: “We also needed a sand that was compatible with that liner. The sand needed to contain a certain amount of moisture. It needed to be fluffy enough for people to play out of, but firm enough not to run down the bunker face. Fifty per cent was playability; the other 50% was presentation. Everyone likes to see a lush, green parkland golf course combined with white bunker sand. That’s the look we were after.”
The investment being made to counter the effects of the River Wey’s breachable banks hinged on sourcing the right materials for the job. The club had found the right bunker liner; all that was needed was the right sand.
“We tested a lot of sands for colour, playability and compatibility and we found the performance of the Hugh King sand was great, but where it really excelled was the colour,” says Lockyer. “It was so brilliant white, it was amazing.”
An order of 450 tonnes of Hugh King’s Bunker 5 sand was duly placed and in February all 100+ bunkers at The Wisley were treated to a one-inch layer medium-course USGA-bunker-spec sand. Lockyer had found the missing piece of his Surrey jigsaw, in Ayrshire.
“The return in terms of playability and presentation meant it was well worth the additional cost over a local sand,” he explains. “The local sands didn’t match well with the bunker liner, so we had to buy two off-the-shelf sands and create a special mix. And even then the performance still wasn’t as good as Hugh King’s sand, and we didn’t have the best colour match either. We couldn’t even guarantee the long-term supply!”
More importantly, the discerning members at The Wisley noticed the all-important change. “They like the playability of the Hugh King sand and they like the look of it,” Lockyer says proudly. “It has settled in very quickly and withstood the weather conditions very well. It has performed extremely well from a drainage point of view.”
With high standards to uphold and an astute membership, Lockyer is rightly proud of the changes he has overseen since he arrived at The Wisley two and half years ago. “Our members are very proud of the golf course and want to bring their friends and clients with them,” he says. “Every member is equal at The Wisley – it doesn’t matter if you’re a tour pro or head up a software giant. But the level of expectation extends from the average handicapper to somebody who just played in The Masters. To get good feedback has been a real achievement.”