Seven years ago the Skylark Golf & Country Club in Hampshire in the south of England was in a sorry state.
“The course opened in the late 1990s and was known to Quinn Dell,” said course manager Simon Bell-Tye. “When I first got here in 2014, most of the time it was neglected and shabby. It was a field with holes in it. “
But the arrival of the new course leader was a sign that the place was on the up. The company, which was taken over from the local company JDI – Just Develop It – at the end of 2013, has not regretted the name Skylark.
“My boss at the time, Dan Richards, a former pro golfer, had a real vision for the course, starting with making the course presentable and playable, ”said Bell-Tye. “But it was a big job. There was a weed on the greens called Toad Storm. I didn’t know what it was – I’d never seen it before – and the bunkers were just shovels in the ground. “
Today, however, Skylark’s bunkers are one of the most respected features thanks to the installation of the EcoBunker plastic edging system over several years. “I’m a member of Royal Winchester and saw them do the EcoBunkers there,” said Bell-Tye. “I mentioned this to Dan and he said, ‘Good idea, get her in.’ Rich Allen came and explained their process, and we took him and their site manager with us Llewelyn Matthews to the 11th hole, which had our worst bunker. Then Llew spent a week showing us how to build the EcoBunkers and we haven’t looked back since. “
But the “normal” EcoBunker method wasn’t enough for Skylark. To reduce bunker maintenance even further, EcoBunker CEO Richard Allen, a trained civil engineer, developed a new add-on called EcoEdge, which uses high-quality synthetic turf with a rubber backing as the edge for the bunkers. Compared to the usual EcoBunker Advanced method, in which natural grass is planted on the plastic edge, this further reduces the maintenance effort for the bunker edge. “Skylark was the first club in the world to use the EcoEdge system, although a number of other clubs have invested in it since,” said Allen.
The response to the EcoBunker was immediate. “The members loved them, so I got a budget to build a number of bunkers each year,” said Bell-Tye. “Ultimately, we added 14 additional bunkers to the golf course. We all build them in-house – last winter I used 40 pallets of material in four bunkers – and they look beautiful. They are huge and they just jump at you. “
Skylark’s success comes both on and off the course. Of one or two weddings a year, the club now hosts about 150. And that golf? “When I started we had 200 to 250 golfers,” said Bell-Tye. “Now we’re at 750 and we’re full, with an entry fee.”
Allen invented the concept of synthetic bunker edges back in 2009 and EcoBunker Ltd. founded. Since then, bunkers have been built on around 400 lanes in 34 countries using the EcoBunker method.
He later changed his original method of construction to create the EcoBunker Advanced system, which was introduced in 2016. EcoBunker Advanced uses a cement modified backfill to provide additional rigidity and stability and create stronger clad walls.