EGD Trip to Casa Serena

On Friday of last week, Dave, Alex and I were lucky enough to take advantage of Robin’s very kind offer of visiting the recently opened Casa Serena course that he designed near Prague. The course is currently being prepared for it’s first tournament, a European Senior Tour event – The Casa Serena Open on 5th to 7th September.

We arrived at Casa Serena at 8pm on Thursday evening with just enough light for Robin to give us a quick guide to the course that we’d be playing the next day. Our initial concern was the brutal rough that encompasses each hole. We were all struck by the joy of the landscape and beautiful scenery that the course is set within.

After an evening with Stuart Burridge (the Head Greenkeeper) in the local town, Kutna Hora we awoke to be spoilt in having the course completely to ourselves. We threw the balls up and began our round (incidentally, I’d torn my calf muscle a week ago playing football and after a late Paula Radcliffe fitness test it was obvious with a lot of office pride running on the match, Dave wasn’t completely overawed at his luck of having me as his playing partner).

As the game went on, the rough was as brutal as we’d imagined with quite a few provisional balls being struck but the course was a joy to play and I particularly loved the shaping of the fairways. During the round, I noted a designer who is fully aware of the hazards he’s set out, isn’t immune from them. I also came to the conclusion Dave’s become the barometer or acid test for each designer at EGD as he’s always encouraged with his immense length to attempt to drive a short par 4 or to take on a long carry. Being his playing partner this can be rather stressful when he misfires but when he’s successful it’s thoroughly enjoyable.

On the 18th Hole, Alex retained his 100% losing streak on EGD courses as Dave and I were the winners of a tightly contested match, winning two up. It was apparent Robin was slightly frustrated at losing on the course he’d designed but with ever reason extremely proud to show it off to his fellow work colleagues (possibly the biggest critics).

On a final note, I have to mention my delight with Terminal 5 at Heathrow, especially after experiencing the speed and diligence of BA staff in retrieving the office camera (that has become the most popular toy here since the putting machine) I’d left on the plane. It would have been a long Monday explaining that one.

Elie – Where it all Started for Braid

With his fantastic victory at Royal Birkdale Padraig Harrington became the first European golfer since James Braid in 1906 to successfully defend the Open Championship. Braid of course won the Championship 5 times in all and went on to become a prolific golf course designer.

A Scot, Braid learnt his golf over the links at the Golf House Club, Elie, a wonderful seaside course of great charm and character and the setting last week for a golf match between representatives of EGD and PGA Management.

Flying the flag for EGD were Ross and Rob, while Keith Haslam and Jonathan Pendry stepped up to the plate for PGAM. Elie has no par 5’s and only two par 3’s but probably has as good a variety of par 4’s as you are likely to see on any course. It demands good positioning from the tee and a fine short game to make a score. From the 12th the course steps up a gear with several holes well over 400 yards and long straight hitting is needed to reach the greens when the wind is from the east.

It may not be the most difficult golf course in the world but it is challenging enough for most, the setting is glorious, the greens are testing but fair and the course rewards good shot making. All in all, just what you want for holiday golf and a reaffirmation that modern day designers don’t need to resort to over complication and trickery. Golf is, after all, meant to be enjoyable.

Arran – Well Worth a Visit

The Isle of Arran, Scotland, is one of the most southerly Scottish islands and sits in the Firth of Clyde between Ayrshire and Kintyre. Arran is 19 miles long by 10 miles wide but has a remarkable diversity of landscapes and seascapes.

With 7 golf courses, Arran has the highest ratio of golf courses to people (around 4,500) anywhere in the world. Another world record Arran holds is the golf course at Shiskine, Blackwaterfoot. It is the only 12-hole course in the world! Shiskine seaside links is a short journey across the island and is a true gem with stunning views over to Mull of Kintyre, this is the true heritage of Scottish golf; golf as it was played by Old Tom Morris, Willie Park and Willie Fernie too, who laid the course out. Golf World have regularly ranked Shiskine as one of the top 100 courses in Britain.

