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.

Jeremy.

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!

Jeremy.

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.

Jeremy.

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.

Plage des Nations – Rabat

We’ve just started a new project outside Rabat at Plage des Nations for Prestigia, with whom we’re also working in Marrakech. The project itself is on a vast parcel of land about twenty minutes drive from the centre of Rabat which will, eventually, be home to about 40,000 people as Prestigia build what is, effectively, a new town on the edge of the Atlantic, with excellent road and rail links to Rabat. The site is gently rolling and sits on a cliff-top looking down onto one of the most pristine beaches you could imagine. Kilometre after kilometre of clean, uncrowded sand.

While I’ve spent a lot of time in Morocco over the years, primarily in Marrakech and Casablanca, I’ve never been to Rabat before. I have to say I was hugely impressed with it as a city. It is clean, organised and calm – the word that came to mind more than any other is gentile. There’s a new (less than a year old) whisper-quiet tram system throughout the city and it’s charming. As we were leaving our hotel on the way out to site, we realised that it was less than a five minute walk to the Tomb of Mohammed V and his son, Hassan II, the last two Kings of Morocco, as well as the Tour (Tower) Hassan, which was designed by the same person that designed the iconic Koutoubia tower in Marrakech. Towards the end of the day, I nipped down there at sunset to take in the sights, and a few pictures.

Above: Robin Hiseman looking at the impressive Plage des Nations model.

Above: Robin Hiseman on the picture postcard beach at Plage des Nations.

Carton House bucking the trend in Ireland

One of the great pleasures of this job is going back to see old friends and clients from time to time and seeing how things have progressed. We had the opportunity to do that with Carton House Golf Club a week or so ago and, although the weather was absolutely shocking (I was with EGD’s very own Rain Maker, Ross), it was so good to see both courses there, The Montgomerie and The O’Meara, looking in such great condition – the Course Manager, John Plummer, and his team are really at the top of their game. Since the courses opened in 2003 and 2004, the hotel has opened, the houses around the course have been built and the golf club has gone from strength to strength. Developed originally and now led by the Mallaghan family (who are also at the top of their game), Carton House is bucking the trend in Ireland by staying busy, retaining members, and generally providing some bright light in what can look quite a gloomy economic environment.

We were there to talk about revising the course layout to take advantage of some changes to the original planning restrictions which means we can now provide a much more logical and attractive link between the golf course and the clubhouse. If you’ve never been, and find yourself in Ireland, make sure to visit – you’ll not find a warmer Irish welcome anywhere. Just don’t go when Ross is there.

Above: 18th hole on the Montgomerie Course.

Above: 15th hole on the O’Meara Course.

A new challenge for Sarah

Forgive me for writing to you en masse, but there are so many of you to inform that I hope you’ll understand it is impractical to do so individually.

I’m writing to let you know that Sarah has decided that, after thirteen years with us, it’s time for a new challenge in her professional life. She has been offered, and has accepted, the role of PA to Colin Montgomerie. As you may know, we have been working on Colin’s design work in Europe, Africa and the Middle East for many years, as well as designing and managing his web site more recently. As such, Sarah already knows a great deal about his business activities which will stand her in very good stead for the future.

Because of the close link between Colin and us, we’re not saying farewell to Sarah – we’ll be in touch with her on a regular basis on both design issues and for the web site – but we are saying goodbye and, on behalf of everyone here, thanking her for all her efforts over the past thirteen years. As importantly, we’re wishing her much success for the future.

For the future, if your contact with Sarah was as a supplier, your contact now will be Shara Reedman (sreedman@egd.com). For all other matters, please send any emails to me.

Kind regards,

Jeremy.