Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

Heads are surprisingly un-fuzzy today at EGD given that yesterday was our Christmas party which, for some of us (but not me), ended way after midnight. While the evening ended in a local pub which served very good food and very alcoholic alcohol, the afternoon started with the first ever EGD Clay Pigeon Shooting Championships, held at the National Clay Pigeon Shooting Centre in Bisley, which is about ten miles from our office in Sunningdale. Only one of us, Michael King (known as ‘Queenie’ to all) has ever shot before and the thought of the rest of us having access to guns should be a cause for great concern. Given the lack of experience, we actually all did quite well and a significant proportion of the ‘pigeons’ were blown to kingdom come during flight. Queenie was so good that he was told that once he’d hit the clay with his first shot, he should then shoot the largest remaining piece of it with his second shot, which he managed to do repeatedly. Shara started a round by missing several before hitting about six in a row. What changed? “I got cross” she said. Colleagues, consultants, clients – be afraid of this woman…do not ever make her cross.

The afternoon ended with a head-to-head shootout between the teams, with the final shootout between Queenie and Matt. As we knew how good he was, those of us on Queenie’s team relaxed knowing victory was soon to be ours. How wrong – like some gunslinger from the American west, Matt smoked him 2-1. “You’ve got to dig deep.” was all Wy-matt Earp had to say as the smoke cleared as we moved off for dinner.

Jeremy.

Above: Shara on the rampage.

‘Save the Planet. It’s the only one with beer.’

Throughout our daily lives, we are bombarded with banal ‘noise’. At every turn, and in every medium, we are faced with advertising, branding, and comment. Increasingly, everyone has an opinion on everything, regardless of their knowledge or understanding of the actual issue. When was the last time you heard a member of the public admit that they had no opinion on a subject when a microphone was thrust into their face by some over-eager newshound from a local/regional/national news agency, even as it became obvious that that was the case?

So, with this saturation of banality, when one does come across a moment of real insight, or at least something that is thought-provoking, it is more than refreshing. I was in Dubai a week or so ago and came across this phrase credited to His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai:

‘The path towards excellence does not stop – on the contrary, success acts as an incentive to greater success’.

As a philosophy, this seems to me to be right on the money. It’s to the point, it’s ambitious and it’s limitless. As a rallying cry for a nation reinventing itself in the modern world (and, arguably, helping to define that world), it is inspirational to the generations building that nation now (even if, for many, Dubai is an adopted home), and for those to come.

I’ve said before on this blog that one of the great joys of my job is that I have never once heard any one of my colleagues at EGD say anything like “that’s good enough” – there is a constant drive to improve what we do and the way we do it. To that end, Sheikh Mohammed’s quotation resonated strongly with me.

The other thing I read last week that also resonated was this:

‘Save the Planet. It’s the only one with beer.’

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

EGD course feature in top 100 Golf Courses in Continental Europe

Lists of the World’s top golf courses always sparks lively debate in EGD towers whenever they are published. No one ever agrees with the actual rankings and mock indignation is often expressed at the inclusion of some courses at the expense of others. If our own golf courses fail to make ‘the list’ then we decry the inability of the selection panel to understand the obvious superiority of the design and we criticise the whole concept of trying to compare one course against another. On the other hand when courses by European Golf Design are included then we congratulate the panel members on their fine judgement and impeccable ability to understand the intricacies of great golf course architecture!

So, in the past week, we’ve had nothing but praise for those fine fellows at Golf World magazine following the publication of their biennial list of the Top 100 Golf Courses in Continental Europe. And the reason? It’s because there are no fewer than six courses within the rankings which we’ve been involved with. Five of our Courses (Stadium Course at PGA Catalunya designed in association with Neil Coles and Angel Gallardo, The Faldo Course at Sporting Club Berlin designed with Nick Faldo, The Sultan at Antalya Golf Club, Navarino Dunes with Bernhard Langer and Linna Golf) all made the list in 2011 and for 2013 they are joined by a brand new course in The Netherlands called The Dutch. The Dutch is another of the courses we have designed with Colin Montgomerie, who (with our assistance) is building a fine portfolio of work across Europe. Two of Colin’s courses are on the European Tour schedule for this year and The Dutch is already marked down to stage the Dutch Open for three years from 2016.

