The redesigned front nine at RACV Royal Pines features new bunkers, slick greens and more risk-reward options.
The redesigned front nine at RACV Royal Pines features new bunkers, slick greens and more risk-reward options.

RACV Royal Pines Resort golf course superintendent Lincoln Coombes is confident the redesigned front nine holes will be ready for play when the Australian PGA Championship gets underway on December 11.

The Winter Green grass fairways and TifEagle grass greens have taken root and the reshaped bunkering looks impressive and decidedly different to the old bunkering.

Perhaps the biggest test facing Coombes and his team is achieving consistency between the new greens and those on the back nine holes, which are Bermuda 328 grass.

“The greens are going to be our trickiest challenge,” Coombes said.

“The first three holes (seventh, sixth and fifth) were laid in April/May and have come a long way.

“They look like they are ready to go now whereas the putting green, which will be used the most, was only laid in mid-August. We have to get that to tournament conditions.

“It comes down to uniformity and getting the putting surfaces the same.

“We not only have to make sure the new greens are consistent, but we have to marry them up with the older 328 greens on the back nine.

“We want to make sure what we are doing on the new holes is not different to what we are doing on the back nine.

“The players need to walk off the ninth green and onto the 10th without having to change their putting stroke so the speed needs to be pretty much the same.

“And the players also need to be confident they can bang the balls into the greens, know how far it’s going to bounce and that it doesn’t change from nine to nine.”

To help Coombes achieve a good outcome, he has purchased a firmness meter and a moisture sensor.

“We will be taking measurements on how hard the greens are and making sure they are all roughly the same,” he said. “It gives us a chance to get them reasonably consistent.

“But at the moment we are just trying to grow the grass in and establish as much (grass) roots as possible.

“Then we will start reducing the height of the grass.

“The seventh hole was laid down first and we are now cutting it down to 12 millimetres whereas the first hole has only had its first cut.

“At the moment the grass on each hole is being cut to different heights because the construction was staggered.”

But the biggest talking point will be the bunkering, according to Coombes.

“The new bunkers have a nice sandy mix, are a little fluffier but lot cleaner than the old bunkers.

“They will play a little differently from nine to nine only because the old bunkers have more silk in them.

“The style of the bunkers is a lot different anyway so the players will have to adjust from one nine to the next.”

Aesthetically pleasing, the additional eight or nine bunkers on the front nine will put the players in two minds.

They’ll ask themselves, do I attack or play conservatively?

“We have more bunkers, but the sand surface is a lot smaller than what we had,” Coombes said.

The new-look nine holes will undoubtedly impress fans that enjoy following their favourite players around the course.

Spectator mounding around the greens, tees and along fairways will make viewing more comfortable.

Previously, the layout was rather flat, particularly around the greens where fans like to gather.

“Graham Marsh (course designer) has not only taken into account the way the course plays, but he has given spectators good vantage points to watch the golf,” Coombes said.

“Overall, the new holes have blended into the landscape well and have added character to the layout.”

With the clock ticking, it’s exciting times ahead of the Australian PGA Championship.

“I think the course will be in good shape when the tournament tees off,” Coombes said.

“I think the layout will be challenging for the pros and the general public when they get a chance to play it.”

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