Creating the Montgomerie Maxx Royal

The Brief
To design an 18 hole golf course in association with Colin Montgomerie, in the resort of Belek, near Antalya in Turkey.

The Site

Set within 104 hectares of picturesque, mixed pine forest and sandy ridges, the feel of the natural environment has been maintained, thereby enchancing the particular characteristics of the golf course.

The Course
With one of the most impressive clubhouses in Belek, views of the course and surrounding area are available from the 30 meter tower of the clubhouse.

The course forms part of a new 200 million-euro golf and hotel complex. To complement the 18-hole championship golf course, there is a flood-lit nine-hole short course and a golf academy, as well as a 600-room five-star hotel and 31 holiday villas.

Turkish Airlines Open

After a three-year absence, the Turkish Airlines Open has returned to the Montgomerie Maxx Royal course in Belek, which first staged the tournament in 2013. This year, many big names will be chasing a first prize of $2 million, from a $7 million pot.

When Colin Montgomerie along with European Golf Design began designing the Montgomerie Maxx Royal on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, he hoped that it would become a well-respected course and bolster golf in the region.

From the moment it opened in 2008, the design was immediately recognized by many professionals as one of the country’s best. It took just five years for it to stage its first big event, the Turkish Airlines Open, part of the European Tour. It attracted Tiger Woods in its first year, when he famously shot a 63 (9-under-par) in the second round.

In the two years that followed, big names came to Turkey. Brooks Koepka of the United States, who made his name on the European Tour before winning multiple majors, won in 2014 and Victor Dubuisson of France, who won in 2013, triumphed for a second time in 2015. When the tournament moved to the nearby Carya Golf Club in 2016, Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark took the title, while Justin Rose of England won in 2017 and 2018.

Now a part of the Rolex Series, its importance is emphasized by its place in the calendar. After Turkey, there is just one more event, the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa, before the DP World Tour Championship, which will decide the final standings in the season-long Race to Dubai competition. Last year it was won by Francesco Molinari of Italy.

The Montgomerie Maxx Royal has a par-72, 7,132-yard layout, with undulating fairways within about 260 acres of mixed pine forest and sandy ridges. The course begins and ends with par 5s, offering the chance for a good start and a grandstand finish, when the lead can change hands in the closing holes.

Dubai Hills by European Golf Design is named World’s Best New Course

Dubai Hills – the most recent course by Berkshire-based architecture firm European Golf Design – has been named the ‘World’s Best New Golf Course’ at the prestigious World Golf Awards.

Dubai Hills was chosen ahead of seven other nominees from around the world to land the title at the annual awards, with contenders including Jack Nicklaus’ Michlifen in Morocco, spectacular Hoiana Shores in Vietnam and JCB Golf and Country Club in England.

The JCB course in Staffordshire was also created by European Golf Design, which is the design company of the European Tour and IMG.

EGD’s architect Gary Johnston laid out Dubai Hills, which opened at the end of 2018 and has already made a significant impact in the emirate’s golf scene.

It enjoys views of the famous skyline of downtown Dubai, most notably on the par-5 5th hole, which Johnston has routed so that it plays directly towards the iconic Burj Khalifa.

The course, whose paspalum grasses ensure it is in immaculate condition all year round, incorporates three phases.

The front nine plays through a series of deep wadis (valleys) whereas there is a more open, desert feel to the back nine. Both halves end with challenging holes dominated by the large lakes.

“To have Dubai Hills recognised as the World’s Best New Course, given what it is up against both regionally and internationally, is hugely satisfying,” says EGD’s managing director Jeremy Slessor.


Above: Dubai Hills Designer, Gary Johnston.

Three of the firm’s other Middle East designs were also winners at the awards: Dubai Creek was named Best Course in the Middle East; Royal GC the Best Course in Bahrain; and Royal Greens the Best Course in Saudi Arabia.

The victory for Dubai Hills is vindication for Johnston’s emphasis on playability rather than on another tournament-standard course for the Middle East.

“Like The Montgomerie and Arabian Ranches, Dubai Hills was always going to be a members’ golf club and, while it may sound obvious, we wanted to create a facility members would enjoy playing,” says Johnston.

