It was a busy winter period at Ilkley Golf Club with significant investment on the course to not only protect it for generations to come but also to create even more enjoyment for members and visitors alike.
As some of you may know Alister MacKenzie was a great influence at Ilkley Golf Club. In fact, according to the archives, he was actually a member of the club. He first advised Ilkley in 1908, which was prior to designing Moortown and just after Alwoodley Golf Club.
His final commission for the Club came in 1926, which included a comprehensive plan for the whole course. This was at a time when MacKenzie was at the peak of his career, as he was designing Royal Melbourne the same year and had also been awarded the commission to design Cyprus Point.
To ensure the course maintains the MacKenzie heritage, Ilkley commissioned world-renowned architects Mackenzie and Ebert this year to finalise the design for the stunning new look par five 6th hole, as well as redesigning the approach to the 4th green and making other subtle changes to the course.
The newly shaped 6th hole (pictured) is now fully open and is receiving excellent plaudits.
Working to designs from Mackenzie and Ebert, the Green staff, together with expert contractors, has created a fabulous dog leg hole which will make golfers ‘flirt’ with the river to ensure the best way in to the green. A true ‘risk and reward’.
Huge machines repositioned mature trees from the new fairway to the old one; excavating equipment created strategically positioned bunkers and filled in old ones; and the fairway which runs next to the River Wharfe now looks as though it has always been there.
Photographs do not do justice to what a great challenge this hole now presents. You will need to come and play it and experience it for yourself.
If you play a course regularly you don’t always notice that holes have altered, that's because Mother Nature slowly takes over.
It is interesting, therefore, when someone with an expert eye, such as MacKenzie and Ebert, point out changes that have happened and how the course can be improved.
Ilkley has therefore made a number of modifications to the course on their recommendations.
Next time you play you will see the greenside bunker on the right of the 4th green has been moved from behind the giant sequoia tree that obscured it over time.
The bunker is now positioned more to the front of the green and the left side bunker has been removed, which means golfers should play down the left-hand side of the fairway, closer to the river as the great Alister MacKenzie would have wanted, to ensure the best route in to the flag.
The club has also invested a considerable amount of money this year to protect Hawksworth Island, on which is situated the 2nd green, 3rd hole and 4th tee.
For many years the Club has been concerned about the erosion of the island which has become even more rapid with global warming, causing extreme weather and higher river levels.
There was a worry that if left unchecked, the island could have been lost altogether destroying one of the unique features of Ilkley Golf Club. Indeed the 3rd hole has been lauded by many golf writers, professionals and players, with the great Henry Cotton saying it was one of his favourite par threes.
As you will appreciate it was a mammoth task as the contractors, Whitelocks, had to move the 'Rock Armour' from one side of the river and put the huge rocks, weighing from one to three tonnes each, neatly in place on the banks of the island. Fortunately, the Club was extremely lucky with the weather, as the river levels remained relatively low whilst the work was carried out.
When you see the final result, we are sure you will agree it has created another fantastic feature for Ilkley Golf Club.
All in all, it has been a very busy and fruitful six months of the year but the Club hopes you will agree that it has been well worth it for both members and visitors to make playing at Ilkley an even more pleasurable experience.