Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell led the chorus of approval for the West Course at Wentworth following the huge renovation project, and Paul McGinley is delighted with the feedback.
The feedback from the players at the BMW PGA Championship has been fantastic, and that vindicates what we’re doing at Wentworth and the investment from the owners.
There are four or five phases to the redevelopment, which started with the redesign of the West Course and the replacement of all the greens which was completed shortly before last year’s tournament.
The second part was the renovation of the magnificent clubhouse which finished earlier this month, and Gary Player is overseeing the revamp of the Edinburgh Course which also includes the next phase – the re-positioning of the driving range.
The investment from the club and the owners has been substantial, and we were basically a sounding board when the plans were initially drawn up. Myself and Thomas Bjorn had discussions with European Tour design, headed by Jeremy Slessor, and Ernie Els Design were a big part of the renovations as well.
It was a big team for a big project, but we’ve brought the course back to what the professionals and members really enjoy, and judging by the feedback, it’s been a big success.
The members here are happy as well. It’s obviously important to get the Tour pros onside, but we had to cater for the members as well. The first hole is a prime example, where we widened the distances between the two bunkers to the front of the green which allows handicap golfers to chase the ball up there rather than have to carry the trouble to find the green.
In previous years, the conditioning of the course – particularly the greens – came in for some criticism and there were certain players unhappy with the design. But we didn’t have one priority over another, we wanted the whole package. The plan was simple – improve the condition of the course and try to bring the layout back to somewhere close to the original Harry Colt design.
Bent grass is very difficult to grow and maintain in the UK climate, but Kenny Mackay, the director of courses, spent a lot of time researching the different types of grass available to find the one best suited to a course of Wentworth’s stature and prestige.
The grass we ended up using was actually called 007, which is a bent grass that any James Bond fans won’t have any trouble remembering! It’s a hybrid type of grass which works well, although it still requires a lot of maintenance.
Kenny and his team work extremely hard to make sure seeds from meadow grasses and others don’t get blown in, and they have certainly done that very well so far. The meadow grass can interfere with the whole process, so it’s a constant battle to keep it away.
The most difficult part of the West Course renovation was finding the balance between catering for tournament professionals and the Wentworth members. Obviously, we wanted a course to challenge the top players, but we had to be fair to the amateurs as well.
That’s why we made the decision to install the sub-air system under each of the 18 greens. A difficult golf course for professionals is not about length, it’s about accuracy and also the firmness of the greens.
If you’re going in from the fairway, you can control the spin, which you can’t do from the rough here. So, from that point of view, the sub-air was an important pre-requisite as we can control the firmness of the putting surfaces.
So, when the members are playing here, we can turn the sub-air off and let the greens soften up a bit. But when it’s tournament time, Kenny turns the sub-air on and that drys out the greens and makes them firmer.
Firm and fast greens are the hardest challenge for a professional golfer, and it’s much trickier to hit and hold the greens at Wentworth now. It’s also a big factor when you miss a green and short-side yourself, making the pitching, chipping and bunker play much more difficult.
Fortunately for the players this week, we’ve had a decent amount of rain since Wednesday evening and, although we’ve obviously had the sub-air on, the greens are not nearly as firm as they could have been. That’s why we’ve seen such good scoring this week.
The course was much more firm early on Saturday, when the scoring was much closer to how we envisaged, but we had more showers ahead of the final round and the scores suddenly got a lot better for the final round.
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May 31, 2018, 9:30am
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