Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

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

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


Above: Shara on the rampage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

What's happening today

Here’s what’s happening at EGD today:

Gary is in St Kitts, inspecting the construction underway for Kittitian Hills. It’s a tough job, going to the Caribbean, but he bravely volunteered for the duty.

Ross is in the office, catching up on the work generated from his trip to Nevis last week. The programme is to submit for planning at the end of the summer, so it’ll be pretty much full-on until then. And he’s trying to do some planning for our project north of Athens.

Rob is working on the final touches to the golf element of a planning application for our project in Anif, Austria. This has been moving slowly but surely for several years, but after months of negotiations with the many varied stakeholders, it looks like progress is being made.
Matt is helping Rob with the production for Anif, as well as doing some graphics and planning for the Irish Open.

Shara is working on money – getting it and spending it (admittedly more of the former than the latter). And getting her glasses fixed.

Dave is getting ready to go to Evian for meetings later in the week with representatives of the Resort and the LPGA to discuss the second phase of work leading up to the Evian Masters 2013 when the event will be elevated to Major status on the ladies tour.

I’ve got things to do from my trip to Turkey last week. Saw two potential projects in Anatolia and in Izmir which now need some attention.

Alex is enjoying the sunshine somewhere as he’s on holidays this week.


EGD Update

We’ve not posted a blog for a while so, for those of you that regularly check in to read the latest brilliance from the brains of EGD, our apologies for the lack of anything brilliant. But, we’ve been busy, which is a good thing, and while it would be too early to suggest that the European economy is picking up, at the very least we can safely say things are not getting worse.

In the past couple of months, we’ve made several trips to Turkey – the economic climate there does seem to be relatively strong – to look at various projects. We can’t say too much at this stage, but we’ve picked up a very interesting project there that could, ultimately, be 36 holes with an Academy and training facilities. We’ve also just won a job in Greece on a beautiful piece of land outside Athens. Working with a local project management team and international master planners, we’re going through various land use options at the moment with a view to submitting a final plan mid-Summer. We’ve been awarded a project outside Rabat in Morocco for Prestigia, the same group with whom we’re working in Marrakech, and have also started some strategic planning for an existing course in Slovakia, in the foothills of the Tatra mountains to the north of the country – it may be hellish cold there in the spring, but with snow-capped peaks and bright blue skies, it is a very pretty place to be.

On top of all that, the work at Evian Masters Golf Club has continued through the winter. Phase one of the work is now complete and the second phase will start as soon as the Evian Masters tournament is over this summer, to ensure perfect conditions for the event in the summer of 2013, which will be the first year the event is a Major tournament on the Ladies schedule. Construction has also kept going in Marrakech where we’re working with Colin Montgomerie, and in St Kitts with Ian Woosnam. Planning and design work has kept us busy on projects in the UK, Russia, France, Turkey, Ireland and Spain.

Oh, and Alex became a dad, Gary got engaged, Dave ran the London Marathon, Matt spent every waking hour outside of work in the gym, Rob had a knee operation, Shara stepped up her levels of organisation to previously unimagined heights (and her standards were already high), Ross seems to spend his time on-line shopping judging by the number of packages coming his way and I fell down the stairs. Other than that, we’ve been sitting back!


Stan Eby

As the wearer of the best moustache and ponytail combo in all of golf, Stan Eby is the stuff of legend. He has designed some of the greatest European courses of modern times – three have been named Best New Course of the Year by Golf World magazine: PGA Golf de Catalunya, The Faldo Course at Sporting Club Berlin and The Montgomerie at Carton House Golf Club. As well as those, he’s worked on some other fine courses – The Links Portmarnock, Euphoria Golf Estate in South Africa, The Schloss Course at Fleesensee outside Berlin to name but a few.

A quiet, relaxed, unassuming man, Stan is passionate, committed, demanding and precise when it comes to design. No-one works a site harder, no-one demands more of a project team. At the same time, no-one expects more of himself. Not known for his exuberance, Stan’s humour borders on arid. But it’s always there. Of the many stories about Stan, I’ve two favourites:

He and I spent time walking a beautiful coastal site in Turkey. It had everything – full access to the beach, dunes, rolling terrain, vegetation, ample space, ample water and outline planning already in place. In short, it was easily the best site I’d seen in years. After two days on site, Stan’s assessment was simple and plain: “Not bad”. And that was it. Nothing more. On the other hand, that was also the most positive reaction I saw from him of any site we ever looked at together.

The other story shall involve a client who, for obvious reasons, shall remain unidentified. During a project meeting, the client launched into a thirty minute monologue about what he expected from the site, from the project team, from the project (all of which were, to say the least, ambitious expectations), at the end of which he turned to Stan and said “Stan, are you listening? Am I making sense?” Stan thought for a few seconds then replied “I’m listening and you’re not.”

