This Week at EGD

A busy week at EGD was topped off with the fantastic news that EGD Course Designer Dave Sampson has been named in Today’s Golfer “100 Most Influential People in Golf 2023.”

Dave came in 69th place, which is an incredible achievement.

“2023 Ryder Cup Course Creator

The Englishman has worked on many courses for European Golf Design, but he rose to prominence in September when the Ryder Cup visited his creation, Marco Simone. An original course was already in place, but Sampson had full licence to re-do it to make it Ryder Cup-ready.

It was a widely celebrated success as Europe prevailed and entered our Continental Europe ranking at No. 89.”

https://www.todays-golfer.com/features/player-features/100-most-influential-people-in-golf/

Image : Dave came in 69th place, which is an incredible achievement.

Also this week, after 3 weeks of constant rain and snow, Dave was back in Switzerland at Le Golf Club de Crans-sur-Sierre to continue work on greens 10 and 17. Crans-sur-Sierre is host to the Omega European Masters on the DP World Tour.

Image : Dave was back in Switzerland at Le Golf Club de Crans-sur-Sierre.

Gary Johnston spent the week in Dubai. First up, at Montgomerie Golf Club, where work is well underway on the new Par 3 Course and taking shape nicely. Following that, he was at Emaar South checking on his design, which is in the grow-in phase. Gary has history in Dubai, with the course he designed at Dubai Hills being named “Best Course in Dubai 2023” at the recent World Golf Awards.

Image : Gary spent the week in Dubai. First up, at Montgomerie Golf Club
Image : Gary at Emaar South checking on his design

EGD Designer Ross McMurray was in Fife, Scotland, at Elie Golf Club, which is one of the world’s oldest golf courses. Ross has been handed the prestigious task of renovating bunkers and tees around the delightful course. Elie has panoramic views over the Firth of Forth, and the course is steeped in history, dating back to 1589. James Braid, a 5-times winner of The Open who was born in nearby Earlsferry, described the 13th hole at Elie as ‘the best hole in golf’.

Image : EGD Designer Ross McMurray was in Fife, Scotland, at Elie Golf Club

JCB Golf & Country Club designer Robin Hiseman was out scouting for holes in the beautiful European countryside. With snow in the air and temperatures down to 1 degree C, Robin was in his element and “couldn’t be happier.” We will forgive him for the Spurs beanie hat he was wearing!

Image : We will forgive Robin for the Spurs beanie hat!

The 2023 Ryder Cup – EGD’s Marco Simone Story

The ability of journalists to analyse within moments of an event has never ceased to impress me, but has never been a skill I’ve possessed, so it’s taken me twenty-four hours or so to process the past week at Marco Simone. I hope you’ll bear with me, because this is the end of a nine year project and a lot has happened.

Towards the end of 2014, we were invited to visit Rome by the Federazione Italiana Golf (‘FIG’) to inspect courses for a possible bid for the 2022 Ryder Cup Matches. We looked at a couple of good golf courses that had no space to hold the necessary infrastructure for a Ryder Cup, we looked at a pretty awful course and then there was Marco Simone. My first impression – the course was not nearly long enough and was in need of a complete refurbishment, but it had more than enough space (and space meant ‘potential’) to host the Matches and so, on that basis, Marco Simone became the candidate venue for FIG’s bid.

It was during those initial visits that I met two amazing women – Laura and Lavinia Biagiotti, the owners of Marco Simone. Sadly Laura passed away in 2017 so never got to see the results of her effort, but I have no doubt that she would have been extraordinarily proud of Lavinia for getting through the years of turmoil and challenge. Lavinia’s assistant, Valentina Virgili and right-hand man, Marco Piermattei, also became invaluable colleagues and friends over the years.

Italy won the right to host the 2022 Matches at the end of 2015, almost exactly a year after my first visit. Part of the commitment from FIG and Marco Simone was that the course would be completely redesigned to create a purpose-built venue. It was at that point that the design process was handed to my colleague, Dave Sampson. It was a bit of a gamble, given his relative experience at the time, but I had seen enough of his work in Zavidovo, Jeddah and Switzerland to believe he was more than capable. He didn’t let me down!

