This Week at EGD

A busy week at EGD was topped off with the fantastic news that EGD Course Designer Dave Sampson has been named in Today’s Golfer “100 Most Influential People in Golf 2023.”

Dave came in 69th place, which is an incredible achievement.

“2023 Ryder Cup Course Creator

The Englishman has worked on many courses for European Golf Design, but he rose to prominence in September when the Ryder Cup visited his creation, Marco Simone. An original course was already in place, but Sampson had full licence to re-do it to make it Ryder Cup-ready.

It was a widely celebrated success as Europe prevailed and entered our Continental Europe ranking at No. 89.”

Image : Dave came in 69th place, which is an incredible achievement.

Also this week, after 3 weeks of constant rain and snow, Dave was back in Switzerland at Le Golf Club de Crans-sur-Sierre to continue work on greens 10 and 17. Crans-sur-Sierre is host to the Omega European Masters on the DP World Tour.

Image : Dave was back in Switzerland at Le Golf Club de Crans-sur-Sierre.

Gary Johnston spent the week in Dubai. First up, at Montgomerie Golf Club, where work is well underway on the new Par 3 Course and taking shape nicely. Following that, he was at Emaar South checking on his design, which is in the grow-in phase. Gary has history in Dubai, with the course he designed at Dubai Hills being named “Best Course in Dubai 2023” at the recent World Golf Awards.

Image : Gary spent the week in Dubai. First up, at Montgomerie Golf Club
Image : Gary at Emaar South checking on his design

EGD Designer Ross McMurray was in Fife, Scotland, at Elie Golf Club, which is one of the world’s oldest golf courses. Ross has been handed the prestigious task of renovating bunkers and tees around the delightful course. Elie has panoramic views over the Firth of Forth, and the course is steeped in history, dating back to 1589. James Braid, a 5-times winner of The Open who was born in nearby Earlsferry, described the 13th hole at Elie as ‘the best hole in golf’.

Image : EGD Designer Ross McMurray was in Fife, Scotland, at Elie Golf Club

JCB Golf & Country Club designer Robin Hiseman was out scouting for holes in the beautiful European countryside. With snow in the air and temperatures down to 1 degree C, Robin was in his element and “couldn’t be happier.” We will forgive him for the Spurs beanie hat he was wearing!

Image : We will forgive Robin for the Spurs beanie hat!

The Drift Golf Club appoints European Golf Design for Strategic Review

As a continuation of a long-term investment strategy into the Club and its facilities, The Drift Golf Club has appointed European Golf Design (‘EGD’) to undertake a review of the golf course in preparation for the 50th anniversary in 2025. The course review follows the substantial investment into the Trackman Academy which opened in 2022 alongside the plans to renovate and expand the clubhouse, the design process for which is well underway.

EGD will review every aspect of the course and make recommendations on improvements which will enhance the enjoyment, challenge and conditions for members and guests. The initial phase of work will focus on holes 5, 6 and 9, with the objective that the changes are made, and the holes back in play, for the anniversary celebrations in two years. The project will be led by Dave Sampson, whose design credits include Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome, the host venue for this year’s Ryder Cup Matches, who said “To have the opportunity to build upon the reputation of The Drift is a pleasure – we were thoroughly impressed with the vision and commitment of the Club, in particular Jon Connell, the Managing Director, and Tom Parrish, the General Manager, and standards set by the Academy development, which is outstanding. This combined with the efforts of Mark Ogden, the Course Manager, and his team, who have presented a course that continues to improve in playability and condition year on year in recent times . After a recent bunker redevelopment project which has been executed very well, we are excited about the additional potential that is yet to be realised and look forward to a long working relationship with the Club.”

Jon Connell explained the thinking behind the appointment: “With the investment made into the Academy, we realised that to fully benefit from that further development was required for the main assets of the Club – its course and clubhouse. We undertook a process of inviting design groups to present their ideas for the course and were impressed with EGD’s creative and collaborative approach. Having the benefit of their international experience, and their local presence, gave us the confidence to make the appointment. As owners we are committed to ensuring the best possible facilities are available for our members and guests, and we look forward to seeing the proposed improvements to the course reveal themselves over the next few years.”

Work on the overall review is underway now, as is more detailed planning for the first phase of work, construction of which is scheduled to begin next month. Frank Lovell, who has been working with the Club and the owners for over 10 years, will lead the construction process.

