Darius Oliver, one of the world‘s most authoritative voices on golf course design and architecture, took some time out to update us on the construction progress of the Cape Wickham golf course on the picturesque King Island.
Darius said the most challenging aspect of the project so far has been the vegetation on the island.
â€œA lot of golf courses measure earth moving by how many cubic metres of earth and material they move, but this one would be insignificant if it wasn‘t for the vegetation stripping,â€ he said.
â€œIt‘s a big course with lots of wide fairways; because it gets windy here the fairways are very wide, so lots of vegetation was stripped. But not a lot of earth was moved, it was the vegetation stripping that was a big job,â€ said Darius.
He explained that rocks were also an issue on the site, â€œIt‘s a sandy site, so it was pretty much just strip away the vegetation, shape it up a little bit, seed it, and you‘re good to go. But there were a few areas like Hole 4 where we hit rock, so we needed to sand cap that.
â€œOn Hole 13 that we‘re doing at the moment, there was a whole bunch of rock there as well, and a couple other areas where we had to manipulate the land. But otherwise it‘s a pretty natural golf course,â€ he said.
Darius explained the project has only four holes left that aren‘t finished, with another two that are almost completed, but haven‘t been grassed for an interesting reason.
â€œThere‘s shearwater birds nesting on a few holes so we cant get in there and clear the vegetation and build the holes until those birds are gone. Holes 12 and 16 in particular, and a little bit of hole 15, we can‘t touch really, so we‘re just waiting for the birds to go before we finish them,â€ he said.
The Cape Wickham project began at the end of June last year, but was first approved in 2011 explained Darius.
â€œWe spent about 18 months going through the whole approval process and dealing with the Parks and Wildlife Department in Tasmania and the King Island Council, to get approval to build where we‘re building and do what we‘re doing,â€ he said.
â€œSo when that finally came through at the end of June last year, that‘s when they finally broke ground and we‘ve sort of being going flat chat ever since then.â€
As with any large project like this, the plans changed from what they were at the outset, however Darius said this was definitely for the best.
â€œWe had a couple of versions of it, but the final plan that got approved is the best golf course.
â€œWe had a plan to start with to see if we could get a golf course on the crown land, the head land, and when it turned out we could we changed it a bit. Then we decided we would go through this routing process and now we‘ve got what we think‘s the best routing possibly on this property, and that‘s the routing that was approved.
He continued, â€œBut even then, there have been other changes to it as there are always with projects like this, because you uncover things as you move the ground around and you move the vegetation, you find something a little bit different and something better.
â€œ17 green in particular I think is the most noteworthy change because the green was originally going to be higher up but now it‘s down close to the water. It‘s very spectacular down near the water. And 13 green also changed and 7 green is completely different to the plan,â€ he said.
Mapping it out, Darius said that essentially there‘s three parts of the golf course.
â€œThere‘s three different land forms and the first one is the Cape Farewell headland, which is where Holes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 are. Then there‘s also the dune land to the south of Cape Farewell which is Holes 6 to 13, and then Holes 14 to 18 are in the Lighthouse/Victoria Cove area,â€ he said.
Work started on the Cape Farewell land, explained Darius, but with a rough winter came several setbacks.
â€œWe stripped and started clearing and we were working on those bunch of holes at really the wrong time. Last winter was extremely brutal here, with the wind and the rain, and those areas got hammered,â€ he said.
â€œWe lost a lot of time having to redo things because of flash flooding or the wind.
â€œBut once those first five were done, if you think about the order of the holes, it sort of went all over the shop.â€
Holes 14, 17, 18 and 8 were next in line, and were soon followed by 7, 10 and 11, he said.
Darius explained around nine full time construction workers are on site every day, both building and maintaining the golf course.
â€œAt the moment the most important is the maintenance aspect really,â€ he said, â€œCutting fairways, fertilizing, doing all the maintenance stuff on all the existing holes that are finished so they keep in good condition.â€
With the course set for completion at the end of June or early July, Darius expressed his keenness to get out on the course.
â€œThe whole course will be finished by mid July at the latest, and then it will just be growing in.
â€œIt looks so magnificent at the moment, the fairways are beautiful, the greens are green, and everything looks like it‘s ready to go.
â€œThe issue is the holes were seeded in September and they‘ve taken this long to get perfect, so we won‘t finish until everything is right, but sometime mid next year it‘ll certainly be playing,â€ he said.
You can check out hole by hole construction progress here, with a range of before and after photos.
I wouldn't mind checking out this course but I'm not a fan of those small planes, especially flying over there.