With the Wales Open only six weeks away, and the Ryder Cup a little less than five months after that, the finishing touches have now being made to the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor Resort.
Last week some of the staff here at European Golf Design had the opportunity to visit Celtic Manor and see first hand what has been going on.
Over the winter Ross has been working closely with Jim McKenzie and his staff as the final few tweaks were made to some of the bunkers on the original holes to ensure that their style was consistent with those on the new holes. One of the most important aspects for us during the development of the Twenty Ten Course has been to ensure that there is a seamless progression between the nine new holes and the nine holes retained from the previous course. At the outset we were determined to make the bunkers on the new holes deeper and more penal with rolling grass faces blending into the flashed up sand to improve the visual aesthetics. As a result all the bunkers on the old holes have been remodelled in the same style by Jim’s team. Many have also been repositioned to improve their strategic value or reshaped to resolve other maintenance issues.
European Ryder Cup Team Captain Colin Montgomerie has also been involved. Following a course inspection last autumn Colin suggested some improvements to the par 5 11th hole and subsequently Ross and Jim have coordinated some major revisions to the green surrounds. The bunkers have been made more penal and the entrance into the green tightened. In addition a drop off on the left side of the green has been carved out which will kick any ball missing the target on that side down and away from the putting surface, towards the water. As a consequence this relatively short par 5 will now have a couple of much tougher pin positions and the approach to the green will need a great deal more thought.
Following other comments from Colin and feedback following the last Wales Open the opportunity has also been taken to adjust some fairway and rough outlines around the course to enhance the playing strategy.
With the completion of the Ryder Cup practice area and the opening of the bridge across the River Usk which will link it to the golf course, as well as the installation of numerous new tarmac roads and pathways to facilitate easier access for spectators and vehicles, the last 12 months have been another hugely busy period at Celtic Manor Resort. The Wales Open which starts on June 3rd will be a great opportunity for players and spectators alike to see what’s in store before the big event in October.
Michael King has always been one very English golfer, who won on tour and played in the 1979 Ryder Cup. But after severe arthritis forced him to retire, he has helped design some of the best courses in Europe. Bill Elliott meets the man whose friends call him ‘Queenie’…
In these days of pre-prepared golf professionals, of young men who are already battle-hardened and media savvy before their short game is complete, it can pay to reflect on the way it used to be on the European Tour.
Believe me – if in this mood – there is no finer companion with whom to reminisce about the good, daft old days than Michael King, or ‘Queenie’ as he is affectionately known to friends and foes alike. Yes, even his foes usually confess to an instinctive liking for the tall Englishman who blossomed briefly but well on the European circuit between 1974 and the mid 1980s.
Interesting bloke, Mike. Along with a small waterfall of hair that seems to grow thicker as he ages, he always has carried himself with that easy charm so particularly accessible to a certain type of Englishman. My own early memories of him are of a pro golfer who stood out because he always seemed happy and he appeared to own a wardrobe consisting exclusively of the finest cashmere.
When I mentioned this to him, he laughed: “Oh, I’ve always had a champagne taste for life no matter how much I’ve actually been earning.”
These days Mike earns his living pressing the flesh of potential clients for European Golf Design, the course design experts owned jointly by the Tour and IMG and whose glittering portfolio of completed projects includes this year’s Ryder Cup venue at Celtic Manor. King himself has been signature designer on two of EGD’s projects, Ribagolfe II in Portugal and Marriott Worsley Park near Manchester.
How he got to where he is today, however, is a story of good luck, bad luck and debilitating illness. It is also not quite as posh as many of us once suspected.
Born in Reading to an estate agent father, he initially flew in the face of his insouciant image by attending state schools before heading off to the sports-mad Millfield School in Somerset. Here his dormitory head boy was JPR Williams (who, of course, became a legend of Welsh Rugby), while next door a certain Gareth Edwards plotted his own ascent of the old, biff-bash game.