Stan retired a couple of months ago but has remained in the UK while he tidied up his affairs. He leaves to go home to the US on Thursday. We will all miss him. We’re all grateful for the contribution he has made to the company, and to each of us. Each of us is the better for having had the pleasure of working with him and I know everyone here wishes him much happiness for the future. We also hope this is not goodbye.

Above: Colin Montgomerie on site with Stan Eby at Carton House, Ireland.

To the next 20 years!

We reach a significant milestone in the history of the company this week – on 19th February 1992, European Golf Design was incorporated as a joint venture between the European Tour and IMG. The joint venture remains in place, as does Ross, who was here on the very first day and still shows up every morning with all the enthusiasm of a puppy (or have I got him confused with Mac?). As a company, and as a group of colleagues, we’re proud of what’s been achieved and hope there’s an awful lot more to do – we’ve been very fortunate to have had the chance to work on some great projects, with great clients. We’re grateful for the support we get from the Tour and IMG and hope, in turn, that we’ve added value for them too.

I want to thank everyone here: Queenie, Ross, Shara, Matt, Alex, Dave, Rob and Gary – it’s incredibly rewarding working with such a talented and dedicated group – as well as thanking all of those who have been with us for a time and then moved on: Andy H, Andy B, Maggie, John, Paul, Will, Tim, Russell, Edward, Peter, Colin, Sarah and Stan – thank you all for your past efforts.

And as for the next twenty years? Who knows, but let’s hope there’s more great projects and good laughs along the way.

The Start to the Year

It’s been an interesting few weeks as we’ve come out of the Christmas and New Year haze. There’s some exciting things coming up which are not quite finalised yet, so we can’t quite share them with you now, but keep watching in coming weeks.

In the meantime, I’ve spent my time, seemingly, on Eurostar between London, Brussels and Paris. I sit on the European Golf Association Golf Course Committee on behalf of the European Tour. The Committee is made up of representatives from eight organisations: European Golf Association, R&A, European Tour, Club Managers Association of Europe, European Golf Course Owners Association, Federation of European Golf Greenkeepers Associations, European Institute of Golf Course Architects and the PGA’s of Europe. It was established such that there was a unified body through which European golf could engage with the European Parliament and the European Commission. We meet normally twice per year – once in January in Brussels (our meeting was two weeks ago) during which various meetings are arranged with MEP’s and officials of the Parliament, and then during the European Parliament’s Green Week event, which is normally held in June of each year.

The other Eurostar trip was earlier this week to Paris for meetings relating to the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National. Planning has started in earnest for that now…after all, there’s only six years to go!

By the way, if you’ve not traveled by Eurostar before, give it a go – two hours and five minutes between the centre of Brussels and the centre of London, or about two and a half hours between Paris and London. It’s quick, convenient, relaxing and very altogether very impressive.


Reasons to look forward to 2012

As an antidote to the doom and gloom all around us at the moment, particularly in terms of the economic outlook for the coming year, I spent ten minutes this morning thinking of reasons why we might be looking forward to 2012. I surprised myself:

We’ve won, over the past few months, some really interesting work for the next year or two. We’re going to be working with old clients again and new ones, in countries we’ve worked in before and in places we’ve never been. We’re in the middle of pitching for other projects that are, in various ways, utterly fascinating. We’d love to do them all, but would be happy if just one of them came our way.

The world is changing. We have to change too. We’re looking at everything to see how we can be better, how we can be more adaptive to the changing world. We’re trying to be more proactive in our approach – this has led to some potentially great strategic relationships with key partners, and in key regions of the world. There are new opportunities out there – we need to do all we can do to ensure that we are open to those. We’re looking forward to that challenge a lot.

Just as the world is changing and, as a company, we need to change too, so each of us is developing individually. One of the real joys of my job is seeing how everyone here strives to improve each time there is the chance to do so – I’ve never heard anyone say, of anything, that we’ve ‘cracked it’ and that we don’t need to try to make the next project/report/proposal better than the last. And, time and time again, they somehow manage to achieve just that.

Our work continues to gain recognition. We don’t set out to design courses to make ‘Top’ lists – our goal is to listen to clients, to understand what they want and then to deliver it. Flawlessly. But, it always helps when others do recognise what we’re doing – this year’s Top 100 Courses in Europe featured five of our projects, which we’re hugely proud of. It ranks us, along with Cabell Robinson, as the most recognised design group in Europe.

The market is tough, and it doesn’t look like it will be any less tough for the coming months, but we’re determined, we’re working hard and we’re very optimistic.

We wish you all a very happy Christmas and a healthy, successful year ahead.