Case Studies

Scottish course digs deep to improve drainage

Dunnikier Park dries out its fairways by reinstating an old ditch.

The 9th fairway during the summer of 2012  
Fife Golf Trust logo
The summers of 2011 and 2012 in Scotland were extremely wet.  Many golf courses suffered prolonged periods of closure or disruption to play as a consequence, losing revenue in the process.  Dunnikier Park, a municipal course in Kirkcaldy on the eastern side of Scotland and one of seven operated by the Fife Golf Trust, experienced weeks of flooding to low lying fairways and greens.Dunnikierflooding

Dunnikier Park experienced weeks of flooding



Given a budget of £100,000 the Trust investigated the most cost-efficient means of dealing with their drainage problem.  This was part of a Fife Council £700,000 capital investment programme to improve golf course issues such as drainage, irrigation, car parking, greenkeepers’ maintenance facility and starters’ facilities. Extensive pipe drain systems were soon discounted in favour of selected pipe work to greens, with the bulk of the finance going towards developing an outlet that would resolve many of the courses’ issues.  This would take the form of an open ditch crossing the entire course and running out into the existing outlet, a stream to the eastern boundary of the golf course.

Speaking with golfers who had been members of Dunnikier Park for decades, it became apparent that this project was, in fact, reinstating a ditch that had been filled in many years ago.  These memories proved to be true as excavation progressed, with a straight line of plastic pipe being uncovered at many spots along the run of the new ditch, which is more of a meandering feature.  The pipeline was clearly not adequate to achieve the drainage required, so the decision to go for the open ditch was vindicated, not only in terms of its performance but also on the grounds of cost.

The pipe drainage system was quoted at £100,000 but only proposed to drain four holes, the ditch came in at £100,000 but this work affected nine holes and three greens pipe drainage projects.

The excavation work began in November 2012, and was completed with banks being partially turfed and the remaining open grown sown with low maintenance grasses in May 2013.  Any existing drains uncovered by the digging were linked into the ditch, and different depths were created along the run of the ditch to provide a variety of habitats; flowing water in deeper areas and other that will periodically dry out and form wetlands.

Installing the ditch
Installing the ditch without stopping play!

The budget also stretched to the creation of two other outlets to tie in with specific green drainage projects, with small ponds being excavated behind the 9th and 18th greens.  The right-hand side of the 2nd green was also lifted, remodelled and drained.  As part of this exercise, the greenside bunkers were completely reshaped – with a programme of bunker improvement planned over the next 5 years.

Although yet to be seriously tested, the management at Dunnikier Park believe they have addressed serious drainage problems in a cost-effective and sustainable manner.  This has focused on the basic principle of providing a good outlet to which water can be taken; in this case a meandering open ditch which provides a playing feature and varied wildlife habitat on 9 holes across the golf course.

Paul Murphy inspecting ditch
Paul Murphy inspecting the completed ditch; water in the hazard and not on the fairway!

Paul Murphy, Golf Courses Manager for Fife Golf Trust concluded that “The works completed will have a positive impact across the entire golf course.  The Trust is investing in its property and those playing Dunnikier Park will see the benefit in terms of better conditions throughout the year.  This has been a real value for money project.”