The Big Dig…

Creating the 1st hole at JCB Golf & Country Club

The 1st hole at EGD’s new JCB Golf & Country Club, is one of the most dramatic opening holes in golf. It has been likened to an inland version of the iconic 1st at Machrihanish, with its tee shot across an Atlantic beach, except here you play across the deep, still waters of Woodseat Lake. It is a tranquil and seemingly permanent vista. The truth is somewhat different. JCB guests, poised over their opening drives, could never imagine the radical transformation that took place to create this hole. Thanks to the photographs I took throughout construction, we present a time lapse of its evolution, from the first site visit in 2012 through to its full opening in 2018. So, let’s begin with what we first encountered…

 


Above: November 6, 2012
Looking down the hole from behind the future tee. This already had the feeling of a golf hole thanks to the mown, lawn grasses in the field. The meadow sloped steeply downhill from the road to a rare, remaining section of the disused Uttoxeter canal. The road signs highlight the ‘JCB Arena’, which was a machinery demonstration area sited in a deep cutting, complete with air-conditioned grandstand. You can see how domed the field was, by how little you can see of the distant trees, in front of which the green will be sited. Our task was to make this green site visible from here. Woodseat Hall, the envisaged future clubhouse, sits amongst the stately trees to the right. It’s location here had a significant influence on the hole’s design.

 


Above: From above – 2012
Long ago, residents of Woodseat Hall were able to gaze out of their front windows over the steeply descending meadow to the canal at the foot of the hill. After the hall fell into ruin and JCB bought the estate, this meadow was infilled with spoil excavated from ‘The Arena’ and a wide road, suitable for heavy goods vehicles, built on top. The view from the ruined hall was no longer important to anyone.
With the prospect of reusing the hall as a clubhouse, our client, JCB’s Chairman, Lord Bamford, felt, quite reasonably, that it would be nice to restore a view of the water for clubhouse guests. This was no small design task, given the terrain, but we did cross-sections to figure out what would be involved. I felt that seeing a thin sliver of distant canal would not be suitably impressive, so proposed creating a broad bay between the tee and fairway, which lined up nicely with the main viewing axis from the clubhouse. The cross sections helped generate a plan, which involved relocating the Arena access road, dropping the ground level by up to 10 metres and creating a wide, deep lake. We calculated an excavation of 90,000m³ in this one small area alone. We also had a golf hole to design, which as the future 1st, would need to serve as an inspiring introduction to the course.
Detailed design work commenced in 2013 in readiness for the planning application in January 2014. Site work started in August 2014.

 


Above: May 22, 2015

This photograph shows the early part of the excavation process. The cut area was so deep that it had to be excavated using a terraced, strip-mining technique for safety reasons. The height of the hillside can be gauged by how the slope dwarves the big trucks at the top.


Above: June 18, 2015

The fairway sub-grade level has been reached and the new road is in place. The JCB excavators are starting to dig out the lake. In the distance, you can see the tall staking poles for both the fairway turning point and the green. All the spoil was taken through the gap in the trees in the background to shape up holes 2 to 4.


Above: June 24, 2015

One week later and the outline of the bay is taking shape, with the safety ledge being cut in. At this time, I was thinking it looked an awfully long way to reach the fairway from this, the daily play tee.


Above: July 10, 2015: 13:45

The conclusion of the lake excavation and it’s a properly deep hole now. The inland edge of the lake is 10 metres (33 feet) below the original ground level. The canal is perched about 3 metres above the level of the lake basin. They knew how to build a watertight canal back in the 18th Century; the embankment never leaked. Aquatic plants, taken from the canal edge are piled up, ready for planting on the new lake shore.


Above: July 10, 2015: 17:32

Later the same day and a landmark moment for the project, as we breach the canal embankment and start to fill the lake. Notice that we didn’t artificially line the lake. The subsoil around here is a heavy clay and we were confident it would hold water. Once we were certain it would, we excavated the rest of the canal embankment. Shaping is underway to build the fairway bunkering and green complex.


Above: August 24, 2016

We were right. The lake didn’t leak!

After a flurry of activity in 2015, the 1st took a back seat whilst we cracked on with other aspects of the project.

Here we see the topsoil returned, with a light fairway sand topping to follow. Irrigation and drainage are installed and the lake edges have been hydroseeded for stabilisation. The aquatic plants moved a year previously are starting to grow and our resident ducks are settling in. The lake is also full of huge carp, which lived in the canal and were fished by the local club.

The fairway and green shaping is showing up well and I was delighted that the entire green and surrounds bunkering were fully visible from the tee. Doing those pencil-drawn cross sections proved to be wholly worthwhile.


Above: July 19, 2018

The finished, 368-yard 1st hole, framed with a fescue flourish.


