The course was put in about ten years ago, and originally had permission for just nine baskets. Over the past decade, some of the trees (near the baskets) have grown to a size that they are now considered ‘legacy’ trees, and as such need to be protected.
It’s vital that we acknowledge that the whole estate is an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and therefore has many legal restrictions. For example, all the ‘posted’ areas are there to protect the legacy trees, are not mown, and should absolutely not have any foreign objects (such as baskets) within them.
A few years ago, the estate added another ‘pay to play’ course at the top, and there’s been some concern that our free course is taking away custom. We all know that this is not true – if our course was removed, we wouldn’t all suddenly start playing on the family course, and neither is our course suitable for beginners.
However, the conflict with the new course and the infringement of the protected areas has led the estate to consider removing the lower course for some years now. So far we’ve just hoped that by keeping quiet we’ll stay under the radar, but this is not a sustainable situation.
Further to conversations with the Estate Manager, the Ranger, and Matt Cutler, it seems very likely now that we can keep the course, but there will be conditions and implications…
Firstly, we’re going to have to contribute financially. The good news is that we’ve negotiated an annual membership fee of just £20, which is quite obviously a very fair price to pay. Membership will be administered by and paid to the Yeti club, all money collected will go directly to the estate (minus the processing transaction fee).
Secondly, we’re going to have to make some adjustments to the course including moving four of the baskets:
- The par 5 basket will be moved to the edge of the posted area.
- The final basket will be moved to the edge of the posted area – we’ll need to change the tee to make this work.
- The temporary basket in the woods needs to go completely. If we had stopped playing this during the bluebells and wild garlic season we might have got away with it, but we didn’t, and now our fairway is a well trodden track.
- The basket on the par 4 ‘up the ridge’ needs to be moved from under that tree. They’ve also stopped mowing that whole area (between the ridge and the basket), so it will probably become unplayable. This may have to become a par three, with the basket in a new position.
- The fairway of hole 4 is likewise also going to remain unmown, so we will probably change the tee location.
But it’s not all bad news. Now that the course is officially sanctioned we will be able to do some much needed coursework.
Some of the tee markers have already been replaced (thank you Rob), and we’re going to put in three new rubber tee mats with a view to putting in more if the estate is happy.We are also in discussions about adding three new baskets, which will bring the course up to a more substantial 18 holes! These are very much the icing on the cake, and have not been signed off completely, but it’s looking very hopeful.
Some people may find any changes to the Ashton court course upsetting, especially after of losing the back nine at Mendip, but remember that the course has always been in a state of flux, changes have had to be made in the past, and eventually we’ve come to accept them. Hopefully this next set of changes will eventually become as beloved as the current course.