By Ed Beidel

Program and Design Narrative

The Riddell’s Bay Golf & Country Club is one of eight golf courses on the island of Bermuda.  The facility is situated on a narrow peninsula that extends into the Great Sound near the central portion of the island in Warwick Parish.  The original golf course, which was designed by Devereux Emmet, was built in 1922.  Based on an old illustrative plan that hangs in the clubhouse, portions of the original golf course had been lost over the years due to the encroachment of adjacent mangroves and the waters of the Great Sound.  In addition, the tidal flows in low lying areas and the inability to maintain quality turf in those areas dictated golf hole re-routings.  Although not advisable, but typical of many facilities, a majority of the design changes that were executed on the golf course prior to 1995 were performed in-house by the acting greens committee, members and staff.  Solicitation of comments and ideas from these individuals is a critical part of a Master Plan program, however a qualified architect serving as the design moderator ensures a logical, coordinated, compatible and successful effort.

In 1994, Riddell’s Bay made a commitment to hire golf architect Ed Beidel, ASGCA  to offer a fresh, un-biased evaluation of the facility and present recommendations for a long term improvement program.  Since the golf course had never been entirely reviewed as a whole and evaluated by a qualified professional, numerous playing and maintenance conditions had evolved that deserved attention.  The Club realized that the course needed a facelift to maintain and attract new members, increase revenues, generate interest and to serve as an attractive venue in the Bermuda tourist market.  Even though the Club realized the benefits of implementing a remodeling program at one time, they also knew that economically and operationally, they had to spread the program out over a number of years.  Mr. Beidel made a formal Master Plan presentation to the general membership in the Fall of 1994 with implementation scheduled to commence the summer of 1995.  The equivalency of seven golf holes have been remodeled over the last six years.  The years 1997 and early 1998 were devoted solely to the construction of a new golf car storage building and the first phase of the Clubhouse remodeling / addition program.  The program is continuing today and the Club is still fully committed as it was in 1994.  In reality, the recent improvements have been well received and have generated an increasing interest even from the “anti-change” membership.

The Riddell’s Bay Golf & Country Club Board of Directors had defined five major objectives to be addressed in the Golf Course Remodeling Master Plan Program.

  • Develop a plan that would make the course less difficult to maintain, thus reducing maintenance costs.
  • Enhance the visual and playing qualities of the golf course to increase interest and attract players of varying abilities.
  • Reduce or eliminate unfair playing conditions.
  • Lessen or eliminate unsafe conditions on the golf course and affecting adjacent properties.
  • Update the golf course to match the advancement in equipment technology as well as accommodate increased user activity.
  • Implement improvements with minimal disruption to the existing operation.

These project-specific objectives are typical of remodeling program goals.  Additional program objectives generally addressed in a Remodeling Master Plan Program and other useful information can be found in the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) brochure entitled “The Remodeling Process: Questions and Answers.”

The 18-hole, par 69 golf course and ancillary facilities are situated on approximately 88 acres of land with little or no room for expansion.  The course plays to a maximum of 5,800 yards and 4,900 yards from the front of the forward tee boxes.  Even though the course would be considered short by today’s standards, the ever-present varying wind velocity and direction on the island offer challenges that offset the course length.

The tee boxes at Riddell’s Bay were generally small, geometric shapes that did not fit with the existing terrain.  Many tee boxes were not level and in poor condition due to minimal size or lower construction standards.  The smaller number and size of tee boxes drastically limited the playing lengths and directions of the golf holes, thus reducing variety and interest.

The greens ranged in size from 3,200 – 6,700 square feet, but the sizes did not adequately correspond to the intended shot length.  Simple round or oval configurations did not promote visual interest and did not lend to strategic golf, where varying degrees of golf shots required different playing options.  Green structure was the result of original pushed-up soil that had been amended over the years with sand and organic material.  The underlying porous Bermuda limestone provided rapid drainage at a rate that would be considered detrimental to water and nutrient retention in the soil profile.  Numerous greens had “false fronts” that did not contribute to the playing experience or promote strategy.  These highly maintained areas were only used to reward poor golf shots.  Excessive slope and firmness of several greens provided unfair playing conditions and increased maintenance.

Riddell’s Bay’s sand bunkers were rudimentary in appearance.  A majority of the existing sand bunkers were located at the green sites.  Fairway bunkers were non-existent.  Previous fairway and cross bunkers had been abandoned to reduce maintenance and ease play.  Bunkers were simply excavated areas filled with sand or actually fine pulverized coral.  There was miminal mounding associated with each bunker.  Bunker perimeters were generally uniform and featureless.  Bunker lips, when incorporated, were usually located on the tee box side of the bunker versus the greenside.  It was difficult to ascertain the reasoning and purpose of many sand bunkers.  It appeared that bunkers addressed high priority safety issues more than strategy.

The irrigation system for the golf course was drastically improved prior to the Master Remodeling Program commencement.  The Club had expended a large amount of money to construct their own reverse osmosis water plant to serve irrigation and drinking water needs.  A pop-up sprinkler system was installed to primarily irrigate green sites.  Tees were hand watered on an as-needed basis and fairways were not irrigated, a practice accepted on the island and at the home courses of the English members.  Lack of water “through the green” also made it difficult to maintain a differentiation between fairway and rough areas, thus reducing hole and shot definition.  Grass types on the golf course components were varied and the playing conditions comparable but unpredictable.