Often referred to as ‘Scotland in Miniature’, the Isle of Arran within a short compass captures many aspects of the beauty of Scotland as a whole, from towering granite peaks to peaceful sandy bays overlooked by palm trees growing in the warm climate of the Gulf Stream.

Carbon Offsetting

As we launch our Environmental Policy (which can be found on the Environment Page), it seemed a good time to bring you up to date with our thinking on the whole carbon emission/zero carbon debate.

For a long time, we’ve wrestled with the dilemma that in order to visit our projects to ensure that the design and construction achieves environmental enhancement, we need to get on a plane and fly – with all of the inherent problems that creates with regard to our carbon footprint. So, we’ve been looking for some time at various schemes that could reduce that footprint. The one thing we’ve learned over the past few months is that there are a lot of snake-oil schemes that achieve nothing.

Half of the problem is trying to determine what kind of offsetting (actually, the better term for it is ‘mitigation’ as real one-to-one offsetting is very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve) any programme is contributing to – it’s all too easy to say that planting trees, or giving low-emission light bulbs out in third world countries, will “offset carbon footprints” but it is just not that easy to work out – offsets are an imaginary commodity created by deducting what you hope happens from what you guess would have happened.

We’re now investigating various schemes, with the assistance of Golf Environment Europe which might, in the long term, be a better ‘green pound’ spend than anything else.

We’re working on it, and will update the Blog once we’ve reached some conclusions. In the meantime, do take a look at our Environmental Policy Statement.

EGD Host Media Day

This week saw European Golf Design hosting a Media Day at the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor. Golf and Travel writers from the UK and Europe were invited by EGD and Celtic Manor to experience the new Ryder Cup Course, designed by European Golf Design.

An early start, 6.30am on a Monday (Sarah had no idea such a time existed) saw Ross, Matt, Sarah, Jeremy and Queenie (MIchael King – EGD Director, ex-Ryder Cup and Walker Cup golfer “as he describes himself”) drive down to Celtic Manor in torrential rain and gale force winds. Why didn’t we chose to hold the event in the summer?

As we drove over the Severn Bridge, the rain stopped, the clouds parted and brilliant sunshine shone down on us. Who says it always rains in Wales?

Joining us on the day was the Twenty Ten Honorary Captain, Gareth Edwards CBE ex Wales and British Lions rugby footballer, and school friend of Queenie. Poor John Hopkins from The Times who played with them was subjected to five hours of school boy tales and humour.

Golf writers from Finland, Denmark, Ireland and Scotland joined us for breakfast before venturing out onto the Twenty Ten Course. Despite the heavy rain that has fallen for weeks, the course was in superb condition. As usual with golfers, everyone complained about their game and the putts that didn’t drop but everyone was in agreement the course was in fantastic shape, and a true test of golf. Reliving their rounds over lunch, another golfers trait, they all talked about how they hoped to play the course again and what a fantastic day it had been.

Several stayed on for the night at the hotel, apart from poor Mark Alexander who missed his train and was contemplating the sleeper train back to Scotland, arriving home at 7am Tuesday.

Mike Harris from Golf Monthly took the prize with a score of 28 points but the real winner was the course.

P.S. If you’d like to watch our day out at the Twenty Ten Course, the Audi Channel (Channel 884 – Sky Digital) and Audi’s website (Check the Audi Channel link) will be showing highlights towards the end of August.

My Top 10 Courses

When asked to put together my Top 10 list of Golf Courses, my initial plan was to put together a list of the Top Ten courses, Played!

I quickly realised that unfortunately, unlike some of my fellow work colleagues who have been fortunate to have been brought up, or lived in, Scotland, ‘The Home of Golf’, comparatively I hadn’t played on that many great golf courses!