The design process, and subsequent construction, was anything but simple. There were high-voltage powerlines to relocate, high-pressure gas pipelines to avoid (which always seemed to be right where we didn’t want them); there was archaeology in several key locations which, at one point, caused a redesign of at least two holes just days before the dozers were due to move in. In order to keep golf open for the members, we had to phase work in nine-hole blocks adding time and logistical hassle. And then there was COVID which, as well as shutting the project down for about four weeks, meant we had to take multiple PCR tests prior to each visit to be allowed on to site which, in effect, became a sterile environment with distance restrictions and the construction teams operating in isolated groups with no contact with anyone outside their group. It also meant that Ryder Cup 2022 became Ryder Cup 2023!

All the construction work finished in 2020 and the first Italian Open was staged in 2021. Since then, two further Opens have been staged, in September 2022 and May of this year, all of which gave valuable feedback to Captain Stenson and his team…until Captain Stenson was no more and Captain Donald took the helm, ably assisted by Eduardo ‘Dodo’ Molinari who seemingly has every golf statistic since the beginning of time at his fingertips.

It wasn’t just the course design that we handled – our colleague Matt Sturt produced all of the on and off-course graphics for Ryder Cup Europe.

And so we come to this past weekend. This was my 76th visit to Marco Simone since 2014 (Dave has done many, many more) and I’d like to think I know the place, but arriving on Thursday morning, I was speechless as the entirety of the Ryder Cup build came into view – what a sight! I knew the course would work; I was a little less sure about the logistics of getting 55,000 spectators, 1800 volunteers, thousands of employees, players and support staff onto, and off, the venue in a timely manner – as it turned out, apart from a few minor setbacks (and, compared to past Ryder Cup matches I have attended, I really do mean minor), it all worked beautifully. That it did so, as with all of the on-course facilities, is the work of many people and so, if you will allow me, I’d like to take a few moments to thank them.

  • First, everyone at Marco Simone, led by Lavina Biagiotti, with Valentina, Marco, Riccardo, Massimo, Emilio and the rest of the project team.
    Gian-Paolo Montali, Alessandro Mancini and Barbara Monteduro at FIG.
  • The guys at SOL Golf, especially Mike O’Leary and Marcus Broeder.
  • Tommy Fazio II who assisted with construction management before COVID hit in 2020.
  • The amazing team at Ryder Cup Europe: Guy Kinnings, Richard Atkinson, Edward Kitson, James White, Paul Dunstan, Chris Trainor, Ben Bye, Rachel McCulloch, Claire Giacomotto, Graeme MacNiven, Eddie Adams and David Garland, along with past RCE stalwarts Richard Hills and David MacLaren.
  • Andy Brown, Gian Domenico Dorigo and Xavier Agusti Muñoz at Toro.
  • Course Superintendent, Lara Arias, and her soon-to-be husband, Alejandro Reyes (along with their colleague, Steve Okula) – what you did was nothing less than miraculous! We wish you the best of luck for the future and look forward to meeting the Superintendent for Ryder Cup 2053 soon!
  • Finally, Dave – I am almost lost for words. I always knew you could do it, but just hadn’t realised that you would do it with such creativity, vision, professionalism, energy, empathy and, when needed, bloody-mindedness . For all of the temporary, transient nature of an event like the Ryder Cup, there is a single element of permanence and that is the course – the way it handled everything we have talked about for so long , and did it so well, has blown me away. Mere congratulations are not nearly enough!

By Jeremy Slessor.

We were the FIRST Golf Course Design Company in the WORLD to become a Sustainable Golf Climate Leader

In the (bad) old days, it was perfectly normal to start a project by taking a parcel of land, figuring out the absolute best golf course routing and only then considering the implications of that layout on the land itself. Of course, in many instances that led to immeasurable environmental damage. We’re all older, wiser and more aware now of the impact our work has on the land. We are also infinitely more conscious of the potential that what we do (if done well) can actually enhance the value of land – so now the process starts with evaluation and the identification of areas of sensitivity and only following that do we start to route golf around the site, avoiding those sensitive areas. In this way, golf, flora and fauna can happily co-exist and flourish. The bottom line? Net positive impact – if that criteria cannot be met, don’t develop.

