The evolution of a golf course
By Trevor Ledger
Golf Monthly 2000

The Fota Island Golf Course that you see to day has already had a fair bit of 'history' despite its relatively recent birth, this is not unusual, golf courses are not instantly created - they evolve. Name any one course and someone, somewhere will know just what work has gone into making it what it is today, Fota Island is no different. Some three years ago, when this Irish Open was being considered, owners Killeen Investments recognised that some changes were required to make the course even better, even more exciting, even more of a challenge.
Which is where golf course constructors Contour Golf Ltd. entered the equation, "What started out as a remodel of eight greens and a resurfacing of the other ten," explained Ingrid Eichler of the Daventry based outfit, "turned out to be an almost complete rebuild of the entire golf course. In effect, Fota Island has undergone a major overhaul."
Working to architect Jeff Howes's design, Contour were involved a massive undertaking; the rebuilding of - and in some cases the relocation of - thirteen greens, the resurfacing of the other five, rebuilding fifteen tees and the installation of a complete fairway drainage and irrigation system. Add to this the relining and enlargement of lakes along with the repositioning of some fairways plus additional fairway bunkering.
In order to improve a golf course a simple step must first be taken - the recognition that a problem exists in the first case. Killeen's Dr. Tim Mahony was well aware that the original Fota layout had drainage problems and was swift to call in Contour to rectify the situation. With Contour Managing Director, Ingrid Eichler having established her position as a leading drainage engineer, both within and outside of the golf industry, her young company was a logical choice.
Some 2M of work was adjudged necessary to bring Fota up to 'Irish Open' status and Mahony was in a good position to judge the standards necessary given Killeen's other golf venue in the area - Mt. Juliet.
Perhaps the most astonishing achievement of the entire contract was that the course was to remain open for play throughout. "This was not at all easy," said Eichler, "and it took a lot of thought and patience to see it through. The head greenkeeper, Aidan O'Hara, provided much of the necessary interface for it all to happen - having good course managers and greenkeepers helps a Hell of a lot." Work began in August 1998 and was completed in September of 1999. "During that time," explained Contour's Phil Reeve, "we only had to shut the course for two weeks and that only due to safety concerns when machinery was around the clubhouse.
That work was on the eighteenth hole, perhaps the most significant change that evolved. The green of the par five finisher was moved thirty yards to the right of its original position with the lake being extended to encompass it. Drama is inevitable with the 'risk/reward' of 'going for it' in two is obvious.
A final thing that will not be noticed, is the amount of drainage involved: 25KM of main drains and a further 90KM of gravel banding. Are your feet dry?