Despite such neighbouring peers, Mike’s game of choice was golf. He was good too, playing twice in the Walker Cup (1969 and ’73) before heading off to the City to play at stockbroking.
His future, however, was rudely mapped out for him when he lost everything in the great crash of 1974. At 24 years of age he was broke. It was then that someone suggested he make use of the one skill he appeared to have, playing golf. So with the help of friends – names like Steven Evans, Eddie Healey and the late, great photographer Laurence Levy spill out of him as he reflects on the men who helped forge his life – he joined the circuit where, inevitably, he stood out and not just because he was over 6ft 2ins tall. Whereas the majority of pros back then seemed to have come from the hard world of club golf, King seemed to have lolloped his way onto the tour.
Nothing, however, could have been further from the truth. For a start he had an overdraft of £800 the day he turned pro and he had also just been diagnosed with the cruel beginnings of ankylosing spondylitis, an arthritic condition of the spine. The fact is that right from the start, Michael King knew that as a top-flight player he was going to face the end sooner rather than later.
“I always knew that, yes, but I was also determined not to let it stop me trying to enjoy myself. And I did quite well I suppose. I was quite a good golfer, certainly a good striker of the ball. That said, I was also probably the most mentally inept player in the world. If I was doing well I’d start making a speech in my head but by the time I’d completed it, I’d finished sixth.”
This was not always true, or at least once it wasn’t. In the autumn of 1979 he finally got to make that speech when he won the impressively titled SOS Talisman TPC at Moor Park in Yorkshire to finish the year the fifth ranked player in Europe. The previous week he had played in the Ryder Cup in West Virginia.
“Ah yes,” he recalls. “The Ryder Cup… I only got to play in the singles, sadly. John [Jacobs, the captain of that ill-fated venture] kept telling me I was due to play but then he kept putting me back so I had little else to do but practise and that meant I was really ready to go when we got to Leeds the following week.”
Five years later the arthritis had really kicked in and so reluctantly he had to give up his life as a touring pro. It was a tough time – and certainly tougher than he even now lets on – but once again a lot of friends rallied round. “You know, the friendships one forges on the way up are vitally important because you need those friends when you are moving in the opposite direction.”
These friends include the likes of Sam Torrance, David Feherty, Nick Job, Greg Norman and so many others. “These pals encouraged me out on to the golf course to partner them even though back then I struggled to knock the ball 150 yards off the tee. It meant a lot and it still does.”
By the time his arthritis hit hard, he had been a member of the players’ committee and the Tour’s board of directors. Behind the Roger Moore image lurks a more serious and thoughtful man than he would ever wish you to know but the Tour hierarchy had indeed noticed this and so offered him a role that involved meeting and, as always, effortlessly charming potential sponsors. It is from this role that he has segued into his job at EGD and a position he now clearly loves.
He still plays golf too. These games take place at Sunningdale, the club he first joined in 1968 and which offers him the sort of vaguely PG Wodehouse environment that he relishes. He joined as a young amateur because Gerald Micklem, the first gentleman of English amateur golf, told him it was a good idea. Not for the first time, Micklem was spot on.
His hero was Jack Nicklaus and one of his biggest thrills came when he was paired with the great man over the opening rounds of the 1981 Open at St George’s. Unfortunarely their afternoon three-ball – Jumbo Ozaki made up the trio – hit the mother of all Channel storms that day. Nicklaus returned 81, Mike hit 82. When I bumped into him that evening he grimaced and said: “I’ve dreamt of beating Jack and on the one day he shoots over 80 I lose to him by one.” The following day saw Nicklaus shoot 65 to make the cut. Queenie missed out.
Did I mention that Michael ‘Queenie’ King could charm for England? What is also true is that we won’t see his like again on the pro circuit, let alone feel that quality of cashmere.
by Bill Elliott, Golf Monthly.
