Whittington Heath opens HS2 course

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 19, 2022 10:41

A golf club that had to be significantly redesigned because the HS2 railway line was planned to cut through it, has reopened.

Whittington Heath Golf Club in the Midlands has ensured that a quality-playing environment is maintained for members while allowing for construction of the HS2 rail line.

The revised course boasts five new holes on adjacent land to the east, replacing those that are set to be lost.

The captains’ drive-in saw club president Kelvin Edwards cut the ceremonial ribbon and the club’s four section captains tee-off, followed by a men’s captain versus ladies’ captain match.

Whittington Heath Golf Club, situated on the A51 just outside of Lichfield, learnt that the HS2 rail line would be cutting through its historic course a decade ago.

Although the club’s very existence was threatened, members decided to work with HS2 to devise a sustainable solution and secure its future.

Working in close collaboration with leading golf course architects Jonathan Gaunt and contractor John Greasley, the club has created a course arguably even better than its predecessor.

The redesigned course features new holes specially designed to complement those retained on the original course, which are now being restored to traditional heathland.

The project has also seen the construction of a purpose-built clubhouse, replacing the original clubhouse on the A51 which has been demolished to make way for HS2.

Tony Rundle, chairman of Whittington Heath Golf Club’s HS2 sub-committee, said: “We are delighted to be able to officially open our fantastic remodelled golf course.

“HS2 presented the club with an existential crisis.

“However, we were determined to find a solution and through tenacity and close collaboration with a group of supportive partners, the course has been remodelled and its future assured.

“Whittington Heath Golf Club has for many years been considered one of the finest golf courses in the Midlands.

“We look forward to welcoming golfers to our new course and I’m confident its reputation will be enhanced.”

Charlie Greasley, of course contractor John Greasley, said: “We broke ground on the existing course works in early January 2019 and were blessed with an amazing run of weather that allowed us to get ahead of schedule and more importantly, seed in the ground at the earliest opportunity.

“The weather did become a challenge later on in 2019 and the winter of 2019/2020 was pretty testing at times.

“The site generally took it really well, however the numerous pockets of solid sand stone posed a different problem in preventing and slowing down the natural drainage properties within part of the site.

“One of the key and most enjoyable parts of the three-year contract at Whittington was working with the project team which is often the most determining factor to any projects success as there are so many factors involved in what can appear on the face of it to be a fairly straightforward ‘course re-development and extension job!’

“Co-operation, understanding, expertise and willingness are four words that best describe the way the team worked here with absolute synergy.

“The client – Whittington Heath Golf Club – headed by Tony Rundle, offered clear and decisive instructions throughout and a real hands-on approach was given by the golf course architect Jonathan Gaunt, who orchestrated the design elements perfectly.

“As contractor, we wanted every aspect of the works to be carried out to the highest of standards and ultimately to create an excellent upgrade to an already top ranking course.

“The project and commercial management team at Greenwoods were pivotal in pulling all aspects together and keeping a vital close link with HS2.

“This is certainly one of the proudest and enlightening projects our company has carried with and we look forward to it maturing into one of England’s greats.”

Jonathan Gaunt, of course architect Gaunt Golf Design, said: “We were first asked to be involved in the redesign of the golf course at Whittington Heath Golf Club in July 2012, after an initial meeting with then-captain John Tipper and Kelvin Edwards.

“Our brief was to create a new section of the golf course to match in as closely as possible with the existing course, which was already highly regarded in the Midlands for its Harry Colt design.

“It was a tough commission to take on, but really exciting to be asked to do so.

“The first difficulty was that in 2012 the club had not yet identified the land to extend the course onto and the HS2 railway line was, unfortunately, splitting the course in two and demolishing the clubhouse.

“So, following investigation of four sites, a 25 hectare piece of undulating sandy farmland was chosen for the five new holes and practice area, to the east of the existing course and the clubhouse was positioned in a central, elevated location overlooking the new land.

“The masterplan was set. The detailed design of the course, though, took several years to develop with many iterations before a planning application was submitted to Lichfield District Council in 2016.

“Soon after permission was granted, the project was started on site in January 2019, and that was when the fun really began.

“Progress on site was swift and the contractor, John Greasley, worked amazingly well through some very challenging conditions – torrential rain, flooding, drought and the Covid pandemic – to finish the course in autumn 2021.

“The project has far exceeded my expectations and it’s one I am extremely proud of.

“The construction team together with the maintenance team at Whittington Heath Golf Club have worked so well together to bring this project to life.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure to be part of the next 100 years at what, I consider to be the best course in Staffordshire.”

Regarding construction of the new clubhouse, Tony Shenton, managing director of contractor J Tomlinson, said: “Whittington Heath Golf Club was an interesting project to be involved with and was very much a collaborative approach.

“The golf course remained open during the project and a high degree of planning and communication was required to ensure minimal disruption to club staff and guests.

“With 70 percent of our suppliers and subcontractors sourced locally, the project also contributed to the local economy as well as providing key work experience for apprentices.

“The use of energy-efficient technologies to minimise the building’s carbon impact will help to maximise comfort levels for club members and staff and reduce energy bills.

“We are sure that the new clubhouse and facilities will be a great success for the club.”

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 19, 2022 10:41
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  1. Alsbury April 26, 10:47

    Great to see a scheme we secured consent for taking shape. And although the planning process wasn’t a straightforward one, the majority of the hard work was done by Jonathan Gaunt, Andrew Hayward (and his team), Matt Johns and the key members of the club: Kelvin Edwards, Keith Ridgway, Alan Jarrett, Tony Twist, Tony Rundle and Chris Dewes. The personal time and effort that these individuals committed to saving their club and helping shape what it is now becoming was extraordinary. Well done all. Looking forward to testing Jonathan’s design next month at the St Giles day.

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  2. TLowe April 23, 21:57

    HS2 – The project so poorly thought out that it’s basically old technology before it’s even been used, let alone the costs and disruption to so many lives.

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