Even with this objective benchmark, we knew that in order to do the best work we could do, and despite utilising technology as much as possible, we simply needed to travel to sites and that our carbon footprint would increase as a result. So, working with GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf (GEO) and guided by the Net Zero programme , we set about measuring our total footprint using GEO Foundations Carbon Tracker Tool – from air travel to commuting to and from the office; from the purchase of paper to the volume of paper sent for recycling; from the gas used to heat the office to the fuel used in site vehicles – any measurable resource or output was calculated and, from that, our carbon emissions were accurately recorded. But then, what to do about it? Again through GEO we have taken responsibility for unavoided greenhouse gas emissions through the Gold Standard, retiring carbon credits with quantifiable contributions to climate change mitigation and the Sustainable Development Goals.

We thought we were late to this party. It turned out that we were actually the first golf course design company in the world to become a Sustainable Golf Climate Leader. We’re proud of that, but equally proud that we are not the only ones now – the more groups that get on the programme, the better the golf industry, wider society and the planet will be.

By Jeremy Slessor
Managing Director

European Golf Design sets out commitment to a Net Zero future

European Golf Design (EGD), the golf course design company of the European Tour, aims to become a carbon neutral design company in a move that underlines the company’s strengthened commitment to sustainability and climate action.

The announcement comes ahead of the UN Climate Summit COP26 in Glasgow and underlines EGD’s strategic goals and ambition for net zero emissions.
The move towards net zero is also aligned with the European Tour’s Green Drive initiative, launched earlier this year on World Environment Day, when the Tour set out a vision to become a leader in social and environmental responsibility, delivering net positive impacts around the world.
With support from the GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf – the non-profit organisation dedicated to accelerating sustainability in and through golf around the world – EGD will track and measure its carbon footprint across all areas of business operations, reduce emissions where possible and mitigate where necessary by credibly offsetting all unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions.

All carbon calculations are in line with the UN Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate Standard, and offsetting will be carried out using GEO’s Sustainable Golf Climate Initiative – ensuring offsets are accredited by The Gold Standard and deliver additional contributions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Jeremy Slessor, Managing Director of EGD, said: “For many years sustainability has been part of the way in which we conceptualise, design and construct courses. Now, our updated and strengthened strategy aims to deliver even more positive and measurable environmental and social impacts through course development and renovation, alongside new goals and actions across various other aspects of the business.”
Jonathan Smith, Executive Director of GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf, said: “Congratulations to European Golf Design for proactively stepping forward with this new commitment and action. We all need to do what we can to minimise climate change, so a comprehensive approach to emissions reduction is essential, as is a credible approach to offsetting what are currently unavoidable emissions. We look forward to supporting EGD in accurately measuring, actively reducing and credibly mitigating their emissions so that they make a meaningful contribution to addressing what is rapidly emerging as the defining issue of current and future generations.
“We hope others will follow this lead, become a committed part of the sustainable golf community and utilise the platform and solutions provided with and for the sport of golf.”
European Golf Design designed the first new development in the world to be recognised with the GEO Certified Development status and has projects throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean and Asia.

About EGD
European Golf Design was established in 1992 and is the Golf Course Design Company of the European Tour.
The company has earned a reputation for producing successful resort, members and tournament golf courses, on schedule and within budget. They are recognised for the ability to exceed their clients’ expectations and for the economic added value of their designs.
Three of EGD’s courses have been voted best new course in Europe and two are named in the top 100 courses in the World. With views of the famous skyline of downtown Dubai, our course at Dubai Hill was named ‘World’s Best New Golf Course’ at the 2019 World Golf Awards.
The company has won design commissions throughout Europe and beyond to Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean and Asia, working for private landowners, worldwide hotel groups, resort and real estate developers either independently or within a team of master planners, architects and engineers.

About GEO Foundation
GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf is the international not-for-profit dedicated to advancing sustainability and climate action in and through golf. The foundation works collaboratively to help the sport proactively embrace key environmental and social issues, to foster nature, conserve resources, take climate action and strengthen communities. In addition to its strategic support through partnerships with associations, GEO Foundation manages and assures the OnCourse® programmes for grassroots golf facilities, new developments and tournaments, each of which can lead to the internationally accredited and widely endorsed GEO Certified® label.
Find out more at www.sustainable.golf

About European Tour Green Drive
The European Tour Green Drive underlines an intensified approach towards priority issues such as climate change; biodiversity loss; air and ocean pollution; and sustainable and ethical procurement. It also sees the Green Drive take a formal position within Golf for Good, the European Tour’s overarching Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme.
The Green Drive is aimed at contributing to internationally recognised environmental and social priorities, including many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The approach to climate action is directly aligned to The Paris Agreement and the UN Sport for Climate Framework.