The following is a brief outline of existing issues that were identified by the golf course architect regarding the playability, maintenance and aesthetics at Riddell’s Bay Golf & Country Club.

  • Implement a strategic style golf course to offset the shorter length course.
  • Provide a continuous and safer golf car path system to control worn turf areas and direct traffic away from danger zones.
  • Eliminate or reduce blind areas, danger zones and unfair playing areas.
  • Provide better definition of golf holes, at the same time eliminate unnatural-looking golf features and enhance on-site and off-site visual quality.
  • Provide variety in hole lengths, playing directions and visual aspects.
  • Analyze the size of tee boxes, greens, etc. with regard to maintenance and playability (shot value).
  • Define mowing patterns, reduce high maintenance areas, and implement uniform grass stands and maintenance procedures.
  • Fully evaluate the golf course for traffic circulation and playing variety.  Address quirks in par sequencing, hole lengths and routing.  Golf course needs to be challenging but fair and should provide a true, fun test to all golfing abilities.
  • Expand or modernize irrigation system as the Master Remodeling Plan is implemented.

In order to fully identify, evaluate and address issues in the planning, design and construction phases, the following services were performed by Ed Beidel, ASGCA, as a part of the Master Remodeling Plan Program.

  • Prepared of a 100 scale “Existing Conditions” site plan showing the present golf course features and facilities and their relationship to each other.
  • Developed, distributed and tabulated a “Membership Questionnaire” which sampled the member’s use and opinions of the present facility.
  • Conducted a personal inspection of the golf course and observed play over a period of several days.
  • Established a Master Plan Committee, comprised of club personnel and members of varying interests and abilities, who participated in design workshops and offered valuable insight to the recommendations presented and rendered final program decisions.  The committee also spread discussions throughout the membership and generated and maintained program interest.
  • Met with the Golf Professional, Golf Course Superintendent, Master Plan Committee and other personnel to gather ideas, concerns, opinions and expectations.
  • Conducted design workshops with Master Plan Committee throughout the conceptual planning phase to generate feedback and interest.
  • Obtained final approval and commitment from the Committee of the Master Plan concepts prior to finalization.  Construction cost estimates for each golf hole with job task breakdowns were provided.  Job priorities were established.
  • Golf Course Architect made a formal presentation of the Master Remodeling Plan program to the complete membership.  Material was presented, questions answered and concerns were addressed.  Members were included in the overall process.

During the conceptual planning process, the golf course architect maintained a consistent contact with the Master Plan Committee so that all issues were considered and evaluated and eliminated surprises.  The final concept plan was approved and the Master Plan presented in September 1994.  Riddell’s Bay had the necessary resources to begin program planning and implementation.  Fundamental parts of the Master Remodeling Plan Program narrative were the Cost Chart, which listed a preliminary cost for every task / improvement on each hole, and a Job Priority Schedule, which listed tasks / improvements in a suggested order of implementation.  Job tasks were ranked by the golf course architect in collaboration with the Master Plan Committee and Club personnel. Issues of maintenance & grow-in, playability, safety aspects, operations, cost value and aesthetic qualities were considered.  Some tasks were ranked individually while others were ranked in conjunction with other tasks / improvements due to an economic or operation position.

As mentioned, program implementation began in 1995 and is progressing as planned.  Early each year, Beidel has met with the Owner to discuss the current year’s “wish-list” drafted in accordance with the Master Remodeling Plan recommendations.  Refined illustrative plans and budgets are generated for the proposed improvements and presented to the Board in March for necessary adjustments and ultimate approval.  Once approved, the golf course architect prepares the necessary documents for construction which is scheduled to begin the first week of June in order to take advantage of prime growing season and additional work force.  While documents are in preparation, the golf course superintendent and crew readies the course for any temporary alterations that need to be in place by June 1.  In past years, generally one golf hole has been taken out of play during program implementation.  A temporary green or hole has been set up elsewhere on the course to complete the 18-hole loop.  Construction is usually completed by the end of June or the middle of July depending on the scope of work.  The Golf Course Architect has been on site at key times during this period for stake-out and construction observation.  Grow-in takes approximately 2-3 months and the remodeled golf hole or component is put into play no later than October 1st, when most members are returning to the island for the beginning of their golf season.  Favorable weather the past few years has yielded early September openings.  Even though there are benefits to implementing a Master Remodeling Program aggressively and quickly, there are equal benefits to the time-expanded Riddell’s Bay program.  Outside of the economic and operational issues, minimizing the area of disturbance at any one time, had some merit with the Bermuda Department of Planning.  By protecting and preserving the environmentally sensitive areas of the site, review time was drastically reduced and permit issuance was almost guaranteed.

In summary, the Riddell’s Bay Golf & Country Club Master Remodeling Plan Program has been successful and the course is gaining popularity and interest.  Use of the facility and memberships have increased.  Bermuda Golf Association have scheduled more events at Riddell’s Bay than in previous years.  Golf outings, whether local or international, have increased.  In turn, Club revenues have increased and the Club is able to continue the program as well as provide other

capital improvements at the facility without unduly taxing the current membership. The program’s success was due to dedication and commitment and a collaborative effort of ideas and knowledge.  We would like to think that having an experienced ASGCA member golf course architect on board, is at least part of the reason for satisfaction and acclamation.