Jack Nicklaus and Michael King during the 1981 Open at St George’s
Since a very successful cooperation with EGD in the Czech Republic during the design work and construction of Casa Serena, my professional relationship with Robin Hiseman, Jeremy Slessor and whole EGD group has developed into a warm, personal friendship. So, I was very happy to get the opportunity to come back to the office for a week again this year and meet the team. The previous visit was split into two parts, with office work experience and practical exercises on the golf course. As I come from a country without any coastline and where the golf tradition is short by comparison to the UK, my aim was to visit the classical heathland and links courses. This year, I was privileged to visit and play Swinley Forest and Hayling golf clubs, both of which were great playing experiences. I am proud also that my game, so deep in the winter, was good enough for me to shoot 77 at Swinley Forest! The usual match play competition with Robin was enriched with his very valuable golf course architectural observations. Robin´s focus on details, feeling for landscape and good will to share his golf architectural ideas during his work at Casa Serena started up my personal interest in golf course architecture. It has grown in time into a real passion for me. This time, I brought my current design project with me, to be reviewed by both Robin and Gary Johnston. Gary and Robin´s notes on the design strategy and technical details of the grading plan have been very helpful.
I am currently working as a construction manager and site surveyor on golf developments in both the Czech and Slovak Republics. Thanks to my job I have the opportunity to combine my technical construction knowledge with the differing design styles and working methods of the golf architects, notably the quality of the drawings and the attention to detail during the construction site visit. Let me say that the overall quality and professionalism of EGD is top of the class!
My week at EGD went too quickly, unfortunately, but the visit on Sunday, my last day, to the extraordinary Painswick Golf Club was a real cherry on the top of the cake.
I have to thank to everyone at EGD for making me feel very welcome!
2009 is nearly over. New contracts have been signed for courses in Egypt, Holland, Russia, Portugal and Cyprus. Construction is underway in Russia and Holland, and courses completed in Scotland, Greece and Bulgaria. New websites designed for Paul Casey and Colin Montgomerie’s Foundation. Looking back on 2009 here are our own individual highlights:
Jeremy – Can’t limit myself to one highlight of the year; Working at EGD was a highlight. We’ve a great group of people. Each is talented for their respective area of responsibility. Being part of that experience, competency and professionalism is a real pleasure.
Seeing great courses designed by Ross, Stan, Rob, Gary and Dave was a real treat. I’m the lucky one – I get to see what everyone is doing. It’s a fantastically impressive body of work.
Speaking at a number of conferences (US, Denmark, UK, Spain and Amsterdam) this year was very interesting, if only to gauge how we’re doing compared to others in the industry. We’re doing well by comparison.
Stan – Returning to Sporting Club Berlin after several years and catching up with old friends.
Ross – Two things stand out and both from courses we’re working on with Colin Montgomerie. Firstly, working with the shapers at The Dutch trying to create a unique character for the golf course, and secondly the opening for play of Rowallan Castle Golf Club in Scotland.
Shara – Conquering my fear of heights – riding the London Eye at the Christmas Party.
Gary – Finally getting to play on the Old Course at St Andrews and going out in level par – just don’t ask about the back 9!
Matt – 2009 has been a very enjoyable year. Working with our Parent Companies I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with not only some of the World’s best golfers working on player websites but also to have produced tournament graphics for some of the World’s top golfing events. A particular highlight has been the Elizabeth Montgomerie Foundation website and related social media. Being part of Colin Montgomerie’s team helping raising money for those affected by cancer has been a very rewarding experience.
Dave – My highlight has to be the site trips to our project at Zavidovo. We have been very fortunate to have two of the very best shapers building the golf course, and it has been a pleasure and education watching, learning and working with them.
Alex – Seeing a picture one of my plans for Palm City on a sign in Denmark, the size of a house.
Robin – Standing on the proposed 2nd tee of our new project site near Madrid. Having sketched out a routing on the topographic map I thought this hole might turn out quite well when I went to the site to check it out for the first time. However, I wasn’t prepared for just how spectacular this hole could turn out. I got a huge adrenaline rush standing here thinking this could become one of the World’s great par 5’s. Reminded me why I love this career so much.