I would not like to put this entirely down to my South African roots, as there are some great golf courses in SA, (some of which are on the list, and helped generate my passion for the game) however, I feel that personally, it would be more appropriate for me to put together two lists: ‘Top 5 Golf Courses – Played’ and ‘Top 5 Golf Courses – Wanting to Play’

So here it is.

Top 5 Golf Courses – Played.

1. Turnberry Ailsa, Scotland.
Most probably the finest stretch of golf holes from 4 thru 11. (Definitely the finest I have ever played) It may have been a cold March morning when I played the course, but it didn’t matter, just loved it!

2. Humewood GC, South Africa.
Not at all on the list because it was a 2 minute drive from the University and cost only R20 (£1.30) a round!!! The finest links course in South Africa, great challenge especially when the wind blows – which it always does!

3. Sunningdale New, England.
Over the road from the office, and have been fortunate enough to play there a few times now. Some of the best green complexes around!

4. Portmarnock Links, Ireland.
No bias because it was designed by Stan, but it truly is a little gem on the outskirts of Dublin. (Also, not on the list cos Gary and I, gave Will and Alex a hiding!)

5. Gary Player Country Club – Sun City, South Africa.
Growing up in SA, watching the Million Dollar on tv (now, the Nedbank Challenge), this course was always the one you wanted to play. A tough and challenging course, which is always in fantastic condition.

Top 5 Golf Course – Wanting to Play, ‘The Wish List’.

1. Augusta National, America.
Name me a golfer who doesn’t? Would be happy just to visit, but to play it would be something else.

2. St Andrews, Scotland.
A close second to Augusta, definitely on the ‘hit list’ for the coming year.

3. Cypress Point, America.
‘Have you seen the pictures?’ enough said!

4. Royal Melbourne West, Australia.
No list would be complete without a trip to Aus to play on beauty. Love the bunkers!

5. Durban Country Club, South Africa.
A dark horse on this list, but for all the times I went on holiday to Durban, never got the opportunity to play on this world renowned course, still want to!

2008 Wales Open

Wednesday 28th May

To Celtic Manor Resort (CMR) and the official opening of the Twenty Ten Course prior to the Wales Open. Chairman of CMR Sir Terry Mathews, First Minister for Wales the Rt Hon Rhodri Morgan and European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady perform the opening functions although ominously their words are almost drowned out by the sound of torrential rain falling on the roof of the media centre. Later I take time to talk to Tournament Director Mike Stewart about the course set up. The course is playing long and Mike thinks we’ll move some of the tees forward which is fine by me. The course has been designed to have this kind of flexibility. The view from the players seems pretty encouraging from the limited play they’ve been able to have so far. After a month’s rainfall in the past four days, go to bed praying that the drainage system works!

Thursday 29th May

Fantastic – the rain has stopped. Less fantastic – we are delayed because of fog! The drainage has worked though and soon the players are out and I spend the morning watching how various holes play. Glad to see that many of them are going for the green on the par 5 18th with their second shot, despite the carry over water in front of the green. In the afternoon I spend some time with Russell Phillips of CMR, John Jermine, Chairman of Ryder Cup Wales and a film crew from BBC Wales. We walk several holes and discuss various aspects of the designs for the course, particularly the spectator viewing areas and the work that was carried out to protect and enhance natural habitats as well as the archaeological heritage of the site. Take the opportunity to speak to some of the players after they come off the golf course. All the players I managed to catch up with following their rounds are very positive about the golf course, despite the soft conditions. To bed with the sound of rain beating against the window again.

Friday 30th May

Thank goodness – it’s dry. I go down to the practice area to see how the spatial relationships work between the practice greens, the driving range and player and spectator movement. From there, the players have a very short walk to the 1st tee. Come the Ryder Cup most of the practice area will be used for the tented village. An additional practice ground is being constructed on the other side of the river to be connected by a bridge. Wander into the media centre to see some of the journalists. They’ve got a great location right next to the 18th green, as have many of the hospitality units on the other side of the fairway on the specially constructed platforms which create a natural amphitheatre. We watch as Danny Willetts, playing his first professional tournament, plays his second shot. He needs to make an eagle to make the cut and goes for the green. He only just makes the carry but the soft ground conditions just stop his ball from rolling all the way back into the water. His chip is well struck, climbs the steep slope, runs across the green and into the hole. Never looked like missing. Danny will be back for the weekend. I’m off home.

