The membership of Ballybunion Golf Club in Ireland has voted overwhelmingly to lift and re-lay all 18-greens on the Old Course next winter, but possibly, a more striking development is its approval to build a new 7th green to once and for all deal with any potential erosion in that area of the links. A whole ‘new look’ that is bringing a stunning amphitheater effect to the Old Course has also been incorporated into on going course development.
Having seen the standard of workmanship by the combined artistic makeover skills of architect, Graeme Webster, and course superintendent, John Bambury, formerly of Trump Scotland on a redesigned second green on the nearby Cashen Course, the members had no reservations in loosening the purse strings to the tune of $2-million. A well-attended SGM was fully supportive of lifting and relaying the greens and introducing indigenous, marram grasses to strategic locations on the first, second and fifth holes (for starters.)
In September next, the greens will be mapped and micro-managed using new, high tech technology, stripped of all organic matter underneath the surface and re-sodded with fescue cultivated in local nurseries. The course will be fully back in play by Spring 2016.
While, the final objective is to uplift the overall appearance and conditioning by defining margins and increasing the proliferation of native, fescue grasses so necessary to maintain traditional links characteristics, the shot values and the way Ballybunion has always played won’t change one iota. The course will look harder because the playing corridors will look narrower but, in fact, they will remain exactly the same.
The approach to the 5th green was always an uninspiring sight, now it’s framed beautifully with low dunes and marram. The ugly fence and untidy backdrop have been eliminated from view without affecting a golf shot. Ballybunion’s marramification may have the capacity to terrorize and intimidate but golfers will soon realize the marram is more like a warden directing traffic than an unplayable hazard.
In 1969, Herbert Warren Wind wrote in the New Yorker magazine that Ballybunion was the finest links he had played in the British Isles. Some other noteworthy will soon be writing those very same sentiments once again.