Sarah – Attending the KPMG Golf Business Forum at Celtic Manor and sharing a mini bus with Arnold Palmer.
Thrill seekers Dave Sampson and Gary Johnston during the EGD Christmas Party
Riffa Views, in Bahrain has won a 5-star Award for ‘Best Golf Real Estate Development’ at the prestigious CNBC Arabian Property Awards 2009. The award highlights Riffa Views as a leading golf and residential development in a tough economic climate and has helped elevate Bahrain as a residential destination. Since opening this year, the course has hosted a number of prominent tournaments including the Gulf Air International Pro-Captain Challenge and the Middle Eastern Final of the Faldo Series.
The luxury Riffa Views development has over 900 villas built around the acclaimed Montgomerie Course, designed by Colin Montgomerie in association with Robin Hiseman of European Golf Design. Hiseman commented, “We were delighted to hear that Riffa Views has won this prestigious award and feel it is wholly justified for the very high standard of the whole Riffa Views development. The developer was very accommodating in providing us with the space and investment necessary to provide a world class golf course and we expect this to be just the tip of the iceberg with the plaudits that Riffa Views will receive. It’s a great place to live and a fun golf course to play”.
Colin Montgomerie added “The course has all the characteristics to make it one of the top courses in the Middle East. Of all the region’s desert courses that profess to offer a links type experience, we believe that Riffa Views is clearly the most authentic. It is a very classy development and a special layout to play. I’m very proud to have my name attached to it.”
The impressive Montgomerie Golf Course at Riffa Views
I was very excited to hear the news that on the 16th of November I would start a weeks work experience at European Golf Design. I have always been a keen golfer and I currently work at Dale Hill Golf Club so I was looking forward to seeing the design aspect of the golf industry.
Work experience is normally associated with photocopying paper and filing notes but this definitely was not the case! Monday morning came around quickly and after meeting the team I was put under the wing of Designer, Gary Johnston. My task, design a golf course! I was given a plot of land in Berlin and after getting familiar with the constraints and contours I set to work. I went home that night wishing golf courses only had 17 holes; it was proving a lot more difficult than I anticipated!
By Tuesday morning I had a good outline of where all my holes would be placed so that they were within the boundaries and complimented the land. I decided on an inner and outer loop design, with my front 9 as the outer loop and the back 9 as the inner loop.
Now that my routing was set it was time to add the design features such as fairways, bunkers and greens. I learnt all about the different types of golf hole such as natural, strategic and penal. I tried to stick to a strategic design so that the golf course could be enjoyed by golfers of all standards. I continued my designing into Tuesday evening and had it ready for a big day on Wednesday, competition day!!!
Gary had informed me on Tuesday night that there would be a competition between me and another work experience student. We had to present 6 finished holes to him and fellow EGD designer Robin Hiseman and talk through all the reasoning behind the holes. Brian, my competitor was an experienced golfer studying golf science so I knew I was up against it! I kept my cards close to my chest and although I was slightly under prepared on technical issues of the course I was quietly confident going into the presentation room. Brian and I competently pitched our 6 holes and awaited a result. However, Like France vs Ireland a controversial decision was to follow! Gary and Rob called a draw! I was initially disappointed but a very worthwhile exercise, giving me a great chance to see how Brian had set about his course and what he’d done differently to me.
The week was going quickly and by Thursday I was on to grading the course. This was a concept I struggled to grasp straight away but Gary remained patient and did his best to show me the way. At this stage you have to focus in on one of your golf holes and add all your slopes, mounds and depressions. I managed to get two holes completed with all the interesting mounds and slopes I wanted whilst taking into account how the drainage would work. It’s easy to have the idea in your head but putting it onto paper for someone else to understand is quite a task!
Friday came around much too quickly for my liking but I had a great time working on my golf course and working here has made me even thirstier to pursue a career in the golf industry.
