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Council on Tuesday 29th October agreed to the installation of a bunker plan designed by Ken Kearney, the Club's current course architect/consultant, using DAR Golf Construction as the contractor. This team has been responsible for constructing the upgraded short game area, the long game warm up range, the new 8th green on Edenderry and the bunkers at the 6th hole on the Drumbridge nine. The work, as every member can see, is exemplary and confirms that MGC is indeed working with the best team available.

The bunkers have long been the major weakness of our excellent Golf course. The number of complaints from member about our bunkers has been rising steadily. There is no consistency in the amount and type of sand in each bunker. There is a lack of drainage causing huge increases in the number of man hours required to make the bunkers playable and poor construction leading to increased maintenance and overall lack of playability. In addition, we have some bunkers that should carry a health and safety warning because of the difficulty in getting in and out. Lastly, we have certain bunkers that are mostly redundant, adding nothing to the strategy or enjoyment of some holes.

Ken Kearney may well be the leading consultant on the island of Ireland - the breadth of his work can be found on his website. It is his work at Malone plus the courses that Council members have visited including Ardglass, Dundalk and others that has convinced Council we have the right man. His Bunker Audit document is available to view below – a hard copy will also be made available in the office. In many cases, there appears to be a simple refurbishment of the existing setup, but on close examination you will notice that some subtle changes to the positioning of the bunkers may lead to a required change in strategy. Most certainly there will be a marked increase in playability and enjoyment.

DAR Golf’s website will attest to the size and quality of their body of work. It is the quality and speed of the work here at Malone that convinced Council that we had in place another important player in the team. DAR was the most competitive tender for the work that has just been completed and they have agreed to maintain those prices, as well as giving MGC preferential terms for this project.

Members of Council have noted how well DAR Golf and our own existing greenkeeping team have worked together to get the highest quality finish at the best possible cost on the last project. This collaboration will be maintained in the bunker refurbishment programme and will lead to significant savings for MGC. DAR Golf have also guaranteed its bunker work at Malone for ten years.

The overall cost for the project will be in the region of £200,000. Every element of the overall price has been individually costed on a measurable basis. The Club will finance this development from some limited reserves, revenue income and the normal capital budget. While the work will be completed within one to two calendar years, advantageous payment terms have been negotiated to spread the payment for the project over three financial years. There will be no need for additional borrowing, nor will we need to introduce a levy or increase the annual subscription beyond inflation.

The hope is that the project will be completed in two tranches. Work on the front nine which, by far, has the greatest number of weak bunkers will start in January and will be ready for play by the end of April, weather permitting. Playing the Winter League on the back nine will give DAR unfettered freedom to drive the work forward and finish, perhaps, ahead of schedule. The second tranche of work will begin in October 2020 and will be finished in time for the new competitive season.

In summary, all the essential elements to complete this vital project successfully are now in place. We have the financial arrangements in place and a proven set of specialists working with an enthusiastic team from MGC. This major project will improve the playability of the course and therefore the enjoyment of members for a generation to come. Our objective to be one of the premier parkland courses in Ireland will be strengthened, while our reputation for sound financial management is maintained.

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