In addition to the top 100 courses a further five of our courses are included in Golf World’s list of the next 100. These include Lighthouse GC designed with Ian Woosnam, the newly renovated Evian Golf Club, the recently opened Zavidovo PGA National Russia, The Montgomerie Maxx and The Pasha at Antalya GC. Impressively that makes eleven courses by European Golf Design and our partners in the top 200 in Europe.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these courses is their geographical spread, located as they are in The Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, France, Russia and Finland, confirming our reputation for building high quality golf courses in different styles and in many different regions of the world.

Above: The Dutch

Above: PGA Catalunya

Above: The Faldo Course at Sporting Club Berlin

Above: The Sultan at Antalya Golf Club

The Evian Championship – The ‘New’ major on the LPGA tour

In the lead up to this week’s ‘New’ major, the designers of the course redevelopment, European Golf Design, provide some interesting ‘numbers’ on the just what was undertaken in preparing the course for its new ‘major’ status.

80000 – The cubic metre amount of earth moved in redeveloping the course

6428 – The total number of yards from the championship tees

71 – The new par of the Evian golf course. The most significant changes to the course have been in the redesign of the 5th hole from a par 4 to a par 3; the 13th has been extended to a reachable par 5; the 16th is now the short par 3 and the 17th a par 4; while the 18th has been changed from a short par 5 into the longest and most demanding par 4 on the course.

442 – The length of new par 4 finishing hole

77 – The number of new bunkers on the course. The previous large flat bunkers have been replaced by a smaller, deeper and more challenging bunker style.

20 – The number of greens which have been redesigned and rebuilt. On average, the greens have increased in size by up to 40%, allowing for more flexibility in pin position opportunities and more undulation within the putting surfaces.

19 – This week’s Evian Championship (Sept. 12-15), is the 19th edition of this women’s golf tournament, which this year becomes the fifth and final major on the LPGA Tour.

3 – The number of cascading ponds which defend the front of the new short downhill 155 yard par 3 16th hole

176 – The number of new trees planted around the course

For more information on what exactly took place during the past year’s construction, click on the video link below from this month’s CNN Living Golf programme

http://edition.cnn.com/video/?/video/sports/2013/09/05/spc-living-golf-evian-women-fifth-major.cnn&hpt=igo_mid

And for all the latest news and tournament information, visit the tournament website

http://www.evianchampionship.com/en/

Above: The 14th Hole at Evian

Cross Country Golf

I often wonder what the most strategic golf course in the world is. In my opinion it’s not the likes of The Old Course, Oakmont or Royal Melbourne. The answer lies much closer to home; anyone’s home in fact, your local club can be transformed if you play it cross country style; nowhere would a strategic thinking golfer prevail more.

For those who don’t know, the fundamentals of cross country golf are this: Tee it up, agree a distant green with your fellow players and plot your way there. It may involve going round forests, over outcrops of trees, streams and ditches, across fairways and bunkers to greens unlikely to be designed to accommodate shots from all directions. Your shot making skills will be tested to the extreme, not many standard courses will require, draw’s, fades, lob shots and punches all on the same hole; it’s this that makes cross country golf so great, after all, variety is the spice of life! Very few people would play a cross country hole and only think about one shot at a time, like chess you should think at least 2-3 moves ahead.

Many club players could benefit from applying these strategic thoughts to their usual game; too often I see people get the driver out on par 4’s without even looking what lies ahead, there is little else on the golf course as rewarding as making a strategic birdie exactly the way you pictured it in your mind the night before.

Next time you are at your club late one evening why not test your strategic brain cells and play to a different green? Please remember to keep it safe though; keep an eye out for other golfers and playing over roads and buildings is definitely not recommended!

We’d love to hear your cross country golf stories so please tweet us @eurogolfdesign; the most interesting will win a Nike hat signed by Paul Casey!

