Seve, thank you so much. You inspired me.

Having just heard the news that Seve died this morning, I’ve spent the last few minutes reflecting. I watched him play many times, but I never met him. All the same, in some small way, I (like many people I suspect), felt that I knew him a bit because he was an open, honest character: what you got with Seve, for good and bad, was transparency – you knew, just by looking at him, how he felt and how he was playing.

I started playing golf in 1976. The first tournament I ever watched on TV was that year’s Open from Birkdale, where Johnny Miller held off the challenge of this young, frighteningly talented Spaniard. I will never forget his chip over the bunkers to the final green and the massive ovation that he received – for someone who thought that it was only footballers that were idolised by the masses, this was a moment of revelation for me. From that point, the first name I looked for in any tournament summary was Seve’s. There were many triumphs, there were almost an equal number of disappointments – whatever happened, the one thing you could never say was that following him was dull.

But, for all the victories he had, the one event that stands out as a testament of his passion, fire and competitiveness was a defeat. His match in the 1995 Ryder Cup against Tom Lehman was to be his final match as a player and, if the truth were to be uttered, he really should not have been playing, such was his form. To watch someone so utterly outplayed by his opponent, but managing to remain in the match for so long through nothing else than inspiration and determination, in equal measure, was mesmerising. Even though he lost, for me it was a most unbelievable feat of sporting competition.

Now, he has finally lost his fight for life. Many more eloquent epitaphs will be written than this, but from this fan – Seve, thank you so much. You inspired me.

Getting Organic in St Kitts

Gary and I spent last week in St Kitts. We’ve had a contract there for several years – but the project has been on hold for the past three years as the developer has reviewed, revised and reorganised the financing of the project. That done, which is a major achievement in the current market, we were back on site to review the staking of the golf course before construction starts early in the new year.

The project is, for us, hugely exciting and incredibly challenging. The whole ethos of the project is that it be sustainable (which is not, in itself, unusual). As part of that aim, the golf course will be managed organically and many of the areas of the course that would normally be left to unmaintained rough should, instead, be used for organic agricultural production. This is challenging in terms of the design of the course, it’ll be challenging in terms of construction and, ultimately, in terms of the on-going maintenance of the course. But it’s a fascinating challenge to take on.

US based Project Manager and Shapers required – send CV’s to

Total Domination

Accepting that, in the big scheme of things, it’s not quite as life-changing as remembering where you were when JFK was shot (for our older readers), or what you were doing when you heard that John Lennon had been killed, but what were you doing when you realised that Tiger was no longer the top ranked golfer in the world?

It seems like he has been number one for ever. And, until about this time last year, it felt like he would continue to be there for as long as he wanted it. Much has been written since then, and while one can only admire Tiger for his total domination of the sport for so long, how much more interesting is it going to be over the coming weeks and months as at least four players battle it out for the right to be called the best golfer on the planet?

Congratulations to Lee Westwood on reaching top spot. It’s an incredible achievement and testament to his skills and his perserverance – who would have predicted this when he was languishing, just a few years ago, in the mid 250’s on the world ranking.

And the top four players all find themselves in Shanghai this week, competing against each other. Each has the opportunity to become No. 1 by Sunday, depending upon their own result, as well as the results of others. That can only be a good thing for the game, and a great thing for those that follow it.

Shooting at The Marquess

Early mornings are not an infrequent part of life here but, even for us, this past Wednesday was unusual. We are in the middle of shooting a new company video and, as part of that, wanted to get some film of everyone together on a golf course. The nearest one that we’ve designed to the office is The Marquess at Woburn Golf Club so, at 5:30am, we all met in the office to drive the 90 minutes or so up there such that we’d be on the course at sunrise.

All the way, the weather was looking good – scattered cloud with a real possibility of a beautifully red sky as the sun peaked over the horizon. As it turned out, the clouds thickened by the time the sun did appear, but we still got some good footage of the team on a dewy morning.

In order to get some close-up shots, Ross was the ‘stunt double’ and spent about an hour or so putting on a glove, taking off the glove, walking up to a tee, putting a ball on a peg, practice swinging, addressing the ball and, finally, hitting a shot or two.

The completed video should be ready by Christmas (what a perfect gift for a loved one!).

Here come the Men (and Women) in Black

"So what shall we do now?"

“So what shall we do now?” said Dave, as our project meeting ended a mere eight hours before our flight back to London. The options of sitting in the hotel, or the airport, for that length of time were instantly ruled out. Sitting in a bar for that long was ruled out too, although not quite as quickly (or unanimously) as the previous ideas. Finally, we agreed to hop on the Aero Express, the train from Sheremetyevo Airport to Moscow, to spend the afternoon as tourists.

Given that neither Dave and I speak Russian beyond the standard phrases of “hello”, “thank you” and “may I have two glasses of the finest Russian beer, please, Sir”, we were left with the international language of signing and grunting when faced with a ticket agent who spoke nothing other than her mother tongue. But, we managed to get tickets and seats on the right train and thirty minutes later were in Moscow at Belarusskaya Station, where we needed to change to the Metro to go to Teatralnya, the nearest station to Red Square. If there is a Metro system with worse signage than in Moscow, I’d hate to see it – as far as we could tell, there is one name sign in each station so you have to count your way along the network.

Emerging unscathed, and triumphantly in the right place, we turned into Red Square – the Kremlin and Lenin’s Tomb on one side (funny story about that: one of the shapers from the US working on our project north of town was asked last summer if he wanted to see Lenin’s Tomb – his response was of wonder that one of the Beatles should be buried in Russia!). Anyway, Kremlin/Lenin on the right side and the biggest department store you can ever imagine on the other side. Capitalism strikes the heart of Socialist world!

