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Getting the edge

Constructing and maintaining edges is one of the trickiest challenges in engineering. In my field of expertise, civil engineering, there are many examples. Water margins provide a situation where a retaining structure or edge feature is continually exposed to the powerful erosive effects of water. Another particularly problematic issue is bridge joints where two edges meet. There are countless types of bridge joints on the market, and even in today’s hi-tech environment, this seemingly simple issue continues to challenge the most highly skilled and experienced engineers.

On golf courses and in landscaping work, the challenge of building effective, resilient edges, is significant. Golf bunker edge erosion first got my attention nearly 15 years ago, while I was a member at the excellent Radyr Golf Course near Cardiff. I became aware that bunker edge erosion was a significant concern and my research revealed that, amongst a plethora of products on the market aimed at making golf course maintenance easier, there were no products specifically targeted to make better bunker edges. This triggered my search for a solution, eventually leading to my patented invention; worn out artificial grass sports pitches are converted into tiles, that are then stacked to form tough, but aesthetically natural looking edges and retaining structures; perfect for many types of golf bunkers.

Initially used as an alternative to using natural revetting turves for the construction of deep faced bunkers on links golf courses, 9 years since the first ones were built and the pioneering golf courses are verifying my original assessment that ‘EcoBunker’ walls (as I now brand them) would outperform traditional methods and realise maintenance cost savings of £300k to £400k over the 20 year warranty period. Of the hundreds of worldwide EcoBunker clients, perhaps the recent construction of Dumbarnie Links, Fife, Scotland where EcoBunker Ltd has gained the most attention. Designed by Clive Clark, ex-Ryder Cup player, BBC Commentator, EcoBunker Ltd built all of the revetted bunkers, and there are a lot of them! Dumbarnie Links is gaining universal praise and will be ranked very highly, already being bracketed alongside names such as Kingsbarns and Castle Stuart. Anticipating the views of some golfing purists, Designer Clark stated that, “If 100 golfers played the course, I doubt whether 5 would notice that the bunkers faces aren’t entirely natural.”

My original intention was to design a solution to produce permanent, sharp, easy to maintain low bunker edges for parkland courses. This adaptation is also now used widely all around the world, but it is perhaps in Australia where these benefits are most obvious. Bunker design in Australia is heavily influenced by the Melbourne Sandbelt, where the edges are bold and often cut in very close to the green edges. This style is highly desirable, but very difficult to deliver away from the Sandbelt, in areas where soils are much more vulnerable to erosion. The EcoBunker system is now making this design style possible with stunning effect at courses like Killara (Sydney) and Ellerston, a Greg Norman Design, ranked No.19 in the world.

Finally we return to civil engineering and water margins. Drawing upon my Civils Consultancy background, it has been really exciting to see how the Aquaedge adaptation is now helping to create some beautiful lake edge solutions, where previously there were rotting wooden piles, or ugly muddy slopes. Several very high profile golf courses are now using the system including Marco Simone, the 2022 Ryder Cup Course near Rome. The product is also being used off the golf course and is being specified as a solution by industry leading landscape architects. I shall leave the final content to Fabrizio Bertolli, General Manager of Lignano Golf Course, near Venice, “Richard’s Aquaedge design was easy to install. My staff supported the EcoBunker team and installed 355 metres of wall in a month, despite the challenging weather. We did the work without using heavy machinery. Alternative, traditional stone walls would have cost double the price of the Aquaedge solution. We are delighted with the outcome.”

As our strapline says: “Build it once.”

Contact: Richard Allen, CEO, EcoBunker Ltd