For more information contact:

Tom Parrish
General Manager – The Drift Golf Club

Dave Sampson
European Golf Design

Ryder Cup 2023 Build

The 2023 Ryder Cup Build is taking shape nicely. There is a real buzz on site as the stands and hospitality suites take shape. You can already picture the packed crowds, the excitement and drama that the Ryder Cup will bring.

Designing for Drama – Podcast

Listen to EGD’s Dave Sampson, designer of 2023 Ryder Cup golf course at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, discuss with host Gary Firkins how to create a stadium course fit for the world’s best.

Click to listen on Spotify >

Click to listen on Apple Podcasts >

He tells us how his love affair with the game started back in his native South Africa, his unconventional start in course design and the growing importance and role that sustainability plays in all aspects of golf course architecture.

He pays tribute to the people working behind the scenes to make the Ryder Cup happen, including Golf Course Superintendent Lara Arias and her turf team.

Finally, Dave tells us about the importance of accessibility, creating designs so that customers can play 3, 6 or 9 holes if they wish to, and assesses the rising prevalence of golf entertainment venues.

Join the debate Share your questions, opinions and comments with Syngenta Growing Golf on Twitter, LinkedIn or by writing to us:
Syngenta Golf: | @syngentagolf

Marco Simone Golf & Country Club – Ready for the Ryder Cup.

As the stunning Marco Simone Golf & Country Club prepares for the Ryder Cup in 2023, let’s take a walk around the golf course in the words of Course Design, Dave Sampson.

Located just 17km from the heart of the Italian capital Rome, the course has seen a major redevelopment. This series of posts will take you through individual golf holes including construction images.

We start this with the 332m par 4, Hole 16.

Following on from the two hardest holes on the back nine, the downhill driveable par 4 16th is a true risk-reward hole with multiple options off the tee depending on pin position.

Like the tee shot on 12, and on one of the other high vantage points, this tee location offers the best views of Rome from the course. Playing to green site set some 25m below and protected by water down it’s right side and bunkers at the front and left, the player is posed with numerous options off the tee;
– Layup short of the central fairway bunker leaving either a 9 iron or wedge in.
– Take on the central bunker but leave the tee shot short of the stream which crosses the fairway perpendicularly at 260m, leaving a short 70 – 80m flick in, or:
– Try and thread the ball onto the green through the front left opening.

Depending on setup, both holes 11 & 16 could be driveable. Hole 11 plays uphill requiring a draw shot to access the green, while 16, playing downhill, favours the fade.

Natural embanking and multiple hospitality units will frame all sides on this most pivotal of golf holes, where anything from eagles to double-bogeys are possible.

The spectacular photos were taken by Jacob Sjoman (@sjomanart)
(Golf & Travel Inspiration International Photographer/Cinematographer)

Here are images of the 16th hole:

Here are construction images of the 16th hole:

Dave Sampson – from competition winner to Ryder Cup 2023 course designer

With one year to go to the 2023 Ryder Cup, meet the man who has drawn the battle lines at the Marco Simone Golf Club.

By Graham Jenkins from GOLF TV –

Dave Sampson was busy packing for a flight from the UK back home to South Africa when a golf magazine landed in front of him.

A competition to design a golf hole had caught his friend’s eye, and he urged Sampson to enter and indulge a passion that had until that point been nothing but a distraction from the more traditional building architecture work that was paying his bills.

As he hastily sketched out some designs before making a dash to the airport, little did he know that he was laying the foundation for a career gear change that would eventually propel him to centre stage at the 2023 Ryder Cup.

“I’m a qualified building architect but got into golf course design, which is where I always really wanted to be, by winning a design competition, which was run by Golf World magazine in collaboration with European Golf Design,” recalls Sampson, sitting beside the Marco Simone course in Rome that he has completely redesigned and which will host the eagerly-awaited match play showpiece this time next year.

Sampson not only left his mark at the Linna Golf Resort in Finland, where his competition winning design eventually became the 487-yard, par-5, 15th hole, but also on European Golf Design (EGD), the course design arm of the broader European Tour Group.

“I eventually came back over to the UK, and I took a job as cricket analyst for Surrey Cricket Club as I knew it would also give me quite a bit of time to pretty much teach myself and learn the trade of golf architecture,” added Sampson, who joined his current employers in 2004 as a design associate.

