Kyle Taggart – Life as a Construction Supervisor

My name is Kyle Taggart and I joined the EGD team in July ’14 as construction supervisor at the Dubai Hills Estate golf and residential project in the United Arab Emirates. For the previous 20+ years I have worked in the golf and turf industry in varying capacities, across five different continents and the most extreme climatic opposites conceivable. My passion for the game and hands on experience, teamed with a turfgrass management diploma has led me down this unique career path focused on delivering high quality golf experiences.

Working in the Middle East region isn’t for the faint of heart. Being positioned along the southern coast of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula, the weather conditions go from warm to hot to borderline inhumane. I have personally experienced temperatures in the high 50’s, then magnified by stifling humidity. With more than 200 nationalities co-existing in Dubai there is constant language, religious and cultural differences, but in my opinion, this just adds to the allure of the UAE. Security, tolerance, advanced infrastructure and (of course) tax-free income are the main factors attracting the majority of the approximately 7.8 million expats, which equate to more than 85% of the country’s total population.

This is my second ‘tour of duty’ in Dubai, the first being employed in a contractors’ role during construction of Jumeirah Golf Estates. That was a turbulent ride as we witnessed the peaks and valleys of the volatile real estate market before, during and after the global financial collapse in 2008-2009. JGE has hosted the year end DP World Tour Championship since ’09 and there is definitely a sense of achievement to witness the Earth Course manicured in all her glory, elevating the design intent to its fullest. Watching some of the games’ best battle it out in the EPGA’s richest event is a fantastic way to wind up the year.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have travelled and lived in such a plethora of countries and cultures. You have to accept repeated temporary living arrangements in this profession but I am incredibly fortunate to have seen so much thus far. My global experiences have brought copious amounts of learning along the journey and I wouldn’t trade that for a 9-5, suit and tie job. While working abroad in the golf construction industry can be a love-hate relationship at times, I do not anticipate losing the passion any time soon.

Kyle Taggart

Originally from Powell River, BC, Canada & currently living in ‘The Sandpit’

Kyle_Taggart

Kyle_Taggart

Kyle_Taggart

Kyle_Taggart

EIGCA AGM and Conference

By Alex Hay.

Last week Gary, Ross, Dave and myself attended the annual EIGCA conference and AGM at the Marine Hotel in North Berwick. It was a great trip that involved golf at North Berwick West Links and Gullane no. 2, courses that attracted golf architects and industry specialists from all over the world. Along with golf and the AGM, a conference day featured guest speakers covering a wide range of topics including ‘Growing the Game’, Flat v’s Undulating Greens’ and ‘Rating GB&I’s Top 100 Courses’.

For many reasons it’s probably best I don’t go into details about the golf, congratulations to Paul Kimber and Niall Glen though who picked up first and second prize in the President’s Cup respectively. The prizes were awarded at the President’s dinner which also saw Peter Fjällman hand over to Tom Mackenzie.

Thank you to all at the EIGCA for organising the event, their industry partners who make it all possible and North Berwick and Gullane Golf Club for making us most welcome. We are looking forward to next year already!

North Berwick West Links

North Berwick West Links

From Gullane to Berwick Law

From Gullane to Berwick Law

From Berwick Law to the West Links and beyond1

From Berwick Law to the West Links and beyond

 

 

A "work experience" at European Golf Design

Spending time at a golf design company has been a great experience, learning how the course for which the game I love to play is created has opened my eyes to a new dimension of golf. The process of design is far more complicated than the average golfer could ever imagine, but the guys at EGD explained it all; enabling me to have a good go at it whilst not feeling that I was shooting blind. After spending several days shifting around hole shapes on a site map, trying to get my head around what would work and what wouldn’t.

After coming up with an eighteen-hole plan I assumed that the drawing of fairways and greens would be straightforward. In fact it was challenging to get them to work with the space available and to fit with the contours of the site. Learning how to grade the land and attempt to flatten some areas while considering drainage was a painstaking process which involved much trial and error; but the result was very satisfactory when right.

