My success story: Dougie Cleeton

The first phase in a £1 million project at Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society is complete and there is more to come. Chief executive Dougie Cleeton reveals all about the ambitious development…

It is the place where club golf first began. The Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society, the fourth oldest club in the world, can trace their roots way back to 1761.
Dougie CleetonThe sport has been played on the site of Bruntsfield Links, in Edinburgh, for much longer. Their Barnton course is just as much of an institution, bearing the stamp of Willie Park Jnr, Dr Alister MacKenzie, James Braid and Fred Hawtree.
A finer set of architects you couldn’t hope to find. Bruntsfield had been an Open qualifying venue until 2011 but had seen no changes since the early 1970s. So the club embarked on an ambitious redevelopment to modernise the layout to meet the demands of the modern game – and called in Mackenzie & Ebert’s Tom Mackenzie.

“He presented quite radical course changes to the Society, which included renovating all bunkering, introducing eight new holes using the existing holes and developing a former practice ground,” said Bruntsfield chief executive Dougie Cleeton.

“This included the introduction of a significant pond that would come into play and a complete change to the layout of the course, as well as controversially changing the signature 10th hole, but creating a far better hole with quite outstanding views.”

The membership approved proposals for changes to take place in three phases and over three years, as well as bringing in Cleeton – the former managing secretary at Blairgowrie – to run the Society and project manage the £1.2 million renovation.  The aim was simple: transform Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society into one of the best inland courses in the UK.

Over the course of last year, 1st Golf Construction – appointed following a tender process – renovated the bunkers on holes one to four and 11 to 17, as well as building two new holes.  A new par-3 16th and a demanding par-4 17th were constructed and a pond was also introduced on the former practice ground to separate the 16th tee and the green. That phase of the project is now in complete and the whole makeover is now on track to be open to the members next year. It wasn’t entirely without challenge.

Bruntsfield’s clay soil base was problematic for drainage, particularly for the reconstructed bunkers, and the Society opted to use Capillary Concrete liners. That allowed drains to be created and will also protect the new hazards from burrowing animals while also providing greater consistency in the way they perform.

Cleeton added: “The project started in June 2017 and through one of the wettest summers on record, 1st Golf Construction completed ahead of schedule and under budget.

“New signature holes were created – the 2nd from an elevated tee looks down upon a fantastic vista while the 16th represents the ultimate par 3 over water to a green that slopes towards the pond.

“The membership of the Society were so impressed with the first phase that they almost unanimously agreed that the course works should be completed in year two, one year ahead of schedule.”

Mackenzie’s new plans include a putting green placed in front of the clubhouse, on land currently occupied by the 1st tee. The new surface will be more than four times the size of the existing one.

“The final phase will also see further dramatic changes with the par-4 9th becoming a par 5,” Cleeton continued.
“The once signature 10th will be even more dramatic as a ‘postage stamp’ par 3 that will be played to a green where the view from the tee is an unspoiled vista of the River Forth and beyond.

“The new 12th hole will become a demanding par 5 dogleg and dangerously bunkered. The 1st tee will move onto the current 18th green, which subsequently gets flipped over onto the once 10th fairway.

“Another 40-plus bunkers will be reshaped and lined with Capillary Concrete.”

In total, there will be eight new holes, more than 80 bunkers reshaped and lined and three greens relaid, along with the transformation of the practice ground. Cleeton, Mackenzie and 1st Golf Construction’s Marcus Terry worked closely throughout the process, focused on delivering the best course possible, and the renovations will be completed in October and ready for play in April 2019.

“The overriding observation about the changes is that while it looks like the course is more challenging, it remains very fair, aesthetically outstanding, and is elevated to one of the very best parkland courses in the UK.”

By Marie J. Taylor

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