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.

Merion – 2013 US Open

How refreshing will it be to see a major golf tournament being played on a course under 7000 yards? Personally, I think it is and the USGA should be applauded for it!

It’s been 32 years since the USGA took their national championship to the famed Merion GC, so the course will be a bit of mystery to most. The plot of land is small at 127 acres and the spectator experience will be akin to an Open Championship at the Old Course St Andrews, but this tournament is the US Open, so you know the test is going to be tough!

The course is renowned for being ‘tricky’ and with the only two par 5’s coming in the first four holes, birdies will need to be made early and scores held onto for the remaining fourteen. Setup would have undoubtedly been firm and fast, but the heavy rain over the past week has unfortunately put an end to that. On the flip side however, the rough will be now be even more brutal than usual and the fairways will in all probability be even narrower than their usual ‘pencil thin’, but hopefully not too narrow that the bunkers seem detached. With the course playing soft, the famous wicker basket pins will most definitely be hidden away to protect the course and likely threat of low scores. (Click on link to the USGA website for a fantastic fly through of each hole) http://www.usopen.com/en_US/course/index.html

From a course design point of view it’s going to be a fascinating watch to see how the best players in the world approach the challenge and strategise their way round. Will Tiger employ a similar strategy to the one which won him the Open Championship at Hoylake in 2006, where he took an iron from nearly every tee? On paper, it must offer up the best chance of a first major success to some of the game’s shorter hitters like Luke Donald, Matteo Mannaserro & Matt Kuchar? Perhaps it will be the year for the Steve Stricker!! But as a man who likes the odd flutter, Graeme McDowell must have a great chance!

Nonetheless, whoever the champion come Sunday, I can’t wait to see how the course stands up…..could this become the new template for championship golf??

Canadian Golf

I am back in the office after a great holiday driving from Calgary to Vancouver. Whilst there I was lucky enough to play a couple of Stanley Thompsons finest golf courses. Born in Toronto in 1893 he was one of 4 brothers and 5 sisters, all the boys became good players (two were professionals) after learning the game whilst caddying at Toronto Golf Club.

Thompson then began a career in course design. After starting a family design and construction company and working on many courses he designed Banff Springs in 1928, Canada Pacific funded the project and it is rumoured to be North America’s first million dollar build. It was a course that I had known of for many years and it didn’t let me down. Every hole was framed by spectacular scenery and the bunkers were incredible, apparently, like many other designers of his era, Thompson like a drink or two, I think you can see that in some of his work; the 15th tee is something else! There are many great features that I hope to use in designs of my own in the future.

Once in Vancouver I managed to organise a game at Capilano Golf and Country Club with the assistant superintendant Michael Newton. This was another great example of Thompson’s work and the course has on the whole stayed true to the original design, recent renovations have also reverted back to original features where aspects had changed slightly. The course was as good as I have played anywhere and was in immaculate condition, although we had some rain and it was pretty cloudy the photos are still an explosion of colour! I think it’s a great reflection of the work that is done there. My golf was pretty ropey so I look forward to getting back there one day and playing a little better, thanks for the thrashing Mike!

Whilst in Whistler I was also fortunate to play at Big Sky designed by Bob Cupp. Again the course was great and the scenery unbelievable. Sustainable golf development is a hot topic at the moment in Europe, this was a great example of a course fitting seamlessly with its surroundings; just ask the bears that we saw on the 4th tee!

That’s enough from me but all that is left to say is that the golf I played in Canada was as good as any country I’ve played in, that’s before you take into account the wildlife, rivers and 9000ft mountains that surround you! I must also thank Steve Young at Banff, Chris Wallace at Big Sky and Brad Burgart at Capilano for organising the golf, I definitely owe them all (and some others) a few drinks when they are next in the UK.
You can find out more about Thompson and his design principles at www.stanleythompson.com

Above: The 14th hole playing towards the Banff Springs Hotel

Above: The approach to 13 at Capilano

Above: The 4th at Big Sky with Bears approaching!

Above: A Black bear on the roadside near Whistler

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

Studying Golf Course Architecture

For the past couple of years I have been lucky enough to be studying a vocational qualification in Golf Course Design with the European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA). The course covered a wide range of subjects from the history of the game to the latest design and construction methods and modern sustainability issues, over the 2 years we completed both written assignments and design work covering these topics and more.

The recent EIGCA conference and AGM in Malmö provided the setting for me to present my final design project, this work has received a majority of my attention over the past 6-months (just ask Alaina!). I arrived on the Monday afternoon and after some lunch was able to present my work; after a couple of hours with Ken Moodie and Peter Fjällman I was able to relax with ‘en stor stark’, I am still waiting for my final grades so maybe that was a bit premature!

