Royal Colombo Golf Club

Introduction

The course development plan is to inform members of what we are presently thinking of in terms of future course development work so that we can obtain feedback on what members would like for the future of the club and the course.

Before embarking on any form of course development work we will seek general membership approval and agreement since this will involve significant capital cost investment as well as some disruption to playing conditions while the work is being carried out.

The course development plan was submitted by Neil Haworth, Chairman of Nelson and Haworth Golf Course Architects.

•    Course Essentials
•    More Course Maintenance Equipment
•    Fit for purpose watering system
•    “Must Haves”- Way Forward
•    Possible Course Development Options
•    Professional Advice
•    Questions to be answered
•    Specifically the Greens
•    The Various Options
•    Conclusion

Course Essentials
The focus of our attention has been on trying to get our putting surfaces back into decent condition through an aggressive programme of coring and aeration.

This has produced some positive results and we had the majority of greens with 100% turf coverage with gradually improving turf health and quality until the third quarter of 2009.

However, the spell of wet weather in late November highlighted the frailty of our greens; in a very short time, we lost a significant amount of turf. We believe it was due to the black layer retaining too much moisture and not allowing in sufficient air therefore killing off the weak turf above.

The new third green, the turf nursery and areas which have been re-turfed survived the wet spell quite well. It leads us to conclude that the existing green sub grade is what is causing the majority of our problems.

Significant work has gone into many other areas of the course to improve the general appearance, tidiness and playability. This work will continue in the foreseeable future.

Additional thought and work has gone into looking at the best plan of action to take regarding the future of the course, possibly course maintenance and possible work development. There are two specific items which we feel are absolutely necessary- the course maintenance equipment and a fit for purpose watering system.

More course maintenance equipment
Our course maintenance equipment has improved over the past four years; however, it is still limited and is in need of enhancement and upgrading.

Some equipment is old and in need of replacement and there are some circumstances which need additional items to improve course maintenance. Additional items have no back-up and causes work to halt during repairs.

We are presently carrying out a review of our current needs. We have obtained quotations and will be requesting general membership approval for further capital expenditure on course maintenance equipment.


Fit for purpose watering system
Our existing watering system falls short of the mark, in terms of providing the correct quantity and quality of water to our greens. We realised this some time ago and have been hand-watering using bowsers. This improved the conditions of the greens during dry weather spells. We have also been advised to not use the watering system in some green areas, as it is doing more damage than good.

This situation cannot continue and we need a fit for purpose watering system. This will allow us to provide the precise quantity and quality of water to our greens at allocated times, particularly during periods of extreme dry weather (when water is required to keep the turf alive).

Presently, watering is being done during the daylight hours and is the worst time for watering. The watering system will be able to run automatically during the night.


“Must Haves”- Way Forward
It is our considered opinion that we must proceed wit acquiring additional course maintenance equipment and a new watering system. The new course maintenance equipment can be finalised without too much of a problem, and while linked to possible future development, it will not affect the results dramatically.

However, any upgrades to the watering system are directly linked to future course development and cannot be implemented without careful consideration of what we want to do with the course layout and green complexes in particular.

If we are to have a “top class” course, then we will require a proper watering system for the entire area. It must cover all tees, fairways and greens.  We can proceed with the design and installation of a new watering system without making any changes to the existing course layout.

This decision is dependent on what our members would like to see for the future of our course. Your opinions and feedback are more than welcome.


Possible Course Development Options
This section deals with the various course development options which have been brought to our attention.

For ease of understanding we have divided this into four sections:
•    Professional Advice- the advice we have obtained in preparing this proposal
•    Questions to be answered- the key questions requiring member input
•    Specifically the Greens- what specifically can be done to the greens
•    Various Options- the course development options available

Professional Advice
Golf course design and architecture is a special subject and in order to explore options and to understand what could be achieved at the RCGC, we were fortunate in obtaining the services of Neil Haworth of Nelson Haworth-Golf Course Architects. He carried out a two day survey of the course and prepared a detailed report (Master Renovation Plan Report) of what is necessary.

It should be noted that Neil’s professional services in preparing this report was provided to the club at no cost. In addition, our Course Maintenance Consultant, Terrance Mohamed, also provided input into the report and the final possible course development options.

Questions to be answered
All of the advice and proposals mentioned in the Master Renovation Plan Report contain a significant amount of information, suggestions and ideas as to how we should proceed.

There are three important questions that are to be asked:

a) Ultimately, what do we (the members) want the Royal Colombo Golf Club to look like?

In today’s golfing market the quality and standards set at the Royal Colombo Golf Club, while very good, do not quite match up with standards of the top clubs in Asia. The course will never be of championship length due to space constraints but it could be more challenging and prepared to a much higher standard with improvements in a number of areas such as:


•    Redesigned green complex layouts
•    Redesigned fairway layouts
•    Additional bunkering and improved bunker layouts
•    Improved turf quality on fairways, tees and greens
•    Some course layout changes

The majority of these changes are as proposed within the Master Renovation Plan Report.

