The Ascot challenges
In order to help Ascot achieve its ultimate goal of becoming ‘the best racecourse in the world’, the project would first require the relocation of the Royal Ascot Golf Course from within the racecourse to an adjacent site. The Straight Mile would undergo a complete rebuild involving its realignment and relocation to the Heath (where the golf course was then situated), with the road crossings removed and replaced by new underpasses at Winkfield Road and Holloway Gate. The newly constructed surface had to merge seamlessly with the existing track.
To limit the length of time the racecourse would be closed, the work to the track was carried out in a carefully phased programme, with work commencing whilst races were still ongoing.
- To relocate Royal Ascot golf course.
- To rebuild the Straight Mile and marry into the Round Course.
- To reposition and develop the new grandstand.
- Remove track crossings at Winkfield Road and Holloway Gate.
- Prepare a high quality, sustainable racing surface.
- Enhance the drainage and performance of the Round Course.
An initial feasibility study was prepared in order to assess the potential for realigning the Straight Mile by a distance of 42 metres to the north at the winning post.
A multitude of design layouts were considered and evaluated utilising STRI’s in-house CAD facilities. The chosen track design provided the optimum configuration for the bends and track cambers. STRI established the most appropriate form of construction and rootzone mixtures to be used for the new track to ensure the high performance and compatibility with the original ground on the Round Course.
The initial phase of the redevelopment commenced in 2004, with the relocation of the Royal Ascot Golf Course, to land adjoining Winkfield Road, east of the racecourse.
STRI’s Ecology team prepared an ecological management plan of the site to meet the criteria of the requisite Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The new course layout was designed by STRI’s Golf Course Architect, meeting the requirements of the brief to create a challenging but fair course, and was sympathetically designed to sit harmoniously within the mature parkland landscape.
In order for the project to meet deadlines, it was necessary for the turf to be cultivated and established in advance of completion of any major work at the site.
As such, 75,000m² of turf was specifically grown for the Flat Course, using a combination of perennial ryegrass (60%) and meadow fescue cultivars. During realignment of the Straight Mile, 80mm lateral drains spaced at 6m intervals were installed. A ‘state of the art’ irrigation system was installed with automatic pop-up sprinklers and Briggs boom irrigators. The entire system is computerised, with the capacity to monitor application rates to prepare the surface to specific requirements.
Work commenced on the Chase Track in April 2004, with major work following the Royal Meeting in June. Prior to the relocation of the golf course, a strategy had been put in place to recover and store 40,000m² of indigenous topsoil from The Heath and from other areas designated for reconstruction. The soil was screened and stockpiled for later use on the new Flat and National Hunt courses. The specially grown turf was transported in rolls and laid on the Flat course in October 2004 and the National Hunt course was seeded in May 2005.
Work on the Straight Mile commenced in September 2004, once the course had been officially closed. This involved the redevelopment of the Home and Paddock bends to merge into the original Round Course, and making improvements to their camber.
A three dimensional laser grading system was used to provide accurate shaping of the new track base, which would produce an even racing surface. A comprehensive new drainage system was installed and gravel drainage layers inserted to produce a uniform base. Work on the new underpasses to replace the existing track crossings commenced in July 2005 and the new track was completed in August 2005.
STRI continues to evaluate the condition of the track and advise on the optimum management of the turf. The track has matured and is widely recognised as one of the best courses in the world.
Realignment work on the Straight Mile was completed to schedule in September 2005.
Positive comments made by John Gosden following a trial gallop of the new surface in October 2005.
Successful removal of two track crossings, replaced by new underpasses.
The creation of a durable, even surface and sustainable racing.
Recognition of the achievement by the media, with Country Illustrated reporting that the racecourse was now the ‘finest in the world’.