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The Open Qualifying Series



Inside a Regional Qualifying venue

RQ Wildernesse
Wildernesse Golf Club has provided one of the finest parkland courses in the country for almost 130 years - but they still do not know who to thank for the original design.

The Open Regional Qualifying venue, which opened in 1890, has seen adjustments to the fifth by the legendary James Braid in 1929, followed by a new 16th and 17th in 1969. Otherwise it has been left untouched from its original 6500 yard course - with many fine players still finding it a challenge.

And the club’s Deputy Secretary Richard Leeves, who has been at Wildernesse for 18 months, wishes they knew who to thank for such enduring quality.

“It’s a testament to the original design,” Leeves said. “With the exception of two new holes created in 1969, the course has remained unchanged.

“We know part of the course is a James Braid. We were part of the most recent association of courses he designed but the original we do not know - believe it or not.

“It’s not an overly long course and there is an emphasis on good tee shots and positioning yourself well. Then the small undulating greens are the biggest factor to a round here.

“A couple of the greens have tiers or slope from front to back. They are small compared to some of the modern courses you see.”

Leeves puts the perennially pristine course down to its nine-strong homegrown greenkeeping staff, most of whom have completed their apprenticeships and NVQs while working at the club.

He believes the attention to detail, instilled into the staff from their very first day on the job, is key to the ongoing success of the venue in Sevenoaks, Kent.

“We push them all to take their NVQs and diplomas, pretty much all of them are enrolled into something or some kind of course,” Leeves said.

“It’s instilled from interview when will tell them it’s not a turn up then go home kind of job. I watched one of our newest green staff on the 18th out of the clubhouse window a few days ago.

“I got a time-lapse of him on the green. He had been through his routine, blowing it off, rolling it and clearing the aprons. Then he packed everything back onto his gator.

“It was only a young lad who been with us just under a year, and he was down on his hands and knees, then walking around the green looking at every imperfection.

“He came away, knew what he needed to do and neatened it up. I sent the video to the head greenkeeper - we both hope they’re all doing the same.”

And the greenkeeping team are especially important during the build-up to Open Regional Qualifying and the club’s other showpiece events each year.

Leeves sees the team’s passion for the job as something marks them out and is delighted when they get the recognition they deserve from European Tour professionals who play the course.

“It’s very difficult to get good guys who are here doing the job every day and are passionate about it,” he added. “I know having worked in a few places.

“It’s instilled from interview when will tell them it’s not a turn up then go home kind of job. They work a lot of hours to build up to that day.

“It’s a credit to them that they want to showcase the course at the best it can be. We get a few European Tour level professionals who come down.

“It’s important for our greenkeepers if those players put a tweet out praising the course. That’s what it is all about for them.”