Spending time in a place with such a warm and welcoming atmosphere has been a great experience. I learned a lot about golf course design, as well as not to put a sausage roll anywhere near a dog again. It was a pleasure working there, and getting to know everyone at EGD.

Dan Steele.

18 Holes on 25 hectares; you must be joking I thought!

For years Robin has been telling us about Painswick Golf Club in the Cotswolds. Last week we finally managed to get there to see it for ourselves; it didn’t let anyone down.

After a monster breakfast we were thrown in at the deep end, a 220 yard par 4 which on the scorecard looks like a very friendly start; wrong, it plays 25m up the hill to a blind green with a 15ft quarry in front of it. It must be one of the shortest holes that is virtually un-driveable. So the first hole breaks some our ‘rules of golf architecture’, and so does almost every hole after that, there are blind par 3’s, shared fairways, crossing holes, and last but not least, holes playing over roads and even cross roads.

Having said all that it was as much fun as I’ve ever had on a golf course, for every shot there was a choice of 3 or 4 clubs, and for every club there was 3 or 4 shot options, you definitely have to think your way round this course and I look forward to returning knowing it a little better, I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing to be honest, blissful ignorance helped me a few times the first time round!

Above: Pano from 6th tees

Above: Approaching the 15th Green

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!

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

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

Design Influences from the Past

Since studying for a VQ with the European Institute of Golf Course Architects I have become familiar with the design work of a Philadelphian named Albert Warren Tillinghast. Known affectionately by his friends as ‘Tillie’, he is recognised by many as one of the most colourful and outlandish characters of the games’ history.

After his death in 1942, for more than 30 years Tillie became a forgotten man. It was not until 1973 when Frank Hannigan and his colleagues from the USGA realised that four of their ten tournaments in 1974 would be played on Tillinghast courses. His story would finally be told.

Albert Warren Tillinghast was born in Frankford, Philadelphia on May 7, 1874. His father founded and managed a very successful rubber company operating plants in Philadelphia and Baltimore. Albert grew up with little discipline and was largely left to his own devices, he never lasted long at any school he attended and spent much of his time playing a street version of rugby with local gangs.

After a few years playing cricket, Tillingast eventually fell in love with the game of golf. During the 1890’s he travelled to Scotland with his family. It was here that he met and received golf lessons from Old Tom Morris, he went on to become a very established player and featured in many of the early majors.

Above: Tillinghast in the undergrowth

Tillinghast returned to the US. He was married at the age of 20 and became a typical sporting gentleman of the ‘roaring twenties’; he was a heavy drinker, lavish spender, master talker, flashy dresser and talented pianist. His magnificent waxed moustache became his trademark.

In 1907 a family friend named Charles Worthington invited Tillinghast to lay out a course on the Delaware River at Shawnee. The course proved an instant success and although it was not hugely influential at the time, it was whilst working on this project that, at 32 years of age, he had found a career.

Tillinghast was part of what has become known as the Philadelphian School of design. In the years leading up until World War I a group of men from Pennsylvania dreamed of building first rate golf courses and went on to do so. The other primary members of this group were William Fownes, George Crump, Hugh Wilson, George Thomas and William Flynn. They often met and discussed course design. One of George Crump’s most famous holes, the 7th at Pine Valley, or Hell’s Half Acre as it is known, is often accredited to Tillinghast.

He went on to design some of America’s greatest golf courses including Winged Foot East and West, San Francisco Golf Club, Somerset Hills, Bethpage Black, Baltusrol and Quaker Ridge.

Above: Bobby Jones plays from greenside bunker on Baltusrol’s 17th hole in 1926

Tillinghast also wrote on the subject of course design extensively for Golf Illustrated, the American Golfer, the PGA of America and numerous other leading journals of his era. It is widely thought that many of his design principles formed the foundation for the development of the golf courses we see today.

