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

Environmental Certification Programme

Good things are always worth waiting for. The industry has long needed a verifiable method of demonstrating to those within and, more importantly, to those outside golf the environmental value that well planned, well constructed and well managed golf courses can bring to communities. In short, the industry has needed a credible environmental certification programme.

And now Golf Environment Organisation has delivered just that. Launched last week, the GEO Certification programme has the one thing that all previous attempts have not had – independence. No longer will the golf industry be involved in self-policing. Now, with GEO Certification, golf courses will be verified by independent experts from outside the industry. It will be transparent. It will have credibility. It will have legitimacy. Registration is free and simple – start by clicking on http://www.golfenvironment.org/

It may be slightly melodramatic to suggest that the future of the golf industry depends on programmes such as this, but what is undeniable is that the industry is greatly strengthened by this. What kind of message would it send if every club in Europe was registered?

  • Flowers on and around the course at The Dutch
  • Flowers on and around the course at The Dutch
  • Flowers on and around the course at The Dutch

Big Thinking

If you always look at the same kind of problem in the same way, you’ll always come up with the same answer or, worse still, no answer at all. If, on the other hand, you are forced to look at that same problem from a very different perspective, it is possible to achieve the extraordinary.

Ross and I took part in a brain-storming session over the past couple of days to try to explore ways around what had been, for a long time, a situation apparently fatal to one of our client’s strategic plans. A room full of creative, energetic and intelligent people (and us) broke down the problem into it’s constituent parts and then, from a completely different angle, we were able to come up with ideas that took each of the situation’s negatives and turned them into incredibly strong positives.

Industry Observations

Having spent a large part of the past month visiting and speaking at conferences, I’ve learned a few things:

Observation 1 – Golf Inc. Conference, Florida USA
If you think things are bad where you are, go to the US. It might be an exaggeration to suggest that nothing is happening in the golf development world at the moment, but there doesn’t appear to be much happening at all. There are a lot of gloomy faces. And Gary Player, at 73, has more energy than people more than half his age. Remarkable.

Observation 2 – International Golf Conference, Denmark
The Danes are a clever lot. They managed to get the whole of the golf business together and spent a day discussing the challenges that they all face and how to deal with them. It was fascinating to hear how the national Federation, golf course owners, operators, professionals and suppliers plan to work together to grow and develop the game.

Observation 3 – Golf and the Environment Conference, Spain
No matter how much talk about “the environment” and “sustainability” there might be, there is still an incredible amount of head-in-the-sand thinking about golf’s wider impact and the need for the golf industry as a whole to stand up for itself when there is a good story to be told, but equally to stand up to bad practice when necessary. Remaining silent when it’s clear that rules/guidelines are being ignored does the industry no favours at all. We MUST speak up.

Observation 4 – Golf Environment Organisation – European Industry Forum, Scotland
The Golf Environment Organisation (GEO) is dragging us, in some cases not as willingly as we should be, into the right frame of mind for the future of the industry. They DO speak out when they see bad practice. They are giving the industry the tools to demonstrate future sustainability, through the Certification programme and the Development Guidelines, both of which are soon to be launched. But, as with every other not-for-profit organisation, funding is a constant source of concern. We cannot allow that to limit the work that they can do for the betterment of the game, and the environment, in the future.

  • Taken by Jeremy Slessor while in Edinburgh for the Golf Environment Organisation conference. North Berwick Links is a true links with commanding views of the sea, over great wide sandy beaches, across the dark rocky islets of the Forth estuary to the green hilly Fife coast, the volcanic grey and white streaked hump of the Bass Rock and distant May Island on the horizon.

Hot in Istanbul

Spending two days stuck in a hotel reviewing project plans with investors, master planners, financial analysts and other consultants is part of the job, but not always the most fun way to spend time. But, when that hotel is in Istanbul, on the bank of the Bosphorus, and the project team just happens to be red hot, then there are certain benefits.

Istanbul is one of the most vibrant cities in Europe although, technically, less than half of it is actually in Europe – the city itself straddles the divide between east and west, between Europe and Asia. As a result, the mix of culture, food, people and architecture makes for an amazing experience every time. The weather this week was cold and rainy, which meant that we weren’t really missing anything during our daily meetings, but we did get out a little at night.

If you need a great business hotel in Istanbul, then try the Radission Bosphorus in the Ortokay district – very modern, very comfortable and perfectly located. And if you like live music, there’s a great Jazz club right next door.

  • Istanbul - The view from the Hotel
  • Istanbul - This bridge is the link between Europe and Asia

EGD Sign New Design Agreement in Sharm el Sheikh

We’ve recently reached agreement with a developer to design the golf course and academy for a new resort project in Egypt. Stan and I spent most of last week in Cairo and Sharm el Sheikh for design meetings. We can’t be too specific at the moment about the nature of the project, but it is a very large scale resort development that will include multiple hotels, residential units and leisure, including golf. The golf course will be designed in association with one of our Signature Designers.

The developers are Cairo based. Among other properties, they own an extraordinary development in Cairo, close to the airport. This project is now completed, but includes hotels, apartments, office space and a shopping centre. The shopping centre attracts an average of 80,000 people per day. That’s an annual amount of over 29 million people. To put that into context, that is more than twice the number of visitors each year that go to Euro Disney! We’ll keep the Blog updated regularly as the project moves forward.