International Travel – Part 1

Anapa, Russia April 28-30 2008

The Pain
– Heathrow Terminal 5 at 10pm.

– Security control

– Trying to get some sleep in 14C

– Arriving in Moscow at 5am (2am UK time)

– Russian immigration control

– 7 hour lay-over

– Soviet Tupalev aircraft

– 14 hours to get from A to B

– Meetings until midnight

– Security control

– 11 hours to get from B to A

– UK Immigration control

– Heathrow Terminal 5 at 11pm

The Joys
– Heathrow Terminal 5 (the building is stunning, just don’t check any bags in) Russian Military hats that are bigger than TV satellite dishes Finding a site that actually might exceed the client’s hopes.

Life at EGD Towers

After last week, when many of us were out of the office on site visits, the reverse is true this week, with all but Dave and Jeremy in the office, everyone else will be concentrating on reports and design work.

So, what is the office like at EGD Towers?

We’re based in Sunningdale, a small town to the south west of London, close to the famous heathland courses of Sunningdale, Swinley Forest and The Berkshire, as well as a few minutes from Wentworth where one of our parent companies, The European Tour, is headquartered. From the office to Heathrow is a journey of about twenty minutes, Gatwick is forty minutes in the other direction. To the centre of London takes about forty-five minutes on the train, the station being a few minutes walk from the office.

The office itself is on the top floor of an old stable building, dating back to the 1830’s. The main area of the office is open plan, with several of the designers having their own offices off of this room. The open plan area is the nerve-centre – it is from here that the financial, administration and IT functions operate. It’s where people congregate to tell stories of amazing sights, or amazing sites. It’s where we have lunch together every Friday. It’s also home to the EGD indoor putting course. While a very popular game for us, it is less popular with the restaurant downstairs who claim that there is a direct link between the celebrations of a holed putt and their lights swinging from their ceiling (our floor).

One of the other main features in the office is the drinks shelf. We have rule that whenever one of us goes to a new location, they need to bring back the cheapest bottle of local alcohol they can find. In very nearly all cases, ‘cheap’ and ‘tasty’ don’t go hand-in-hand, so while there’s a lot of alcohol on the shelf, very little of it ever gets, or ever will get, drunk.

EGD Boys Visit Ireland

It was an early start on the Friday, our flight left at 6.15. Will resisted (just) the temptation to have a beer at the airport! We arrived in Dublin, picked up the hire car and headed to Carton House, stopping in Maynooth for a suspect Irish/English breakfast along the way.

We teed off at 11:30 on the Montgomerie Course, fortunately the rough was trimmed and from tee to green we all put in a good show. After many bunker shots, good, bad and ugly, Will and Gary were victorious against Dave and I, winning on the 18th green after I had left a putt short that we needed for a half! A couple of weeks later I think Dave is still angry with me!

After a short drive to the Portmatnock Hotel, a shower and a change, we headed to Dublin for a few pints of Guinness. Gary took us to a rather dodgy ‘locals’ bar but fortunately we survived the evening!

We teed off the next morning (a little blurry eyed) at 9:00. After a mix of good and bad golf again, Dave and Gary won beating Will and I rather easily! That left myself as the only person to lose both matches! The ‘shot of the holiday’ came at the 18th at Portmarnock Links, Gary hitting a 3-wood to about 6 feet from 240 yards out, the surprised look on his face was unforgettable! All in all we had a really good trip and it was great to play two excellent courses designed by EGD!

A big thanks to Dave a Stan for organising the golf!