I wanted the shaping to be complimentary to the tranquillity of the setting, so the philosophy was for long, soft slopes and few lumps. The central fairway bunker has a magnetic attraction and is placed exactly where you want to aim. The best driving line is to the left of the bunker, where the ground is fair and flat, but with Woodseat Lake close by. Playing safely to the right is the cautious choice for the opening shot, but the ball will come to rest on a side-slope and with more water to deal with, both in front of and to the left of the green, this awkward side camber shot may see you aiming too far to the right, bringing the large approach bunkers into play.

It’s an action packed first hole, which sets the tone for an exciting round to follow. With all that went into its creation, this may be the JCB hole design I am most proud of. It is a lovely spot to linger and take in the scenery. It may be entirely created by man, but we’d like to think you cannot tell.


Above: May 26, 2017 – From Above

In comparison with the original masterplan, you can see we remained faithful to the concept. We dropped a couple of forward tees, but everything else is much as envisaged. The machine demonstration arena has now been decommissioned, so we have the widest cart path ever built!

Postscript

If you’ll indulge me a moment more, I want to share the before and after view from our 1st medal tee.

Originally, I thought we would play everyone from the daily play tee, but it became apparent that strong golfers would likely tee off the 1st with an iron, which I thought was a false start for a supposed championship standard course. The problem was, there was nowhere to go back on line which would make it long enough for a driver. So, I took a look on the other side of the canal, where the old railway line used to run and thought, ‘this might just be possible, but it’s an immense carry first up’. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, we set about it and…it’s gone down a storm. You’re advised to hone your driving skills on the lovely practice range before you head down there. Otherwise, you’ll be swimming with the ducks!

 


November 12, 2014


After the initial tree clearance, you get a real sense of the bulk of the hill we had to remove. Dane, from JC Balls, the earth moving contractors, stands on the far bank, wondering what on earth I’m contemplating!


July 19, 2018


The view from the 424 Yards Black Tee. It’s between 170 and 245 yards to carry the water, depending on the aim point. The fairway bunker is 285 yards away. It’s definitely given the experts something to think about, but it’s achievable. For us mortals, it’s a thrill to tee off down here and a real buzz to get a good one away. This hole flies in the face of the accepted wisdom of starting the round with a gentle introduction, but is consistent with the philosophy of making the best of the opportunities presented by a site. Sometimes, the two principles conflict, but I’m glad to have had the courage of conviction to favour the latter and sleep easy knowing we did justice to the project and for the client, JCB.

Robin Hiseman

Work underway at Emaar South

Work on the new Emaar South Golf Course in Dubai commenced at the end of 2018. The new 18 hole golf development will be the second UAE Course we have designed for Emaar Properties, one of the region’s leading property developers, the first being Dubai Hills Golf Club which opened for play in November last year.

The golf course will form an integral part of the Emaar South residential community that is being built close to the new Al Maktoum International Airport and will provide both recreational and social benefits for residents, members, and visitors.

Prior to starting work the site was an untouched desert with an endless expanse of rolling sand dunes and our intention is to try and retain the feel of the existing landscape character within the finished golf course. There will be large expanses of desert waste bunkers and an emphasis on the use of native desert style plants that will have low requirements for irrigation.

Interestingly the waste bunkers have been designed to serve a dual purpose as they will also act as holding areas for stormwater on the occasions that it does rain in the desert.

The golf course is being built in two phases to coincide with the development of the residential components, with the first phase being scheduled for completion in 2019.

Emaar South will be the fifth European Golf Design project built in the region, following our work at Dubai Hills, the recent construction of Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in Saudi Arabia, Royal Golf Club at Riffa Views in Bahrain and a major renovation at Dubai Creek.

JCB Golf and Country Club

 

 

 

 

The European Golf Design course at The JCB Club makes the Golf Monthly 10 Most Exclusive Golf Clubs In The UK.

The JCB club is the newest venue on this list, having opened for play in 2018.

The club is the brainchild of Lord Anthony Bamford (son of Joseph Cyril Bamford) who is the chairman at the construction company started by his father, where the club gets its name.

The club is located in Rocester, Staffordshire which is the same small town where JCB is headquartered.

It features an island green par-3 and has some stunning countryside views.

Read more at www.golf-monthly.co.uk

Photos by Jeremy Slessor of European Golf Design

Top 10 Golf Architects in the World

Following on from the last blog, we were delighted to be included in Golf Inc Magazine’s list of the Top 10 Golf Architects in the World for 2017, published in their January/February issue out this month. We don’t do what we do to simply get recognition by others, but it’s incredibly gratifying when it does happen! To be associated with so many talented colleagues in the industry is more than humbling. The support of both of our parent companies, The European Tour and IMG, has been unwavering over the years, but without the faith that our clients place in us to carry out their dreams and aspirations, and to deliver great courses, none of this would be possible so, to each of you, thank you for the confidence and trust you have given us. It’s been a true pleasure to work with so many of you.

https://bluetoad.com/publication/?i=465006&p=&pn=#{%22issue_id%22:465006,%22page%22:36}

EGD Courses Acknowledged by Golfing Press

Everyone is entitled to an opinion and most of us are quite happy to share the benefit of our own infinite wisdom with anyone that will listen (a case in point…this blog!). So it’s hardly surprising that one of the more regular features in the media is lists of the ‘Top 10 this’ and the ‘Top 100 that’. Many of these lists are so subjective and arbitrary as to be meaningless. However, some of the better ones are put together by Chris Bertram and his colleagues at Golf World UK. Among the requirements for inclusion in their list is the obligation that the members of the panel actually have to have visited the course in question, which is a surprisingly rare necessity in many of the other lists.