“We tried hard not to fall into the trap of making it too difficult or too long, so deliberately made the fairways that little bit wider but added interest by making them very undulating.

“The greens also have plenty of movement but knowing how quick they were likely to get once open, we made sure we didn’t go overboard.”

The award – which was announced at a ceremony at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in Abu Dhabi – adds to the firm’s already stellar reputation in the Middle East.

EGD – who have also been involved in the Ryder Cup courses of 2010, 2018 and 2022 – have worked in the region for well over a decade on projects in Dubai, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

“The Middle East is an incredibly dynamic region,” adds Slessor.

“Everywhere we have worked, we’ve come across different cultures, techniques and challenges. We would like to think that experience has paid off in the success Dubai Hills is enjoying now.

“Equally, it would be wrong for us to take sole credit for that success – this has been a collaborative process: working with Emaar to define the brief in the first place, through to design work, construction and now maintenance, the entire project team deserves enormous credit.”

Johnston is already working on another new course in Dubai for Emaar, which will be located close to the new Al Maktoum international airport.

Emaar’s brief included firm ideas of what they wanted from Dubai Hills – and the result is a course unlike any other in Dubai.

“The client wanted us to take the best bits of their other courses and add a bit of extra ‘wow’ factor,” says Johnston.

“We managed to do this by creating some significant elevation changes on the front nine – something you don’t tend to get on many Dubai courses.

“We also used the corridor layout to keep the focus on the hole that is being played and limit opportunities to see what is coming up ahead.”

This aspect, allied to the promise of outstanding year-round conditioning and the emphasis on playability, has meant Dubai Hills has enjoyed a successful entry to the Dubai golf market.

“Golfers of all abilities took to the layout and challenge immediately,” says Dubai Hills general manager Elliott Gray.

“It was incredible to see so many golfers in the UAE who had not been part of a golf club in the past four years join the club in early December 2018.

“The friendly ‘stadium like’ fairways have ensured membership sales targets were exceeded in the first six weeks of preview play.”

The World Golf Awards are part of the World Travel Awards, which are now in their 26th year. Voting on the awards is done by golf travel and tourism industry professionals and also by the public.

For further information or to arrange an interview, contact Jeremy Slessor on 01344 870300 or jslessor@egd.com.

Note: The attached images are free to use, with a credit for Kevin Murray.

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.

Irie Fields becomes first in the World to attain GEO Certified

On the lush slopes of Mt Liamuga on north of the island of St Kitts sits Irie Fields, one of EGD’s newest Golf Courses. On first look it may not seem too dissimilar to many of our other projects but this pioneering destination is more than a little different. From the start the development team had the intention to create a world class golf resort but the overriding theme has always been to create a golf course that would be truly sustainable that, importantly, would provide a benefit to the local community. This thinking was not just limited to the design and construction of the golf course but also to the ongoing management and consequently Irie Fields is now one of the first completely organically managed warm season golf courses anywhere. The result of all this hard work is that Irie Fields has just become the first in the World to attain GEO Certified – Development Status helping to set new standards for golf course development.

Construction work on the golf course was completed in 2015 and the course is set to open in mid-2016.

 

St Kitts sits Irie Fields

Turkish Airlines Open

This is a little bit of a belated blog as I have spent the past few weeks travelling but the highlight of these trips was definitely being in Turkey for the inaugural Turkish Open. It really was very cool seeing the pros, including a certain Tiger Woods, playing on a golf course that we had designed. It was, however, a little strange standing on the 18th on the Sunday afternoon surrounded by thousands of spectators and remembering when a small group of us first visited this lovely site which, at the time, was just a ministry of agriculture pine forest and exploring every part of it without seeing another person.

If memory serves me correctly it was a little over seven years ago that we began the process of creating the Montgomerie Maxx Royal Golf Course. While there wasn’t much there but pine trees and sand it was clear that this was a very special site, but it wasn’t without its challenges. Being so close to the sea the ground water table was only just below the surface which made building the course pretty challenging at times and resulted in us having to lift all the playing surfaces to ensure they would drain. Also, during construction some of the particularly wet areas would without warning turn to quicksand and on one site visit all of us (including Monty) ended up in one of these wet pits – I believe there is still a pair of Colin’s trainers buried somewhere under the 4th hole! Thankfully we all escaped and were able to complete the construction of the course in just 18 months ready for opening in 2008.

