Royal North Devon Golf Club is taking drastic action to combat the effects of coastal erosion by redesigning three of its holes.
The course, which holds the prestigious title of being the oldest links in England, has commissioned world-renowned architects Mackenzie & Ebert to carry out alterations to the seventh, eighth and ninth holes after plans were voted through unanimously by the membership at an EGM on August 2.
The par-72 layout has been attacked by the sea throughout its 154-year existence but the impact of erosion has accelerated in the last quarter of a century, with the weather last winter highlighting to the club that changes needed to happen sooner rather than later.
“For the last 25 years, we’ve been losing sand dunes slowly but all of a sudden in 2014, we lost probably 25 metres in depth of dunes,” the club’s general manager, Mark Evans, told UK Club Golfer.
“Then last winter, we lost around 20 metres during Storm Eleanor. That happened to be right next to the seventh green, which is now only 35 feet from the edge of the erosion, while the championship tee on the eighth hole was washed into the sea. We can accept a tee box falling into the water, but not a green.”
The changes to the holes include a new green for the seventh hole located more inland and, due to its increased length, it will be raised from a par-4 to a par-5.
The eighth will remain as a par-3 but will be completely redesigned and re-routed inland, while the ninth, with the building of new tee boxes, will be re-routed as a dog-leg left and shortened from a par-5 to a par-4.
The alterations are the first to happen to the Old Tom Morris designed course since 1920 and, naturally, the members were very keen to see how things would pan out and packed into the EGM, where Tom Mackenzie of Mackenzie & Ebert delivered a presentation.
“Because it’s been talked about for more than 20 years, the membership knew that this was likely to happen some day,” added Evans. “So as much as they wouldn’t like to say they’ve accepted it, they have very well and this was helped by the presentation Tom Mackenzie gave, where he displayed the plans and flyovers.
“Members soon realised they could get equally as good, if not better, holes. Visually, they’ll be better because you’re playing on higher ground looking down. The current seventh hole is spectacular so it’s quite difficult to create something better than that but hopefully we’ll achieve it.”
Work on the new holes is scheduled to start in spring 2019 and, once it begins, it must be completed within three years.