Blackley Success
GCNi 2002

MANCHESTER, England - A phased improvement programme of Blackley Golf Club has reached a conclusion of phase one here in Manchester on "about the most difficult site I have ever worked on, according to Contour Golf's managing director, Ingrid Eichler.
This first trenche of works were largely centred on the six new holes built some four years ago, which were, in turn necessary thanks to a motorway extension that took six holes out of the original loop of 18.
That original course was built in 1907 on a soil that is dominated by peat - difficult enough to work with - yet the new land that became available was even more challenging - a landfill site occupying higher ground. This totally alien ground was the main reason that the six-hole addition came up against problems. "If you move land around" explained Eichler, "you also change the way that water moves. In this instance the result was that the original first green became very wet." Rebuilding this green proved to be the most straightforward element of the fist phase, on the landfill site itself it was a totally different story, Eichler again, "A landfill is a hole in the ground that is jam packed with compacted rubbish, topped off with a metre thick clay cap which in turn should be covered with topsoil."
Such a 'soil' structure in itself presents myriad problems but at Blackley the difficulties were even more numerous. The buried refuse is continually degrading which results in the production of vast amounts of explosive methane gas - positive in that the electricity board uses it to produce power but with plenty of negatives. Across the entire site are lattice works of services beneath the surface and methane vents sprouting from ground-level. Add to this the poor quality of available topsoil, the aforementioned drainage problems and the construction headaches become plain. Golf Course Architect, Steve Marnoch offered up solutions in the shape of numerous holding pools linked into the drainage system - the pools also offering the necessary sub and topsoil.
The real success at Blackley however came from the expert approach of Contour Golf and Eichler explained the problems, "Even away from the landfill we had to think long and hard. Working on peat is extremely difficult, once you break through the crust a machine will sink." The use of a track-like portable road system was part of the answer but taking the unusual step of working by hand was an absolute essential. "Things that you take for granted were just not feasible out there," explained Eichler who continued, "Just walking across the site made the ground move, imagine what a 13 ton machine would do." A fact which made the importation of 20,000 cubic metres of topsoil an even more impressive endeavour.
Given the services buried every five or six metres and the overhead, 420,000 volt power lines, the hand digging of drainage lines became a matter of safety and necessity. "All in all this is a great challenge," said Eichler. "We had a previous site for a golf course [Magnolia Park in Oxfordshire] described as 'impossible' by others in the industry," she said. "That is now a very successful golf club. I have no reason to believe that Blackley will be any different."

Blackley re-opened on schedule and on budget.