Carne Golf Links New 9 Holes – Duneland Golf On An Epic Scale

In these harsh economic times it is nice to be able to report on a golf course opening, even if it is one with which we have not had a design involvement. Such is the case with the unveiling of the new Kilmore 9 holes at Carne Golf Links in Belmullet, County Mayo, Ireland.

I must declare a personal interest in the course, as I am an overseas life member of Belmullet Golf Club. One of the key incentives for me joining was the prospect of this new 9 holes being developed through the most incredible dunes I have ever seen. I was shown a draft plan back in 2006, which had been prepared by one time EGD designer, Jim Engh. The course that has finally emerged some seven years later is much revised from this initial sketch and has, in the later stages of development, been spearheaded by a good friend of EGD, Mr. Ally McIntosh.

Whilst Ally has fronted the design of the new course, it only exists because of the willpower and dedication of one man, Carne’s Eamon Mangan. Eamon was the inspiration and the driving force behind developing the new holes, despite Ireland’s crushing recession. The holes have been built on the tightest of shoestring budgets, reportedly just €140,000. Work could only be carried out when there was money in the kitty to allow it, which meant that for long periods the fledgling links lay deserted. On more than one occasion I looked out over the new course and doubted that it would ever be finished, but with Eamon’s dedication and Ally’s design eye, the course was finally unveiled for play on Tuesday July 23 2013.

The entire Carne development is a good news story. This is a modern links, dating only from the mid 90’s, developed by the community as a tourism incentive. It was the last course to be designed by the great Eddie Hackett, whose light touch has left in place some outlandish fairway contouring that other more heavy handed architects may have flattened in the pursuit of fairness. The story of how the course came to fruition is succinctly captured by Richard Phinney and Scott Whitley in their excellent book, ‘Links of Heaven’. How the locals rallied together at the eleventh hour to purchase the links from seventeen separate landowners, each with a government grant to fence in their strip of duneland with five rows of barbed wire, is a story of devout community spirit and foresight. Their reward is a magnificent course, ranked consistently within the top 50 courses in Great Britain & Ireland. If ever a course was worthy of making a concerted effort to play, Carne is it. Nobody arrives in Belmullet by mistake and this amazing links at the very edge of the continent, makes the long, lonely drive across the dark peat moors of Mayo thoroughly worthwhile.

Carne now has twenty-seven of the most dramatic, natural duneland holes in the World. With such a minimal budget, the necessity was to use the lie of the land wherever possible and it is with great skill that the new 9 wends its way between and over dunes of epic proportions. It is thrilling golf, raw in form and with stern consequences for waywardness. The hand of man is evident only in the location of the few bunkers that punctuate the course and the sporty, turbulent green surfaces, that will be great fun to putt on once they have fully matured. One minute you are playing through narrow clefts between immense sand hills, fully 100-feet high. The next you have ascended to a pulpit tee, seemingly on the roof of the World, with incredible views across the dunes to Blacksod Bay, the Atlantic Ocean and the islands that pepper the horizon. Golf really can be this great. It is a lesson to all of us who design for a living.

The course is still admittedly something of a rough cut. Given some maturity it will become a polished diamond and further cement Carne’s growing global reputation. Eamon, Ally and all at Carne should be immensely proud of their achievements. It is superb.

Above: This giant blow out bunker is the key feature of this drop shot par 3

Above: Second shot on this par 5 is played over giant dune above the flagstick!

Above: Do…Not…Go…Left!

Above: This stunning view is the reward for the steep ascent to the 9th tee

Zavidovo is European Golf Design’s 50th Major New Project

The opening of Zavidovo PGA National Russia represents an important milestone in the history of European Golf Design as the course is the 50th to have opened since the company was created in 1992. Russia also marks the 22nd country where European Golf Design has golf courses in play.

Following the opening ceremony, European Golf Design’s Managing Director, Jeremy Slessor, commented; “It is a great achievement to have created so many new courses in such a wide variety of regions and countries. We believe that our attention to detail and client support are the reasons why so many of our projects have been successful, not only for the quality of golf which they provide, but also for the economic advantages for our clients.”