Originally when we designed we didn’t expect it to host a tournament on the scale of this year’s event but based on the nice feedback we have received over the past couple of weeks it seems to have passed its first test with flying colours. So all being well we are looking forward to returning next Autumn when the course is once again due to play host to the European Tour elite competing for the Turkish Open title.

Above: Crowds on the 18th hole at the 2013 Turkish Airlines Open

Above: Start of construction, designer Gary Johnston and Colin Montgomerie

7 of the best for European Golf Design

With over 50 projects completed it would be hardly surprising that some of our courses are selected to host the occasional tournament. We, however, are proud of the fact that almost without exception at least one, if not more, of our courses are selected to host high profile tournaments each year and with seven set host events this year, 2013 is no exception!

Firstly three of our courses are hosting European Tour events; The Irish Open on the Montgomerie at Carton House, The Wales Open on the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor and the inaugural Turkish Open on the Montgomerie Maxx Royal Course in Antalya, which is also part of the final series of the Race to Dubai. In August the recently redeveloped Evian Resort in Switzerland is hosting The Evian Championship which will officially become the LPGA’s fifth major from this year. Next up we have Prince’s Golf Club in Kent which is set to co-host the British Amateur Championship. Then finally two of our courses, Ribagolfe 1 in Portugal and the TUI Course at Fleesensee Golf Club in Germany have been selected to host the Qualifying Stages for players hoping to make it on the European Tour.

All in all another busy year for some of EGD’s golf courses.

Above: The Montgomerie at Carton House

Above: Prince’s Golf Club

Above: Fleesensee Golf Club

Woosie visits St Kitts

With the feature shaping in St Kitts well under way Ian took the chance to join Gary to check on the construction and give his thoughts on the shaping and strategy of the golf course. With the majority of the technical detail work done by EGD Ian’s focus was on how the golf course plays and how to make best use of the numerous ghauts that cross the site.

Having spent the day walking the site and tweaking bunker positions and green shaping Ian declared himself to be extremely happy with the progress that has been made and can’t wait to see the first few holes grassed in the next few months. He said ‘we are very fortunate to have such a fantastic site which gives great views of the sea from every hole. It is going to be a fun course to play although when the wind blows it is going to be quite challenging’.

Football Crazy!

While I realise this blog is normally devoted to golf I want to talk about an entirely different sport – football!

We Brits tend to think we are passionate about our football but if you have ever been in Morocco you would realise they take their love for the game to another level. If you have ever been there while the national team is playing you can’t help but notice the buzz of excitement on the streets ahead of the game (even just for a friendly) and if they win you certainly know about it, singing in the streets, waving their red and green flags and, rather annoyingly, beeping their car horns till the early hours of the morning.

Just as in many other countries football is popular amongst the children who love to play whenever they can, but with few real pitches in Morocco they often have to make use of anywhere they find – including golf course construction sites!

Pulling up on the 15th hole during a recent site visit to our project in Marrakech we came across a group of children who had sneaked onto the site and were making use of one of our levelled tees and the chalk we use for marking out to make their own pitch. Thinking they would be in trouble they promptly stopped playing, grabbed their home made ball and scarpered. Now whilst I certainly wouldn’t encourage this kind of behaviour on one of our sites I really couldn’t help but smile at the inventiveness of these kids and the enjoyment they were clearly having before we got there and ruined their game!

Marrakech Golf City

The pace of work in Marrakech has been picking up recently as the contractors race to get tees and fairways seeded with bermuda grass before the temperatures drop in the Autumn.

This has meant frequent trips to Marrakech throughout July and August and many hours spent on site in the baking sun. Thankfully the temperature on site this week topped out a bearable 44c which was much easier to work in than the 52c experienced on the previous visit!

This week saw approval of the first three holes to be seeded with Bermuda grass with another 3 expected to be ready in September and the earthworks well under way on 3 more.