In 1937, Tillinghast moved to Beverley Hills, California, where he opened an antique shop. He started off selling personal belongings that he and his wife had collected over the years. After a couple years trading it is said that a majority of the movie stars either knew him well or bought from him.

Albert Warren Tillinghast had a fatal heart attack on May 19, 1942. He was buried at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Toledo, Ohio.

All though by no means a prolific designer, Tillinghast is regarded by many as the best of his era. The sheer number of national and international tournaments that have been held on Tillinghast courses is testament to the quality of his design work. Bethpage, Baltusrol and Winged Foot have all hosted recent major championships.

I am confident, whether they are aware of it or not, that every golf course architect operating today has been influenced, at some point, by the work of Albert Warren Tillinghast.

How to design a golf course for the Ryder Cup

European Golf Design, the golf course design company of the European Tour and IMG, has created some of the most successful professional tournament courses in Europe, including the Twenty Ten Course at the Celtic Manor Resort, venue of the 2010 Ryder Cup. In this feature interview, Jeremy Slessor, Managing Director of EGD, and designer Ross McMurray discuss the factors owners, investors and developers must consider in making their tournament course a success with the public as well as the professionals, and reveal the extraordinary challenges of a designing a golf course for one of the world’s biggest sporting events, the Ryder Cup.

How did you become involved with the design of the golf course for the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort?
Ross: “We were approached by the owner, Sir Terry Matthews, whose vision it was to bring the Ryder Cup bid to Wales. Having just opened a third course at Celtic Manor, the original intention was to design a fourth course, specifically for the event. However, the Usk Valley is a challenging landscape with steep slopes, and it would have been impossible to create a new course there that could have been walked twice in a day, which is required in the Ryder Cup.”

So, what was the solution?
Ross: “We began looking at sites close to the venue, but kept hitting the same hurdles.
We persevered, looking at various concepts, before agreeing a scheme to build nine new holes and add them to nine on what was then the Wentwood Hills Course. It took ten years of diligent design and construction, but ultimately it was this concept which came to pass at the 2010 Ryder Cup.”

Besides the golf course itself, what factors must be considered when designing a Ryder Cup venue?
Jeremy: “The infrastructure required is phenomenal. It’s much more than we deal with when masterplanning courses for European Tour events. The primary concern is the volume of spectators. There can be upwards of 40-45,000 people who, because of the nature of the Ryder Cup, want to see the start and stay to the end of play. So you have to consider this and how you get them onto and off the site, so transportation is fundamental.”

What else do you have to take into account?
Jeremy: “The media must be looked after, as they take the Ryder Cup to the world and so the media centre is a small community in its own right. A significant amount of space is required for a tented village, which is occupied by sponsors and retailers. Then there’s catering to consider – it must be possible to deliver food to the site, cook it and then clean up afterwards. So the whole event is a significant logistical challenge and the golf course design has to fit into the overall masterplan for the site.”

Does this actually impact on the course design?
Ross: “Definitely. In fact, the first tee on the Twenty Ten Course had originally been designed close to the clubhouse, but was moved more than 200 metres in order to facilitate the tented village and the media centre. I was actually able to come up with a potential design for the new nine-holes relatively quickly. However, there were so many considerations that impacted on the course layout, it ultimately took nearly six years to finalise the routing.”

Forever remembered as the wettest Ryder Cup ever, had you factored in the weather to your plans?
Ross: “It had been a point of discussion from the outset. Any outdoor event in Wales at the end of September has to expect some rain. Having three courses already, the resort had an understanding for what was needed to improve the drainage, but we had more to consider than just rainwater. In the event of heavy rain, the course was also threatened by rising floodwater from the River Usk and the local high-ground water tables.”

So what did you do?
Ross: “We raised the ground level around the river with a bund to prevent flooding and put perforated drainpipes through every fairway using a combination of drains and catch basins to capture surface water. We worked closely with the project engineers and the contractors to develop an overall drainage scheme which we felt would handle any eventuality. We wanted to ensure we’d done everything we could in order to protect the course from wet conditions. And thank goodness we did, as it was only because of those precautions that the Ryder Cup was completed.”