If we were to embark on implementing the majority of these changes then we would ultimately be looking to have the RCGC Course as one of the top courses in Asia, commanding green fees in the region of US $15- 200 per round. Do we want this for the club?

With the future development of Sri Lanka and the development of golf in Sri Lanka, the Royal Colombo Golf Club must set its sights on being the premier club on the island. All golfers visiting Sri Lanka should want to visit our club for its history, uniqueness, challenge and quality.

 

b) What can we afford to do? How will we pay for it?


We presently have a capital reserve of approximately Rs. 100 million. The interest acquired from this amount assists in the daily needs of the club. This money can be put to use for the future development of the club, in particular, the course.

The ultimate cost will depend on exactly how much work will be done and how far the course will be developed.


c) What do the members want?

We hope that the improvements of the greens and the general appearance of the course are being enjoyed a bit more than previously. However, do the members want more?

Do you want the course to be similar to the courses seen elsewhere in Asia? Do you want quality fairways and tees, contoured bunkers and appealing greens? As members, do you want all of this for Royal Colombo Golf Club?


Specifically the Greens
While we have had some success in improving the conditions of the greens through the aggressive coring programme we have adopted, we are still faced with significant problems in the soil profile.

With lifting and relaying parts of the fourth green, we have demonstrated how we can improve and eradicate the thatch and black layer under the surface. This provides a better growing medium for the turf. This leads to healthier grass that is capable of withstanding the demands of our greens getting played on and the varied weather conditions we experience.

We have been trying to develop the chipping green using Paspalum turf; it is still under review and it too has suffered during the recent wet weather. We have been advised that this turf is more disease, shade and water tolerant than our current variety of turf. However, we shall be developing it further to see if it will be a better type of turf for our greens. We are working with turf management experts to determine the best type of turf for the weather pattern and soil conditions in Sri Lanka.

The best solution to solving the problem of our existing soil profile is to remove the existing surface, reconstruct the soil profile and replant new turf.

This is a major decision and can cause significant disruption to play but ultimately it will solve the problem of our inconsistent putting surfaces.

The various options
A number of options are available to us before we embark on any course of renovation work to the greens, let alone any development work to the course. A summary of the options which require member consideration and feedback are greens, fairways, tees, water hazards and course layout changes.

Greens
Option 1: No redesign of green complexes, but resurface greens to their existing shape with existing Tif Dwarf, Paspalum or some other type of turf.
Option 2: Redesign green complexes adopting new “push up design” with new bunker design and layout and resurface with existing Tif Dwarf, Paspalum or other type of turf.

Fairways
Option 1: No fairway design changes, or turf changes, fairways to remain as is.
Option 2: No redesign of fairways but returf with better quality turf at the same time installing fit for purpose watering.
Option 3: Redesign fairways with new fairway bunkering, contouring and shaping, returfing with better quality turf and installing new fit for purpose watering.

Tees
Option 1: Continue with existing tee refurbishment programme with slight tee modifications and resurfacing.
Option 2: Redesign tee layouts as per recommendations contained within Neil Haworth’s report.

Water Hazards
Option 1: No changes to water hazard shapes.
Option 2: Amend water hazard shapes to remove/ cut down ‘forced carries’ e.g. on 1st, 2nd, 7th, 11th and 13th as per design proposals of Neil Haworth

Note: Any work we do to rectify the watering system will require us to create a significant water reservoir where we will pump water from our wells into a large area where it will be stored for future use. Our present intention is to create this reservoir out of the water hazards on the 1st, 8th and 7th holes by piping any inflow water from the 5th hole straight out to the 17th water hazard, thereby allowing us to completely close off the water hazards on the 1st, 8th and 7th holes. We will excavate these to the required depth (2- 3 m), line the areas and maintain a water retention area with sufficient water for the course irrigation system.

Course Layout Changes
Option 1: No course layout changes.
Option 2: Change course layout so play finished on the existing 8th green but no change to 9th hole.
Option 3: Change course layout so play finished on the existing 8th green but create new par three and lost the existing 9th hole.
Option 4: Create new 12th hole layout as per Neil Haworth’s design.
A combination of options 2, 3 and 4 above.


Conclusion
As you can see, there are a number of possibilities as to how we can proceed with the future development of the course. One option being that we do no course development work at all but just fix the problems with the watering system.

We did however feel it prudent to make members aware of all of the options presently available and to obtain your views before we go forward.

For us to focus our efforts on preparing more detailed plans and costing, we require your feedback on all of the above ideas so that we can try to bring together a plan which suits the general opinion of the members.

Please take the time to complete our Course Development Questionnaire. Your views and opinions are appreciated and will be considered as we figure out the best way to proceed.

Stewart Ritchie
Ground Secretary