Restoration of Dr Alister MacKenzie’s design at Seaton Carew continues
Work on restoring aspects of Dr Alister MacKenzie’s original design at Seaton Carew is well on its way as the club prepares to celebrate its 150th birthday in 2024.
Under the course management of Tom Coulson, who joined Seaton in May 2020, the links on the North Sea coast has undergone several changes and improved greatly over the last 11 months, leading to a rise in membership numbers and the re-introduction of a waiting list for the first time in 25 years.
So far, 21 bunkers have been rebuilt and refurbished, with priority given to the Doctor and Dunes holes. Bunkers on the Sandhills, Chapel and Beach holes have all been rebuilt and one has been reintroduced on the Long Trail and Sahara.
Tom, who moved to Seaton from Open championship venue Royal St George’s, said: “MacKenzie had a set of rules when he designed courses and one stated ‘the features of a course should be so natural so that they are indistinguishable from nature itself’. That is our motivation as we try to establish this place as a true championship links. It is still very early in the journey, but things are going in the right direction.
“Course design is about interpretation. We are interpreting the best evidence of what we have and going back to the original ideas and style from when MacKenzie designed it. Over the years, Seaton Carew has lost some original features with up to 40 bunkers lost since the Second World War. Aerial photographs from the 40s show the MacKenzie style and a lot of that has deteriorated. The course lost its teeth and we are bringing those back.”
Almost every change to the 146-year-old course requires consent due to the unique habitat of the links, which is part of the Teesmouth and Cleveland Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest. The recent bunker and green changes are the first stage of the programme, with plans pencilled in for the autumn to remove Sea Buckthorn bushes to open up the sand dunes and sea views.
Tom added: “This place has the industry to the right and the bushes to the left. Without those, suddenly you get gorgeous sand dunes and sea as you play golf. It has been strangled by the bushes for nearly 100 years. We have also got big works planned for the Road, Jimmy Kay and Tees holes this autumn – all with the aim of reinstating some of the original bunker styles you can see on those old photographs.”
A plus-two handicapper with an 18-year career in greenkeeping, 35-year-old Tom has big ambitions for Seaton Carew. “The improving course conditions have created a more desirable venue. Course conditioning has not been at its best in recent years, but you’d still want to play here because the land offers authentic links golf – pristine turf routed between ragged sand dune vegetation with a variety of bunker styles and shapes. We will continue working to promote those characteristics through our management of the turf and the modifications to the golf course.”