Howley Hall Golf Club, West Yorkshire, UK

Gaunt Golf Design has recently completed a total bunker renovation at Howley Hall GC, south of Leeds.

Howley Hall was founded in 1900, and Dr Alister MacKenzie advised on upgrades to the club’s course in 1913. Jonathan Gaunt says: “The property is attractive – quite moorland-like in many ways, with a fair bit of heather and wispy fescue. As with so many courses of its era, it had become rather choked by trees, but the club has been systematically thinning them for several years, with good results.”

Howley Hall chair of greens Ray Smith says: “About six years ago, before I was greens chair, though I was on the committee, we realised we needed to do quite a bit of work. We were getting complaints from members and visitors about quite a few things, especially the bunkers, and we also concluded we needed to make the course play a little bit tougher, without lengthening it, so we decided we should add some new bunkering. But we figured out early on that we needed to work with a professional golf course architect, so the members would be confident that their money was being wisely spent.”

Jonathan won the job in a competitive pitch against a number of other architects, and work commenced in 2013. Originally intended to take five years, the bunker project was actually finished more than a year ahead of schedule, in late 2016. As well as renovating all the course’s existing bunkers, Jonathan has added 25 new ones – four of which were not in the original plans – and Ray Smith says the work has made the course play two to three shots tougher. “It’s not the widest course in the world, but now you really have to plot your way around,” he adds.

Contractor Martin Crompton of C&C Golfscapes was in charge of construction, closely supervised by the architect. “Martin is local and we had worked with him before,” explains Smith. “His work is very good, and he got better as the project progressed.”

“The new bunkers are not fiddly or over-embellished, but they are in clear view, with good emphasis around them, unlike a lot of the old ones, which were just flat saucers,” says Jonathan. “They’re all properly drained, and lined with turf. At a cost of around £3,000 per bunker, this was a relatively low cost project, but the impact has been huge – the course has had a total facelift and looks like a new one.”

“Jonathan has created a great test of golf for all levels of player,” says Ray Smith. “When some of the new bunkers were installed, I questioned what he was doing, but over time I have come to see the reasoning behind all of them. We’re very proud of the work and our new-look course.”

Visit Howley Hall GC website

* All Photographs above are credited to John Henstock


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