Dubai Creek Golf & Country Club

Golf is Booming.

Golf has enjoyed a significant boost over the summer months between lockdowns. Tee time bookings were high and membership sales soared for many clubs. After several years of declining interest, as soon as the opportunity to play was taken away, paradoxically that’s what many wanted to do. The future is bright. Or is it?

Disclaimer: I am not a golf club Secretary, General Manager, Chief Executive or Director of Golf, but I see many clubs in the course of my professional life, and I am a golfer (second disclaimer – I am not a member of a golf club).

When courses have been open this summer, they have been busy – as busy as they’ve been for years (maybe ever?). Members are playing more golf than before; golfers who’ve not played in years are returning to the game in droves. Demand is high…for now. But, once society slowly starts to return to normal, what’s to stop those old demands on time and attention returning, meaning those new-found enthusiasts lose their new-found enthusiasm? What caused these people to walk away from the game in the first place and what has to change to stop them walking away again (only this time they will be gone for good)? I see lots of busy courses; I see lots of optimism based around tee times currently being full. I see very little in the way of addressing, or eliminating, the core issues that challenged golf in the past and will continue to do so in the future. The issues golf had before the pandemic are still there and will be there long after the pandemic is over, unless we do something about it now.

Who is asking the questions as to why many golfers have come back to the sport? And, more importantly, who is asking what needs to happen to keep them involved in the long term? These are fundamental questions, and ones we should all be asking.

As the saying goes: ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result’.

Jeremy.

The New Normal

This, for us and many, many millions of people around the world, is the new normal. The office is closed. Construction sites are closed. We are all working from home, trying to do the best we can in less than ideal circumstances….flakey wifi anyone? We’ve had more video conference calls in the past two weeks than we’ve ever had before; trying to get design work out to clients is proving challenging – coordinating a team remotely is not as easy as Microsoft would have you believe – but we are getting work done.

Of course, for a distressingly high number of people, this is going to be life-threatening and our thoughts will be with them, their families and friends as they come to terms with the personal cost of this virus. We are truly grateful that we are all, for now at least, healthy and safe.  To each of you reading this, we hope the same is true.

Top 10 Golf Architects in the World

Following on from the last blog, we were delighted to be included in Golf Inc Magazine’s list of the Top 10 Golf Architects in the World for 2017, published in their January/February issue out this month. We don’t do what we do to simply get recognition by others, but it’s incredibly gratifying when it does happen! To be associated with so many talented colleagues in the industry is more than humbling. The support of both of our parent companies, The European Tour and IMG, has been unwavering over the years, but without the faith that our clients place in us to carry out their dreams and aspirations, and to deliver great courses, none of this would be possible so, to each of you, thank you for the confidence and trust you have given us. It’s been a true pleasure to work with so many of you.

https://bluetoad.com/publication/?i=465006&p=&pn=#{%22issue_id%22:465006,%22page%22:36}

EGD Courses Acknowledged by Golfing Press

Everyone is entitled to an opinion and most of us are quite happy to share the benefit of our own infinite wisdom with anyone that will listen (a case in point…this blog!). So it’s hardly surprising that one of the more regular features in the media is lists of the ‘Top 10 this’ and the ‘Top 100 that’. Many of these lists are so subjective and arbitrary as to be meaningless. However, some of the better ones are put together by Chris Bertram and his colleagues at Golf World UK. Among the requirements for inclusion in their list is the obligation that the members of the panel actually have to have visited the course in question, which is a surprisingly rare necessity in many of the other lists.

With that in mind, we were especially pleased to see how some of our courses had fared in two recent lists published by Golf World. Their list of the Top 100 Golf Resorts in the UK and Ireland features no less than ten courses designed, co-designed or renovated by us, including seven in the top 50. And in the Top 100 Courses in Continental Europe rankings, we have been involved as designer or co-designer at five courses, with another two featuring where we have been involved in renovations.

We don’t do what we do to get included in lists, but can’t help admitting that it is reassuring when our work is recognised by others as having some quality.

