The new year ushered in great excitement for members and estate residents at The Els Club Copperleaf.
After four months of playing on temporary greens they were at last able to enjoy the real ones, which had been closed for resurfacing with a strain of 007 “super” bent grass to replace the old combination of A1/A4 bent which had been contaminated with a variety of foreign grasses.
“We are getting great feedback on the consistency of the greens, which are running true and at an average speed of 9.5 to 10 on the Stimpmeter,” said Els Club director of golf Thinus Rosslee. “They should be around 10.8 for the club championships at the end of February.”
Interestingly, the 007 variety is also on the greens at Fancourt’s Montagu course, and the famous Wentworth layout near London which hosts the British PGA Championship. It is a creeping bent grass which is said to be more resistant to disease and more tolerant to close mowing with its finer leaves.
“Members, their guests and visitors are making sure our tee sheet is packed to the brim,” said club captain Attie van der Linde. “The new greens are surprisingly receptive, to be honest. Our bunker project with Bunker Armour and Golf Data, who service our maintenance, is also progressing well, and all the greenside bunkers will have been repaired in time for the club champs.”
Van der Linde, elected as captain in 2020, has been the driving force behind the course improvements taking place at the Gauteng North estate. The Ernie Els design had dropped to No 56 on the rankings a year ago.
“My undertaking to members at the AGM was to bring the course back to its previous level of conditioning and to the same quality you would expect to find at Els Club courses. We are one of only four in the world,” he said. (Other Ernie Els designs in SA, Highland Gate and Oubaai, are not part of the Els Club brand.)
“Most important was to fix the bunkers, eliminating stones and relining them, an enormous job as they are a defining feature of our layout. They cover an area of four hectares in total, which is about four times greater than the footprint on most other courses.”
The Els Club Copperleaf has an impressive total of 114 bunkers, several of them incredibly spacious and deep; curiously there is not one to be found on the par-3 14th.
Bunker Armour were employed to reline the greenside bunkers with their product which binds the sand with a polymer and fibre. It is 100 percent malleable so it cannot break or crack. It can be installed on steep bunker faces and its firm base allows a golf ball to bounce off, which eliminates plugging. Less sand is thus needed in the face to protect the bunker membrane liner. No damage is caused to golf equipment by the product.
At The Els Club the grass edges of bunkers were being eroded, allowing more stones to run into the base. Bunker Armour can go underneath the grass sod and create a root bed.
One of the claimed advantages of using Bunker Armour is that the fibre and sand can be remoulded. The product can be removed, stockpiled and replaced if a bunker needs to be reshaped.
There are more than 800 homes at The Els Club Copperleaf, but the majority of golfing members come from outside the estate.