The award winning Zavidovo PGA National Russia is the centre piece of a new exclusive development created by Moscow Agranta on the banks of the Volga river, 100 kilometres west of Moscow. Measuring 7,400 yards from the back tees, the course is characterised by wide fairways, undulating greens and heather clad bunkers.

Speaking after the golf course had been unveiled to the international media and other guests, European Golf Design’s project architect, Dave Sampson, said; “We are extremely proud of what we have created here at Zavidovo. We have been fortunate to have had a great construction and grow-in team, and that, combined with a great client, helped us to deliver a really high quality project.”

“The course is looking absolutely fantastic. The playing surfaces are hard and fast in accordance with our design intent, and the heather we have planted around the bunkers gives the golf course a heathland character which is quite unique for Russia.”

Dave Sampson is sure that the course will prove a stern test for the elite players, but will also be a fun and strategic challenge to high handicap golfers. “Russia is an emerging golfing nation, and we were fully aware when designing the course, that we would need to provide multiple teeing grounds for players of all abilities. In addition, to further encourage golf development, the course has extensive practices greens and a full length practice range with state of the art teaching facilities. In 2015 we will also be adding a PGANationalGolfAcademy.”

Above: Zavidovo PGA National in Russia

On Tour with European Golf Design

The past few weeks have been something of a blur here with so much going on around Europe on some of our courses. Firstly, Princes GC in Kent played host, with Royal Cinque Ports, to the strokeplay stages of the British Amateur Championships, eventually won by Garrick Porteous of England. The course, which has gone through an extensive renovation project over the past few years under the guidance of Gary Johnston, was in magnificent condition for the players, many of whom knew the course from past visits and commented on its much improved strategy, playability and conditioning.

From the seaside links of Princes, we moved to Russia where, just north of Moscow, the ‘inland links’ at Zavidovo PGA National Russia formally opened on the 23rd June. It was in magnificent condition for the weekend, enjoyed by more than one hundred members and guests – our thanks go to Course Manager Paul Avison from Braemar Golf for that. The day was organised perfectly by Phil Jones and Mike Braidwood also of Braemar Golf. The course, designed by Dave Sampson, is a real delight – from a player’s perspective, it is full of choices, which means that it can play differently every time you tee up there.

Linna Golf in Hameenlina, Finland, hosted the Finnish PGA Championships last week. Again the course was in fine shape and clearly challenged the field, with Joonas Granberg winning with a score of -2. It’s always hugely gratifying to visit a course years after it’s opening (Linna Golf opened in 2005) to see how it has matured. And it has matured beautifully – it sits within the landscape so well it appears decades older than it really is.

Finally, we made the short trip to Evian Resort in France for the opening of the Evian Resort Golf Club (formerly known as Evian Masters Golf Club). For the past two winters, we have been involved in the total redesign and reconstruction of the golf course. All eighteen greens, tees and bunkers have been redesigned, along with new irrigation and drainage systems. Working over a winter in the foothills of mountains was never going to be easy, and the past winter has been anything but easy. Thanks to the dedication of the entire project team the project opened on time last Saturday for invited guests and for the members today, Monday 1 July. Dave Sampson has done a stunning job to design the course for the Evian Championships in September when the course hosts the newest Major Championship in world golf.

Above: Zavidovo PGA National in Russia

Above: Linna Golf in Hameenlina, Finland

Above: Bunker sand going in at Evian Resort Golf Club

Paul Casey’s double for European Golf Design and Colin Montgomerie Design

This weekend’s win for Paul Casey at the Irish Open was significant for two reasons. Firstly it marked the return to form for one of England’s most popular golfers, and secondly, he became a two time winner on courses designed by Colin Montgomerie in association with European Golf Design.

The Irish Open returned to the Montgomerie Course at Carton House for the third time, having previously staged the event in 2005 and 2006. The course, which opened in 2004, is often described as an ‘inland links’, characterised by its steep faced, penal bunkering and dramatic swales and contouring on and around the greens. Paul Casey showed an early liking for the course in 2006 when he finished runner up to Thomas Bjorn, losing by just one shot after three putting the last green. He more than made up for that this year by holing a monster putt for an eagle three on the 72nd hole to confirm his first victory since 2011.