With the assignment out of the way there was still plenty to learn during the week that followed. Ross, Robin and myself, along with 35 others from the Institute started the ‘Raising the Standard of Sustainable Golf Course Development’ seminars. This is a programme developed by the EIGCA along with the Golf Environment Organisation (GEO) consisting of 33 hours of web based seminars, having just completed a 2 year course what had I let myself in for!? Joking aside, I’m sure it will prove to be beneficial to us all. After completing these seminars, members should have the knowledge and information to complete a case study, if successful our names will be added to the EIGCA Sustainability Register.

Before and after these seminars was some Golf. First up was at the PGA National Links Course. The course is a great example of modern golf development, luckily for me the growing season in Sweden is only a couple of weeks old and the rough was short enough to find the errant tee shots! In the days that followed the Presidents Cup was contested on rounds at Ljunghusens (1932) and Falsterbo (1909) Golf Clubs, these two great courses are set about as far south as you can go in Sweden and need a blog of their own to do them justice, the wind was blowing 3-4 clubs, something told me that this was a calm as it would get! After a couple of days of hitting the ball well tee to green I suspect that Ross’s and I scores were somewhere mid table of the 65 or so golfers, Robin did rather better winning the overall event after an impressive total of 74 stableford points. I think the trophy will be displayed with pride in his office!

The AGM took place on the Thursday, it was an opportunity for important issues to be discussed and new President Peter Fjällman was voted in. He has taken over from Rainer Preissmann who has done an excellent job over the past couple of years. After the AGM it was time for the Industry Partners dinner. It was a great opportunity to meet and catch up with friends; I am really looking forward to working with them all in the future.

The morning after the night before started with a series of presentations on Nordic golf. There were some great speakers and the courses in the area are as good as any in the world and should be on the to-do list for any golfer. The rest of the day was filled with some interesting talks from EIGCA members and other industry experts. Later that evening I returned home but many stayed for the Presidents dinner, I hear from Ross and Robin that it was a great evening and there is a lot of optimism for the future. It was a fantastic week and I’m looking forward to next year’s event already. A big thank you must go to Julia and Sue for all their hard work!

Above: EIGCA President Peter Fjällman (left) & past President Rainer Preissmann

Above: Falsterbo Golf Club

How to construct a revetted bunker

Have you ever wanted to build your own revetted bunker? Well now is your chance, below is a rough guide, if you would like more detailed information, please do not hesitate to contact us!

Working in vicinity of irrigation systems and other services
This is important! Check you are not working near irrigation lines or other services. If you are, mark them with clearly with flags or something similar.

Bunker Locations and Topsoil Stripping
The location and elevations should be clearly marked using stakes and paint. Remove the turf and store it if it is in good enough condition to be reused. After this the topsoil can be stripped and stockpiled.

Shaping and Subgrade
Bunker Complexes include the bunker site and adjacent mounds and hollows. The shaping is normally carried out using a backhoe with swivel bucket or small excavator. The final shaping needs to direct water away from the bunker as erosion and contamination of sand is costly. All bunker subgrade should be properly graded, raked, free from all weeds, compacted and be shaped to a uniform level 100mm below the desired finished grade.

Revetting the bunker
The turf may now be placed around the bunker edge. Start by laying the bottom layer around the base of the bunker. The slabs should be laid one on top of the other (offset like brickwork) until the desired height is reached. As a general guide, greenside bunkers should be at an angle of 135°. To achieve this each slab should be laid 40mm further back than its predecessor. For fairway bunkers a slightly more forgivable face angle of 145° is desirable (slabs laid 60mm behind each other). It should be noted that if the face is too steep it is likely to collapse. As the turf is laid, the over excavated area should be filled using native material. The bunker construction detail illustrates this clearly. The turf should be laid around the extremity of the bunker shape gradually getting lower until the desired back lip height is reached, this should be low enough so all golfers can step in and out of the bunker easily.

Drainage
The next step is to excavate a hole for the soakaway. This should be dug by hand in the lowest part of the bunker and measure 1m³ (this may be adjusted in accordance with the surface area of the bunker). If perorated pipe is required then It should be installed using the herringbone method prior laying the turf slabs.

Coring
– The bunker floors should be cleaned out and graded smooth. All cuttings from coring and edging should be removed along with any stones that lie on the bunker floor and edging.
– No ridges or barriers shall remain on the subgrade that inhibits the flow of water. The final phase of coring is the compaction of the bunker floor, this may be done manually or mechanically.
– The stockpiled topsoil should then be re-distributed around the bunker to a level consistent with the existing golf course and the specified turf can then be laid up to the revetted edge.