“I had already had that introduction with EGD through spending some time with them and going through some exercises with them. They were really great in helping me develop what is my passion.”

Sampson has spent the last 20 years helping design and shape some notable courses around the world with his portfolio including Crans Montana in Switzerland, the Golf Evian Resort in France and Royal Greens in Saudi Arabia.

“Every golf course architect has worked on projects at various stages from concept through to construction but unfortunately not that many of them result in getting the excavator in the ground,” laments Sampson. But the Marco Simone course on the outskirts of Rome was one such job.

The original course was designed by Jim Fazio and David Mezzacane before opening for play in 1991, but a complete redesign was a fundamental element of their bid to host the Ryder Cup.

EGD had previously worked on the redesigns of the Ryder Cup layouts at Le Golf National in Paris (2010) and Celtic Manor in south Wales (2008) , so the firm was an obvious partner for the project.

ROME, ITALY – AUGUST 03: A scenic view of the 16th hole prior to the 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf Club on August 03, 2022 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

With the key support of course owner and fashion designer, Laura Biagotti, and subsequently her daughter, Lavinia, following her mother’s passing in 2017, the new-look course would eventually take shape.

“EGD was part of the group that put together the bid for the Italian Golf Federation, and I was assigned the job as lead architect,” explains Sampson, fresh from guiding European captain Luke Donald and vice captain Edoardo Molinari around the course.

They won the right to host the 2023 Ryder Cup in 2015, seeing off the challenge of bid rivals Austria, Germany and Spain, and Sampson began work on the project in 2017 by putting together the layouts and the design.

Construction would not begin until the following year with the back nine holes redeveloped in phase one of the project that took another 12 months. Those holes opened for play in late 2019 when work also began on the front nine and these were finished in early 2021 – just in time for last year’s Italian Open.

ROME, ITALY – AUGUST 02: A scenic view of the ninth hole prior to the 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf Club on August 02, 2022 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

However, the journey to that point was not as smooth as the perfectly-presented greens that now adorn the course.

“Not every project is a straightforward process and I think it would be fair to say that this one’s been quite challenging,” Sampson reflects with the smile of a man clearly delighted to have emerged from chaos.

“We’ve had to work in unprecedented times with the COVID pandemic, which made things really difficult, especially trying to get out here – not only for us, but the people on site building the golf course.

ROME, ITALY – AUGUST 03: A view of the 18th hole overview prior to the 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf Club on August 03, 2022 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

“Then you throw in electrical pylons, gas mainlines and a bit of archaeology, so it would be fair to say there has been the odd challenge’” added Sampson, who was forced to tweak his design due to some archeological discoveries.

“We knew we couldn’t get that close to the castle, but there were two other zones within the project site, which only became evident as we progressed through the job. So we had to be a little bit flexible with a couple of holes to avoid certain areas. You know, this is Rome and you just never know what you’re going to find when you put the bucket in the ground.”

Sampson revealed that he approached the project from a different perspective to his previous work due to the unique nature of the Ryder Cup.

“Normally you get a blank site and you’re trying to find the best 18 golf holes for that piece of land,” he explains, “whereas with the Ryder Cup you’re factoring in many other things. You’re not only trying to find the best holes, you’re trying to find the best holes for the spectators, the best holes for infrastructure, for hospitality, so there are a lot of other factors. So the scale of this job is incomparable to pretty much anything else.”

A reported 270,000 spectators attended the 2018 Ryder Cup, and similar numbers are expected again for the first staging of the event in Italy where the hosts will be looking to bounce back from a 19-9 mauling at the hands of the United States at Whistling Straits last year.

“One of the things we are blessed with on the site is over 50 metres of elevation change across the site and we’ve tried to maximize those opportunities, not only from a golf and playing point of view but also for the spectators,” explains Sampson.

“I think that’s the one thing that the spectators are going to notice, those great long distance views across the site where you get to see four or five golf holes from certain vantage points. I think that’s what’s going to make the event special.”

Following last year’s Italian Open, there were some concerns expressed by some players about certain elements of the design, but Sampson remains confident in the finished product.

“We’ve worked on quite a few tournament golf courses so we have a good understanding of what is required and what works, what doesn’t work,” he explains, “but, I dare say, you’re not going to please everybody.

“I think the people whose opinions are most valid are the captains and that’s where we’re going to be guided from here on in.”

Significant changes to the layout are not likely between now and the Ryder Cup but expect the hosts to leverage everything they can as they bid to return to winning ways.

