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.

Five EGD designs in Top 100

Forgive us if we blow our own trumpet on this one, but with the announcement this week of the new list of the Top 100 Courses in Continental Europe, we’re thrilled that five of our designs have been recognised. We don’t design projects with the sole intention that they make such lists, but it’s always reassuring when independent experts acknowledge the quality of the work we’re doing. So, with thanks to the panel at Golf World, we’re delighted that PGA Catalunya, The Faldo Course at Sporting Club Berlin, The Sultan at Antalya Golf Club, Navarino Dunes and Linna Golf have all been rated as worthy of inclusion in this year’s list.

With five courses in the Top 100 (and two in the top fifteen), we are joint second (with Cabell Robinson) of the currently active design firms in the rating of the most prolific designers on the list with Robert Trent Jones Jr leading the way with seven courses (although, admittedly, he’s been at it rather longer than we have).

5th Hole at Navarino Dunes, Greece

A date with Monty

What do you say when the eight times winner of the European Tour Order of Merit asks you if you want a date? In Marrakech? Luckily, having momentarily wondered how our relationship had blossomed so much without me appreciating it, I realised that he’d seen a plate of dates and was asking if I wanted one.

That minor confusion aside, the past couple of days I’’ve spent with Colin Montgomerie in Marrakech have been great fun. We were there for the official public launch of a project we’re working on with him within sight of the famous walls of the old city, La Mamounia Hotel (where Winston Churchill used to stay) and the Koutoubia Menara. The location, in terms of access from the airport and to the city, couldn’’t be better. The project is being developed by a company called Prestigia, based in Casablanca.

The launch started with a reception for about 100 people on the site and then shifted to Royal Golf de Marrakech, a beautiful and historic course set close to the royal gardens of Jardins de l’’Agdal. A nine hole scramble, starting at dusk, meant that the fairways and greens were lit with lanterns and the players were all given luminous balls to play with –as much as he was interested to see it, Monty somehow doubted this was going to ever be a feature of European Tour events. Then, back to the project for a buffet dinner and musical extravaganza before the prize-giving which started at about midnight.

If you’’ve never been to Marrakech, give it a go. It’’s an extraordinary place.

Colin Montgomerie at The Montgomerie, Marrakech

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 enquiries@egd.com

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!