Sand Placement
On completion sand should be placed in the bunker to a finished depth of 100mm. Layers no more than 50mm deep should be raked into place and compacted. The sand at the sides can be a little deeper to prevent the ball getting trapped at a right angle between the revetted face and sand.

The construction detail and photo below should make the above a little clearer!

Above: Revetted bunker detail

Above: Revetted bunker during construction

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’.

Sustainability – The Centre Pole at the Centre of Golf’s Tent!

“Sustainability is absolutely the centre pole that keeps this whole Olympic tent up”. So says Head of Deliverance Ian Fletcher in the BBC comedy ‘Twenty Twelve’, the spoof series based on the organisation of the 2012 Olympic Games. It’s a metaphor, often used by the lead character, played brilliantly by Hugh Bonneville, to express the central importance of various issues as the Olympic Delivery Commission lurches from crisis to crisis.

Yet is this metaphor so far from the truth? I’d argue that sustainability is becoming the ‘centre pole’ for many new developments. At European Golf Design sustainability is certainly at the heart of our design process. From the early stages of any project we work hard to create courses which exhibit a positive environmental, social and economic benefit.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s the principal concern was the environment. At that time there were growing concerns about the impact of golf, especially regarding the use of water and the effects of chemicals and fertilisers on natural habitats and water courses. Environmental Assessments were incorporated into the UK planning system in 1988, and this led to projects having to compensate for any negative environmental impacts.

In the mid-1990s the Committed to Green initiative led the way in giving golf a voice within the environmental lobby and for the past decade that task has been led by the Golf Environment Organisation (GEO). It has taken many years for the golf industry to put across the message that golf is not the blight on the landscape that many perceive, and in fact golf courses which are properly designed, constructed and managed can actually benefit local ecology and provide valuable green space.

But it is no longer just the environment that concerns us. Today’s developments not only need to demonstrate a greater degree of environmental awareness, they also need to achieve higher standards of social and economic stewardship. Sustainability is defined as the relationship between these three elements.

GEO is dedicated to ensuring that golf leads the way in the development and management of sustainable projects and at European Golf Design we work closely with GEO to help all of our projects meet the appropriate sustainability criteria. As part of our commitment to sustainability, three of our staff will soon be taking part in an important new initiative jointly organised by the European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA) and GEO.

The EIGCA’s ‘Raising the Standard of Sustainable Golf Course Design Programme’ will be the first Continuing Professional Development course on sustainable golf in the world. Those who attend the course will learn design principals based on the six action areas that comprise Sustainable Golf: Water, Energy & Resources, Environmental Quality, Landscape & Ecosystems, People & Communities and Products & Supply Chains. In the final phase of the programme, designers will need to demonstrate their understanding through the submission of a real case study. Those who successfully complete the programme will then be listed on a Sustainable Design Register.

It is an important step forward for golf and one that will hopefully lead to real improvements in the standard of golf course design and also in the way that golf developments are perceived outside the industry.

If sustainability wasn’t the ‘centre pole’ of the golf course design tent before, then it is definitely moving closer to the centre now, and to quote Ian Fletcher once again, “were it not for that centre pole at the centre, then how would we know where the centre was”!

The year has started well

It’s time for one of those slightly generic ‘where have we been lately’ blogs.

It’s been a pretty busy few weeks for us all. Matt and Alex have been holding things together in the office, working on new web sites, tournament staging plans for the European Tour and production plans for a new layout in Slovakia as well as one in the UK. Shara has been going through the year-end audit process as well as completing all of the projections for the coming financial year, in addition to all of the normal tasks like invoicing, collection, expenses, timesheets and drinking hippy tea.

Mac the dog continues to come in most days with Alex. He doesn’t, in truth, contribute much to the overall profitability of the company, but adds greatly to everyone’s general well-being. Riley the dog also makes an appearance every now and then when Gary is actually here.

On the design side, we’ve recently made trips to St Kitts with Ian Woosnam to see the work we’re doing with him at Kittitian Hills, we’ve been to Manchester, Istanbul, Evian, the Cotswolds, Casablanca, Marrakech, the Midlands, Madrid, Antalya and South Africa. In the next couple of weeks, we’ve also got visits to Azerbaijan, Croatia and Holland planned. There’s some very exciting news resulting from at least two of those that we hope to be able to announce in the next couple of weeks. The year has started well for the projects we’re already involved with and seems to be highly encouraging in terms of the number of new enquiries coming in.