With that in mind, we were especially pleased to see how some of our courses had fared in two recent lists published by Golf World. Their list of the Top 100 Golf Resorts in the UK and Ireland features no less than ten courses designed, co-designed or renovated by us, including seven in the top 50. And in the Top 100 Courses in Continental Europe rankings, we have been involved as designer or co-designer at five courses, with another two featuring where we have been involved in renovations.

We don’t do what we do to get included in lists, but can’t help admitting that it is reassuring when our work is recognised by others as having some quality.

 

Royal Porthcawl – Through the eyes of a golfer, a designer and graphic designer.

A couple weeks back, I was fortunate to get the opportunity to play Royal Porthcawl ahead of this month’s upcoming British Seniors Open. Along with my playing partners, we were also fortunate to be greeted with blazing sunshine and NO breeze! (Note – that framed sea view from the locker room is something special…..and when you see it, you know are in for something special)

The course itself is a wonderful test and was already in great shape. The warm early summer weather had already firmed up and browned off the fairways, giving it that desired ‘links’ look! There is no weak hole out there and the par 3s were all excellent, especially the short 7th – how wonderful it is to have such a short hole (120yards if that), if only it was done more often these days!

At EGD we have numerous opportunities to work closely with the European Tour, and this year, Matt has been working on the tournament plan for this year’s British Seniors Open. Having seen the plan been worked on in the office, it was very interesting to see how this would work both on the course, and from a tournament staging point of view – the most notable course change, for staging reasons, is the 18th hole playing as the 1st and the 17th as the tournament’s home hole.

Finally, our game was played on quiet Sunday afternoon in late June, the sun was shining bright and the only sounds we could hear emanated from the nearby beach. The smell was that wonderful fresh sea air smell, the views were spectacular, and we pretty much had this fantastic links all to ourselves…..I vividly recall thinking, Life is good! In a couple weeks’ time, I am sure things won’t be all that tranquil for those in contention on tournament Sunday, but the Seniors Open sure does have a wonderful host!

Are all new bunkers starting to look the ‘same’?

Has the modern in vogue bunker style of minimalist / natural / feathered / ragged bunker edges (call it what you like) become over used? These days, if you view any website or publication dedicated to golf course architecture almost every article seems to have images of this bunker style…..are bunkers becoming too similar, and can you tell the difference from one course to the next?

Don’t get me wrong, I personally love this style, but when does too much of a ‘same’ thing become bad? Will this style become ‘stale’, or is it here to stay? History proves that architecture, no matter the form, evolves, so what is next? If only we knew this answer….

Personally, I think sandy sites most definitely lend themselves more to this style, but surely not every site is blessed with these soil conditions? At EGD, we are fortunate to have numerous designers and, while the consistency of design quality is always the same, each of us has a slightly different design approach and, most importantly, we pride ourselves on designing courses appropriate for each site, each brief and each client…..none of which are the same! So, does the ‘same’ bunker style satisfy and suit each project? We don’t think so!

Below: Examples of some modern ‘natural’ bunkering styles.

Nine to Watch This Summer

It’s not unusual for a few of the projects we are involved with to be hosting tournaments on the professional tours, but this year is pretty unique with nine venues with which we are working staging events on the European Tour, European Senior Tour and LPGA Tour. From Morgado G&CC in Portugal, which is hosting its first ever event, to tour regulars such as Le Golf National, The West Course at Wentworth and Evian Resort, we’re delighted to be involved in each one and will be following the events with interest.

The full list is as follows:

Open de Portugal at Morgado G&CC, Portugal – May 11-14

BMW PGA Championship at The West Course, Wentworth Club, UK – May 25-28

European Tour Properties Senior Classic at Linna Golf, Finland – June 21-23

HNA Open de France at Le Golf National, France – June 29 – July 2

Porsche European Open at Nord Course, Green Eagle Golf, Germany – July 27-30

Omega European Masters at GC Crans-sur-Sierre, Switzerland – September 7-10

Evian Championship at Evian Resort, France – September 14-17

KLM Open at The Dutch, Holland – September 14-17

English Senior Masters at Forest of Arden, UK – October 20-22

Above: The West Course, Wentworth Club, UK

Above: The Dutch, The Montgomerie, Holland

Above: Evian, France