 

European Golf Design – Update

Construction work continues on projects stretching from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Our organically maintained course in St Kitts nears completion. One of the many interesting features of this will be the ‘edible’ rough – the areas that one would normally expect to be far-rough (ie that unmaintained stuff into which balls disappear but rarely emerge) will instead be farmed, with the crops produced used in the restaurants within the resort. Work has just started at the JCB project in the UK, as is the case in St Petersburg in Russia. Having just completed and opened one course in Marrakech, our involvement in Morocco continues with the Plages des Nations project near Rabat. Further afield, work is now well underway in the UAE at Dubai Hills and is just about to start again at King Abdullah Economic City in Saudi Arabia.

While all that goes on, we’ve design work at various stages of completion in Turkey, UK, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, India and France. With the Ryder Cup just around the corner, Matt is busy finalising site plans for Gleneagles (these are the plans you’ll see in all the public areas and programmes showing the facilities, spectator routes and so on around the course). It’ll be interesting to see whether this Ryder Cup is the first major sporting event to be hosted in the newly independent Scotland!

Jeremy.

What's happening at European Golf Design

We’re currently working, on a geographical basis, from the Caribbean to India. The construction work at Kittitian Hill in St Kitts is nearing completion – Gary was on site last week and with the help of near-legendary shaper/project manager Bob Harrington and the unlimited passion and involvement of developer, Val Kempadoo, it’s shaping up to be a quite beautiful course. For more information on Val’s philosophy and approach to the project, take a look at the project web site, which is inspirational: www.kittitianhill.com. Gary is finishing up the project in Marrakech which opens next month and is also involved in the new project in Dubai for Emaar at their Dubai Hills development. It’s fair to say this has been a fast-track project – design didn’t start until September while machines rolled on to site early in January to start the bulk earthworks.

As well as his work at the JCB project in the UK and Plages des Nations in Morocco, Rob is currently working on master planning with Vatika Group and U+A Studios on a beach site near Puducherry in southeastern India which will feature golf, a limited number of villas (most of which will have sea views) and a boutique hotel. It’s not often one is presented with 80Ha of beachfront property to work with – even less often when the property is absolutely untouched by previous development of any kind. He’s also involved with a project in North Cyprus for an Istanbul based development group.

Dave is spending most of this time on the 36 holes planned for Bodrum in Turkey. Dogus Grubu, one of the largest companies in Turkey, has bought an existing course, with additional land already zoned for development. Our brief is to deliver a resort-friendly course and a longer, more challenging tournament venue, effectively starting from scratch. IMG will be developing a sports academy on site, in addition to the ubiquitous residential and hotel elements which are being designed by WATG. When he’s not concentrating on that, Dave’s working on our long-standing project at King Abdullah Economic City in Saudi Arabia which, after a hiatus of several years, has recommenced with construction due to start again in the very near future.

From the middle east, we move to Russia and, more specifically, the city of White Nights – St Petersburg – where Ross (between meetings for his project in Manchester) is putting the finishing touches to the detailed design package for a course on the southeastern edge of the city. If you’ve never been, it is a beautiful city but suffers from horrendous traffic problems (as does Moscow) which means getting from A to B can take an inordinate amount of time, but once you’re there… The site is relatively flat, but possesses a magic ingredient in that the soils are a wonderfully pure sand. As the client wants to develop a family friendly project with many different leisure facilities, we (along with WATG who are working on this one too) are creating a lake with a total area of around 50Ha (not far short of the size of an average golf course) which will be used for boating, swimming and so on in the summer, and skating in the winter. All of the excavated material is being used to raise the remainder of the site out of the flood plain. Everyone’s a winner.

Beyond that, Matt is hugely busy with tournament planning for the European Tour’s staging team, in addition to the web site work he does for various players, and his production responsibilities for us. Alex is keeping the production work on schedule, as well as being a house-dad this month to his two young boys – he did suggest after the first couple of days that he couldn’t see what all the fuss about child care was all about…he’s been less vocal as the month has continued! Shara takes care of everything else – she’s been through our annual financial audit, helping me prepare for Board meetings with our shareholders, preparing month-end accounts and generally keeping the office ticking over with her normal (extraordinary) level of efficiency. And I’ve been out and about talking with new and existing clients. Without wishing to tempt fate, it seems that things have picked up across many regions and confidence has returned sufficiently that legitimate people are moving ahead with legitimate projects – if there has been anything good to come out of the past five years, it is that it’s acted as the biggest ‘idiot filter’ in living memory: the time-wasters have disappeared from the marketplace and long may that continue!