Lastly I need to say a few thank you’s:
To everyone for making me feel very welcome.
Gary – for teaching me everything I know about golf design
Jeremy – for setting everything up and allowing me to come here!
Football is well represented at EGD; it is often at the heart of a heated discussion especially on a Monday morning.
Starting in the back of the office we have Gary, a Glasgow Rangers fan, I don’t have much to say about Rangers apart from Gary could probably get in that team at the moment. It also helps getting tickets when your uncle is the Chairman!!
Robin and Dave are Spurs Fans. One would be too many. Sleeping Giants? I think they are in a coma. We mustn’t also forget Rob’s first love Halifax Town who languish in the Unibond league.
The Man Utd Mug belongs to Matt, he doesn’t like the diving that has come into the modern game and hates Ronaldo’s greasy hair, he was glad to see the back of him. His Favourite Utd player? I would say Wayne Rooney, of course, the toffees taught him everything that he knows.
Jeremy is a Gooner, he has not forked out for a mug though. Maybe he is not very proud. Or is it us? Maybe we haven’t seen it like Mr Wenger.
Sarah is a part time Liverpool fan, when they lose (quite often this season) she cheers on Fulham. I think she fits in better with the fans in South West London rather than the Merseysiders. She does own a pair of highly one sided Liverpool goggles though.
Shara, as far as I know the only team she supports is the one that her sons James and Sam play in. She is probably the most sensible of all of us.
Ross – he is a Hammer, currently they are in the relegation zone, the team that put them there last week with a win at Upton Park? Everton , that happens to be my team. The Pride of Merseyside.
Stan also likes football, his favourite team? The Chicago Bears. Huh.
Yesterday Gary, Dave, Rob and Myself were lucky enough to play the Old Course at Sunningdale. After throwing the balls up on the first tee Dave and I were paired together (again). This gave us the chance of some revenge after our defeat at Sunningdale Ladies. Dave started very well and we quickly found ourselves up in the match. We reached the turn 2 ahead. Robin and Gary were still upbeat though after I had given them 2 ‘ooslam’ bits after some sloppy putting on the par 3’s.
After I won a couple of bits back at 13 and 14 Dave and I found ourselves 3 up with 4 to play. However, Robin then made a good 3 at the 15th to keep the match going, I then went missing for the last 3 holes and Dave couldn’t quite hang on despite a great double sandy par at 17, the match ending in a half after some impressive golf from Gary.
I quite like writing these reports, I can skim over a match and not mention the duffs and tops that I hit, the snap hooks that Rob hit and the big push slices that Dave and Gary hit…. oops I just did… sorry chaps!
I should also mention that the course was in great condition, the new bunkering looked great and fits in really well. It was a pleasure to play. A big thanks goes to our Director and Sunningdale member Michael King for organising the game for us.
European Golf Design are pleased to announce the official opening of a new inner-city golf course in Glasgow designed by the company in partnership with Colin Montgomerie. Ruchill Community Golf Course has been developed on the site of the original Ruchill Golf Course which was closed by Glasgow City Council because of vandalism in the 1997. The completely new course has been built to provide accessible golf for the local community and in particular to offer golf tuition to juniors. In addition the course will act as a training centre for greenkeepers and club managers. The scheme has been aided by contributions from, amongst others, Sportscotland and The R and A and has the backing of the Scottish Golf Union.
The project received the enthusiastic support of Colin Montgomerie who officially opened the golf course this week.
Ross McMurray, one of the lead architects on the project for EGD said, “We were delighted to be able to assist Colin in the design of the golf course at Ruchill. This was an ambitious project which has taken a number of years to reach fruition, requiring the involvement of a wide range of different organisations working together in partnership. We are sure that this revitalised green space adjacent to the Forth and Clyde Canal will provide a focus for sport and education for the local community as well as a broader opportunity for social integration. There are few, if any, inner city golf projects of this kind in the UK but hopefully it will provide youngsters with a unique chance to develop an interest in golf which will last a life time.”