Despite the bitter cold, we had a good wander around, even taking time to go inside St Basil’s Cathedral (which is the multi-spired church at the end of the Square) – don’t bother. A fairly ordinary, over-priced lunch was had in a bar just off the Square and then, after a little shopping for Dave, back on the train(s) to the airport.

That would look good in your house Dave!

Olivion Resort, near Belek, Turkey

We’ve been very lazy about posting blogs since the start of the year, so apologies to any of you who have checked in from time to time and found nothing new here. We’ve been busy, but somehow much of what we’ve been busy with is not blog material, at least for the time-being.

Anyway, Stan and I are in Turkey at the moment, with an ever-increasing design team, working on the Olivion Resort, near Belek. We had a pretty full-on day yesterday on site and then in a late afternoon workshop. The design team, which includes John Goldwyn and Lisya Sullam from WATG and Mike Wood from GEO, had collectively presented a draft master plan to the clients during meetings in London last month and this was their opportunity to provide feedback. What struck me was the way they approached this process.

There were a number of issues that, potentially, had quite significant impact to the master plan. We’ve all been in meetings where a client would have said something like “I don’t want it to be like this, I want it to be like that – go and do that” and sent the design team away simply to carry out his requirements. That’s fine, but it doesn’t leave any room for the design team to get creative. But yesterday the clients instead said things like “we think there is an issue here (for instance, they were concerned with the position of the proposed access road into the project) – what can we do to fix it?.” That’s a completely different proposition, allowing the design team the ability to creatively come up with a solution that meets the client’s concerns.

In the end, it’s two ways of asking the same thing, but invariably the solution will be better if the design team are given the opportunity to use their skills to come up with the best response rather than a response that just meets the client’s demand.

Stan Eby, Haluk Kaya and John Goldwyn

Is the New Wentworth it!

While not suggesting that we’ve been sneaking in around the back like a bunch of stalkers to look at the work going on at Wentworth’s West Course this summer and autumn, as we’re just a few minutes up the road, we have to confess to having spent a little time in the evenings nipping over to see what’s been happening there.

Without getting into the rights and wrongs of what’s been done, you have to admire the ambition of the design. It would have been very easy to have treated the West Course with all due respect to the original designer Harry Colt, to its reputation and traditions. It would have been easy to simply upgrade the greens without fundamentally changing anything. But, someone has taken an incredibly bold decision to, effectively, abandon the old course and come up with something very new and very different, albeit on the same footprint as the old course. Visually it is stunning. Whether it is appropriate for the heathland setting, whether those that play it will enjoy it and whether it will be a commercial success will only become clear once it opens. But ‘tentative’ it is not.

The Golf Environment Organisation

If you’ve read Alex’s blog from Monday, you’ll know he was up in North Berwick over the weekend. I’ve just returned from a trip there myself and, while my news is not nearly as exciting as Alex’s, it does represent an engagement of sorts – we’ve some pretty exciting things to share with you over coming in the next week or two relating to a strengthening of our relationship with the leading authority on golf and sustainability – The Golf Environment Organisation.

In the meantime, it was a beautiful morning in North Berwick this morning and, with a slightly fuzzy head caused by one dram too many last night, I took a quick walk onto the links. These were taken at about 7am…

  • North Berwick Golf Club - Links golf at it's very best
  • North Berwick Golf Club was founded in 1832

Travel Stories – Madrid

Wednesday evening in Madrid. What to do? The first rule of traveling is never to eat in the hotel – if you eat there, all you ever see is airport, golf course and hotel. So, taxi to Plaza Mayor. Stroll around for several hours. Stop in several bars. The great thing about Spain is that if you order a beer, you get a small plate of olives, or salad, or vegetables, meat or fish. In Italy it would be called Antipasti. In Spain, it’s tapas or, for the really hungry, ‘raciones’. So, you can wander, stop at a bar, have a drink and something to nibble on; then wander off again, only to repeat the process when you find another bar that looks interesting. Hours later, it’s time to go back to the hotel, not having sat down to a meal, but having eaten more than enough. And having seen a lot of a beautiful city. Perfect.

  • Palacio Real, Madrid - at dusk
  • Beer and olives, Madrid.

Santiago – Cape Verde Islands

A trip to a new project is always something to look forward to, especially if it’s located somewhere new. So, last week’s visit to Cape Verde islands was one I had been looking forward to for a while.

We’ve been invited by a developer there to design the golf courses to be included in a huge development on Santiago. With a land area in excess of 3000Ha, there’s plenty of space. More importantly, the development team want to achieve a resort development that is inclusive – no guard gates/fences/exclusions here – the land is part of the local economy and community now; the brief is that it should remain so after we’ve all left. With a design team including master planners, economic planners and environmental consultants, we spent several days on site trying to get a feel for the land, and the island as a whole, in order that when the planning starts we can give the resort some authenticity. The last thing any of us want is yet another themed, Disney-esque, plastic resort.

Getting a feel for the island included visiting Praia, the main town, as well as eating out at some of the local restaurants. All serve really good, simple, food with local fish and meat high on the menu. The beer (Strela) is local too. And not bad at all. The wine is better than good and the local population very friendly.

While the islands have great history (the first European settlement outside Europe, the first ‘African’ town to have a paved street, the centre for west African slave trading to the new world), they are incredibly undeveloped and ‘native’ (in the best sense of the word). So, there’s an added responsibility to make sure that whatever we do is appropriate.

On the last evening, we went to the top of the mountain. The day had become quite cloudy at sea level, so it was quite a sight as we climbed through the cloud to view the top, which is the view in the image.

  • On the last evening, we went to the top of the mountain. The day had become quite cloudy at sea level, so it was quite a sight as we climbed through the cloud to view the top