What was Sir Terry Matthews like to work with?
Jeremy: “He is very driven and demanding, but he’s very reasonable, too. He drove the project from beginning to end with the single goal of putting on the most successful Ryder Cup of all time and he would not take ‘no’ for an answer. The word just isn’t in his vocabulary. “On a number of occasions we were faced with a situation where all options seemed exhausted, but he couldn’t accept that. Invariably, we found a solution and learned a valuable lesson from that – if you look hard enough, you almost always find a solution to a seemingly insurmountable problem.”

Ross: “What I found admirable, was how he had put a great management team together who worked exceptionally with all the consultants involved in the process. It was a fantastic team to work for and over the years on the project, we got to know each other very well, learning how each other worked – it definitely made a positive impact on the overall result because we all pulled together, cohesively to ensure the Ryder Cup would be as good as it could be.”

You mention that Sir Terry wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer, but are there occasions when a developer must listen to his team and moderate their hopes?
Ross: “Yes, absolutely. There are times when you must stand up and be counted, particularly when it comes to environmental issues. It is important to be responsible and developers are generally receptive to a professional opinion, provided there is sound reasoning behind it.”

What do you say to developers when they ask you to design a tournament course?
Jeremy: “The first question we ask is why they want a tournament course. There are occasions where it just isn’t suitable to build a facility of that stature. One of the mistakes some developers have made in the past, particularly in emerging markets, is building tournament courses without thinking who their paying customers are going to be day-to-day. Supply and demand in a locality are key factors and if the local market is ignored, commercial success can take longer than it should.”

How might a developer in a new golfing territory increase domestic demand for golf?
Jeremy: “We design different types of golf facilities including nine-hole par-3 courses, golf academies, practice areas as well as club courses, European Tour courses and Ryder Cup courses. In some circumstances, supplementing a championship golf course with an academy will provide the necessary nucleus to stimulate domestic participation.”

Does creating a tournament golf course reduce its playability for the golfing public?
Ross: “With creative design, you can ensure that all golfers can enjoy even the most demanding of tournament courses. We design the course so that the landing areas for public golfers are substantially wider than for professionals. We have to be careful that bunkers aren’t so difficult that golfers of all abilities can’t escape from them, while providing enough of a challenge to tour professionals. It’s a fine line, but it is possible.”

Is the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor Resort an example of that?
Ross: “I believe so. It is certainly a demanding course, but it has become hugely popular with golf tourists and the feedback we have had has all been positive. Golfers appreciate that they’re playing a Ryder Cup course and they expect there to be a level of difficulty they’re not used to.”

How will your experience at Celtic Manor Resort influence your work at Le Golf National, Paris, ahead of the 2018 Ryder Cup?
Jeremy: “Le Golf National is a very different project compared with Celtic Manor Resort, but the experience that we gained in Wales will be crucial. Although it has hosted the Alstom Open de France, this is a much bigger event.”

What changes are you making to the golf course itself?
Ross: “Although there are some strategic changes to make, we will avoid significant alterations because there are so many aspects of the course which golfers really enjoy. Some bunkers will be moved, or upgraded, to offer more of a challenge to long-hitters – and the Ryder Cup demands a greater variety of flag positions than the existing greens offer, so we will rectify that. We will also move some of the tees to make the holes a little more interesting. Most of the major alterations we are planning to the golf course are to provide improved infrastructure, viewing and spectator circulation for the event. In particular we will be looking to create extensive areas for hospitality, using the experience we gained from Celtic Manor.”

Having spent more than ten years working towards it, what are your feelings looking back at the 2010 Ryder Cup?
Ross: “I am quite sentimental about it now. I thought I’d be glad for it to be over, but I do miss it and how it would occupy my day-to-day thoughts. It is the absolute highlight of my career; it isn’t everyone who gets an opportunity to design a course for the Ryder Cup. I think the memory of Graeme McDowell sinking his putt on the 16th will be with me forever.”