The past 2 months has been challenging, to say the least.
On 20th March, while I was undertaking a site visit at Whittington Heath GC (an HS2 project), the clubhouse was closed due to the Covid-19 Virus Pandemic. This was the first direct impact of the virus on my work, because it was decided, on completion of this outdoors visit, that the construction site would be closed indefinitely.
Whittington Heath GC, Lichfield, Staffordshire – Heather Mitigation Area at rear of (new) Green #7
The project is part of the HS2 High Speed Two project and the changes to the golf course are being undertaken to enable the railway line to be routed through the golf course, greenkeepers compound and clubhouse. The project was already being affected by the extreme wet weather of autumn/winter 2019/20, so we really didn’t want any further likelihood of delays.
However, the government issued their lockdown instructions and we all began the process of adapting to working from home. This, of course, put an immediate stop to all inspection visits relating to this project, along with other ongoing reconstruction projects on site at Willow Valley GC in Yorkshire, Cavendish GC in Derbyshire, The Wildernesse Club in Kent and Breinholtgard GK in Esbjerg, Denmark.
Breinholtgard Golf Klub, Esbjerg, Denmark - new 9th hole on Sletten Course
I must admit, I am very fortunate in the respect that since October 2018 I have been “working from home”, when I converted my garage to an office in the garden. In fact, since then I’ve been able to be much more productive because I don’t have to drive over the moors to Bakewell (where my old office was) and back here to Sheffield twice a day.
GGD's office in Sheffield
I have 5 other colleagues who work with me on our projects - 3 CAD engineers/golf design associates and 2 landscape architects. They’ve worked for me (for many years now) from their homes in Mansfield, Glasgow, Ferrara (Italy), Leeds and Exeter. During the lockdown they’ve all (thankfully) continued working for me with hardly a break.
We’ve been particularly busy on new golf projects since October 2019, and have submitted 2 new planning applications in 2020, alone, with another one just starting. These are substantial projects - involving a new 9-hole course in Hertfordshire, a 9-hole upgrade (of a 27-hole course) in Bedfordshire, and an upgrade of an 18-hole course in Yorkshire. We’re also half-way through the design work for bunker remodelling projects at Selby GC in Yorkshire, West Kent GC and Nizels GC in Kent and at Stratford on Avon GC in Warwickshire.
Wildernesse Club, Sevenoaks, Kent – new bunkers on hole #7
Although we cannot claim any money or funding from the government (due to our working circumstances as a limited company - and I’m not going to furlough myself(!)), we still regard ourselves as being very fortunate indeed. We have really good clients and a good deal of work on site, on the drawing board and at concept stage and this will enable us to survive these unprecedented circumstances.
Having said this, we still consider ourselves to be in “lockdown” and I will continue to work from my office base here in Sheffield, for as long as is necessary. However, the Whittington Heath project is now back on site and the golf course contractor - John Greasley Ltd - is building up his workforce again to maintain the agreed work schedule. Consequently, I’m already scheduling in site visits to oversee, sign off and certify their work.
Since the government relaxed lockdown measures on 10th May and the re-opening of golf courses on 13th May, it means that I will begin to schedule in site visits again to the courses where work was being done prior to the lockdown beginning.
We look forward to continuing our work, not resuming it, as we never stopped.
Director & senior golf course architect, Gaunt Golf Design Limited