Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Highlands Links Retrospective – Part 3 – Construction

The 18th Left Bunker

Daily Update: Odd day, it was raining hard enough at 6:00am that most of the crew went home at 7:00am tired of waiting for a break in the weather. Graham and I took shovels to the 6th to see what we could do with a fairway covered in water. After creating a series of outlets the weather took a quick turn to the better. We were joined by Dale and Jason later that morning and hand dug drains for the rest of the day.


All the work at Highlands Links has been done in house. I must admit I wasn’t sure what to expect when I found that I would be working with a union crew who had not built bunkers before. I arrived late in the day spent the first afternoon laying out the work on the 18th green using images and aerials to create approximate lines. I also made a rough plan with Graham for the next morning.

The first day involved some quick introductions where they met me, I explained what we were trying to accomplish, and how I wanted to build the bunkers. We began by removing sand and then got to work building the bunkers mostly by hand. The work progressed fairly well since everyone was enthusiastic and worked hard.

To the crew’s surprise, after explaining what to do, I simply grabbed a shovel and went to work with them. I’ll confess I worked as a hard as I could because you can’t ask anyone to work hard for you when you don’t work hard yourself. The first night my muscles ached and I wondered if I was crazy.

The 4th Green Bunkers w/ new technique
I think this was essential. After a while I was probed with questions about myself and I too asked questions about each of them as well. I learnt the dynamics between different people, their humour and most importantly began to understand these were great people trying to do the best job they could.

I shared all my construction experiences from ropes to buckets to how to use a laser. We experimented as a group with different techniques for bunker construction and found an easier ways to build and go faster.

The work is not perfect. But we had quite a few issues to deal with: lack of proper equipment, with other conflicts often the work involved a small crew, some of the circumstance we worked under was not ideal, the lack of outside materials (needing to find everything on site was tough) and irrigation problems that cost us turf on occasion. There was also the amount of rain that always seems to fall when I go to Ingonish. They call me the Rain Witch.

All in all the work is still very good. There are a few greens where I wish I did a little more earthmoving on the bunker like the 13th, but there is some outstanding work at the 15th and 17th too.

I always assumed the thrill would be restoring what is arguably the most important Stanley Thompson course of them all. But I've loved using my hands to rebuild the bunkers. I love that I can look at every bunker and remember how it was built and the funny things that happened while we worked. I also loved being one of the guys each time I came, the abuse we love to give each other and I truly appreciated the long hours they put in and dedication they had for the work.

But I also became far more aware of the link between the town and the course. I went from doing this for me to do this for them ...

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