“As home captain you’re always looking for advantages for your team and to make the course fit our players better than their players,” explained Donald when quizzed on his thoughts about the course.

ROME, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 16: Luke Donald of England plays out of a bunker on the 16th hole on Day Two of the DS Automobiles Italian Open 2022 at Marco Simone Golf Club on September 16, 2022 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

“We have a sense of what the Americans are good at, what we are good at, and you obviously try to shape the golf course to give ourselves a small advantage. The teams will be very similar on paper but you try to get small advantages that can make a difference in the end.”

It is a layout that Sampson is clearly proud of and believes it will help deliver the action that has become synonymous with the Ryder Cup.

“There are some really key points across the site,” he explains. “I mentioned the elevation change that we have but what we’ve also tried to do is to get a lot of the risk reward holes on the back nine where the drama of the Ryder Cup really is.

“Coupled with that, you’ve got some great long distance views over Rome. So it’s taken in those key views, and factored in some real match-play golf holes that’ll have a lot of drama. So you’ve got holes 11, 12, 16, those are going to be some of the real key pivotal holes where there are going to be birdies and eagles mixed in with double bogies. I think from a spectator point of view, that’s going to be great to watch.”

It is a view that was recently echoed by Rory McIlroy who is set to spearhead Europe’s challenge once again next year.

“The front nine is like the first couple of chapters of a book,” commented the Northern Irishman during the most recent staging of the Italian Open. “It gets you into the book a little bit and sort of sets the story, but the real juicy bits come on the back nine. That’s where you really get into it.”

Does Sampson have a favourite hole that has really brought his design to life?

“I think there are a couple of really good driving holes. So you’ve got the 12th, which is a short par-5 where the players are really asked the question as to how much of the corner do they really want to take on?

“It plays over a valley and it’s quite a dramatic tee shot. I think holes two and 15 are very similar and if I was to pick probably one, I’d probably say 15, it just comes right. It’s a really tough par-4 played from a raised tee to a lower landing area and then back up to a raised green.

ROME, ITALY – AUGUST 03: A scenic view of the 15th hole prior to the 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf Club on August 03, 2022 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

“I think during the Ryder Cup, you have got a really good natural amphitheatre around the back of that green. It’s a tough hole, but, you know, not every golf hole can have birdies and eagles. I think this one is one where the players have really got to know to take a par and walk on and I really, really like the way it sits in the land.”

Sampson also believes those lucky enough to witness next year’s match – in person or on TV – will be treated to something really special.

“Golf National was a brilliant Ryder Cup but this one will be different because we have that elevation change,” he enthuses. “I think that’s what the spectators are really going to love about this place. Everything is pretty compact, and they’re going to be able to see many golf holes and have multiple vantage points which for a spectator is really important.

“On top of that, we have got holes 1, 7, 16, and 17, which are in a natural amphitheatre and I think a lot of spectators will gravitate back to that.”

With work all but complete, how does Sampson gauge the success of a project?

“I think we’ll know if it has been a success or not in the first week of October! “ he jokes.

“Like every project, at the end of the day you want to please your client, they’re the ones that have given you the responsibility of creating something special. You obviously want Ryder Cup Europe to be pleased with what you’ve done too – but I guess a win.”

Middle East’s Best Golf Course 2021

Hugely rewarding to see the course we designed at Royal Greens in Saudi Arabia receive “Middle East’s Best Golf Course 2021” & “Saudi Arabia’s Best Golf Course” by World Golf Awards. Having already hosted the Saudi International on the European Tour it is fantastic that the club welcomes the Aramco Saudi Ladies International this week.

Ryder Cup Memorable Moments

It’s Ryder Cup Week and that means memorable Ryder Cup moments. For us those moments were back in 2010 at Celtic Manor with the course we designed (Ross McMurray), The Twenty Ten Course. The 2010 Ryder Cup was even described as the “greatest ever” after the sun shone on a dramatic final day with the then Wales Open champion Graeme McDowell secured the winning point for Europe in the very last match.

Fast forward 11 years and we look forward to 2023 and making more memorable moments on the spectacular 2023 Ryder Cup Course at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, the course we led the design (Dave Sampson).

Ryder Cup 2010 – Day 4 – 4th October 2010 – Celtic Manor Resort Newport, Wales. Please Credit – Ian Cook – Sportingwales