That last win came at the inaugural Volvo Golf Champions at the Royal Golf Club at Riffa Views in Bahrain. As at Carton House, the Montgomerie Course at Riffa Views was designed to provide a links style golf experience, but this time in a desert environment, with fast running fairways and open approaches into huge, firm greens which are dramatically contoured. It is clearly a style which suits Paul Casey’s game.

So, if you’re wondering where Paul’s next win might come, then our tip would be to look no further than the Turkish Airlines Open which will be played at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal in November as part of the exciting Final Series of The European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Above: The 18th green on the Montgomerie Course

Carton’s Montgomerie Course Ready for Irish Challenge

It’s another big tournament week for European Golf Design as an impressive list of Major Champions gather near Dublin for the 2013 Irish Open at Carton House Golf Club. Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and World Number Two Rory McIlroy will all be challenging for their national title over the Montgomerie Course, designed by Colin Montgomerie and European Golf Design’s Stan Eby. It is one of two European Golf Design courses at Carton House, the other being the O’Meara Course, designed in association with Mark O’Meara.

Set within open parkland the Montgomerie Course has the feel of an inland links, and is characterised by steep faced bunkering as well as dramatic swales and contouring around the greens. It is a very strategic, thinking man’s golf course which demands accurate shot placement as poor shots will tend to be swept away from target areas and towards the penal bunkers.

This is the third time in the last nine years that the Irish Open has been staged on the Montgomerie Course, which was named as the “Best New Design of the Year” in 2004 by Golf World. To add to its tournament credentials the course has also successfully hosted the 2004 Irish Amateur Open Championship, the 2010 Irish Seniors open and the 2012 European Amateur Championship.

The Irish Open is the first of two European Tour events which will be staged this year on Colin Montgomerie/European Golf Design courses. The other will be at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal in Turkey for the Turkish Airlines Open, part of the inaugural Final Series of The European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

You can find out more about the 2013 Irish Open at http://www.golf.discoverireland.ie/Irish-Open/Home/

Above: The 12th hole on the Montgomerie Course

Amateur Championship to showcase European Golf Design upgrade of Prince’s Golf Club

(Sunningdale, UK – June 12, 2013) Prince’s Golf Club will host the Amateur Championship next week, following a major renovation of the golf course by European Golf Design.

The Championship, which will be played over the historic links, represents an important landmark in the renaissance of one of Kent’s finest courses. Prince’s famously staged the 1932 Open Championship, won by Gene Sarazen, but the original course layout was subsequently destroyed during the Second World War and completely redesigned in 1950 by Guy Campbell and John Morrison to create the current 27 hole layout.

Prince’s Golf Club has recently redeveloped their facilities. As part of this project European Golf Design was commissioned in 2010 to oversee a number of improvements ahead of the course hosting both the Final Open Championship Qualifying in 2011 and the 2013 Amateur Championship, which the club is co-hosting with Royal Cinque Ports.

European Golf Design’s role was to carry out a strategic review of all 27 holes and oversee a total bunker restoration programme. A number of new tee complexes have been constructed and two fairways relocated to restore the original design intent and improve strategy.

Gary Johnston, lead designer on the project for European Golf Design, said; “Our role wasn’t about toughening the golf courses, it was more about reviewing the strategy of the holes to take account of the advances in technology. In all we relocated about 22 bunkers and built a further 19, whilst also removing a number of other bunkers which were redundant. The biggest change came at the 6th hole on the Himalayas where we have moved the fairway 30 yards to the left to improve the alignment of the golf hole and bring a new wetland into play.”

“It has been a long term project which was broken into phases and mostly carried out over the last three winters, which is actually the best time to build revetted bunkers. It has been hugely rewarding to work on the restoration of such a historic course and I am looking forward to seeing how it is tackled by the world’s best amateur golfers.”

The Amateur Championship is taking place between the 17th and 22nd of June. The 288 player field play one round each at Prince’s and Royal Cinque Ports, after which the 64 players with the lowest scores go forward to compete in the match play stage of the competition.