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.
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
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
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’.
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!
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.
As followers of twitter will probably know several EGD designers attended the World Forum of Golf Architects in St Andrews last week. Typically these types of events provide an ideal chance to debate current issues affecting the industry and last week was no different.
One of the key points that resonated with me was the ever increasing conflict between environmental sustainability and the continual advances in technology. As well as creating a sporting venue good golf design usually incorporates habitat areas for wildlife and creates an area where people can interact with the environment.
In a world where environmental issues are becoming evermore prevalent we, as designers, are required to put more emphasis on designing courses that provide more natural habitats, have less irrigated areas and integrate with the local communities. Unfortunately advances in technology are making this increasingly difficult. As the distance the ball travels has increased so too has the length of courses meaning more land is required for golf, and a larger area needs to be irrigated, in turn this can lead to reduced area for natural habitats. Longer golf courses also mean longer rounds which is seen by many as having a negative impact on the game as leisure time becomes increasingly precious.
There is no easy solution to this problem but the most positive thing to come out of last weeks conference was a general agreement between the European Institute of Golf Course Architects, the American Society of Golf Course Architects and the Society of Australian Golf Course Architects to work together to try to find a solution. Ultimately though the answer to this will probably lie with golf’s governing bodies the R&A and the USGA who control the laws governing equipment.
Princes Golf Club in Sandwich, Kent is a classic Links golf course set in the same stretch of coastal dunes as Royal St Georges and Royal Cinque ports. It is probably best known as the venue of the 1932 Open Championship where Gene Sarazen debuted his recent golfing invention, the sand wedge, which he used to great affect as he went on to win his first and only Open Championship. Unfortunately the original layout that hosted the Open was lost during WWII but the present 27 hole course, which was laid out in 1950, still poses a very good test and has hosted the Curtis Cup and is still used as Open Qualifying venue.
Although the longest combination of the 3 loops of nines is relatively long, measuring just under 7,300 yards, recent advances in technology have left a number of the revetted pot style bunkers obsolete. EGD were recently asked to assist the Golf Club formulate a long term strategy to update and improve the golf course. The first phase of this process began this week when I visited the course to assist the greenkeeping team with the renovation of a number of the revetted bunkers, a process which will be ongoing throughout the winter months.