While I realise this blog is normally devoted to golf I want to talk about an entirely different sport – football!
We Brits tend to think we are passionate about our football but if you have ever been in Morocco you would realise they take their love for the game to another level. If you have ever been there while the national team is playing you can’t help but notice the buzz of excitement on the streets ahead of the game (even just for a friendly) and if they win you certainly know about it, singing in the streets, waving their red and green flags and, rather annoyingly, beeping their car horns till the early hours of the morning.
Just as in many other countries football is popular amongst the children who love to play whenever they can, but with few real pitches in Morocco they often have to make use of anywhere they find – including golf course construction sites!
Pulling up on the 15th hole during a recent site visit to our project in Marrakech we came across a group of children who had sneaked onto the site and were making use of one of our levelled tees and the chalk we use for marking out to make their own pitch. Thinking they would be in trouble they promptly stopped playing, grabbed their home made ball and scarpered. Now whilst I certainly wouldn’t encourage this kind of behaviour on one of our sites I really couldn’t help but smile at the inventiveness of these kids and the enjoyment they were clearly having before we got there and ruined their game!
The pace of work in Marrakech has been picking up recently as the contractors race to get tees and fairways seeded with bermuda grass before the temperatures drop in the Autumn.
This has meant frequent trips to Marrakech throughout July and August and many hours spent on site in the baking sun. Thankfully the temperature on site this week topped out a bearable 44c which was much easier to work in than the 52c experienced on the previous visit!
This week saw approval of the first three holes to be seeded with Bermuda grass with another 3 expected to be ready in September and the earthworks well under way on 3 more.
As followers of twitter will probably know several EGD designers attended the World Forum of Golf Architects in St Andrews last week. Typically these types of events provide an ideal chance to debate current issues affecting the industry and last week was no different.
One of the key points that resonated with me was the ever increasing conflict between environmental sustainability and the continual advances in technology. As well as creating a sporting venue good golf design usually incorporates habitat areas for wildlife and creates an area where people can interact with the environment.
In a world where environmental issues are becoming evermore prevalent we, as designers, are required to put more emphasis on designing courses that provide more natural habitats, have less irrigated areas and integrate with the local communities. Unfortunately advances in technology are making this increasingly difficult. As the distance the ball travels has increased so too has the length of courses meaning more land is required for golf, and a larger area needs to be irrigated, in turn this can lead to reduced area for natural habitats. Longer golf courses also mean longer rounds which is seen by many as having a negative impact on the game as leisure time becomes increasingly precious.
There is no easy solution to this problem but the most positive thing to come out of last weeks conference was a general agreement between the European Institute of Golf Course Architects, the American Society of Golf Course Architects and the Society of Australian Golf Course Architects to work together to try to find a solution. Ultimately though the answer to this will probably lie with golf’s governing bodies the R&A and the USGA who control the laws governing equipment.
Princes Golf Club in Sandwich, Kent is a classic Links golf course set in the same stretch of coastal dunes as Royal St Georges and Royal Cinque ports. It is probably best known as the venue of the 1932 Open Championship where Gene Sarazen debuted his recent golfing invention, the sand wedge, which he used to great affect as he went on to win his first and only Open Championship. Unfortunately the original layout that hosted the Open was lost during WWII but the present 27 hole course, which was laid out in 1950, still poses a very good test and has hosted the Curtis Cup and is still used as Open Qualifying venue.
Although the longest combination of the 3 loops of nines is relatively long, measuring just under 7,300 yards, recent advances in technology have left a number of the revetted pot style bunkers obsolete. EGD were recently asked to assist the Golf Club formulate a long term strategy to update and improve the golf course. The first phase of this process began this week when I visited the course to assist the greenkeeping team with the renovation of a number of the revetted bunkers, a process which will be ongoing throughout the winter months.
When asked what makes a great project most golf architects would quickly say it’s having a great site. While this is true its only part of the equation, almost as important is the people. Without good people a great site will never reach its full potential. Fortunately for me I was given the chance to work on a project that was blessed with both.
On the first of September The Montgomerie Course at Papillon Golf Club opened its doors for a select number of golfers to experience the course prior to the course being overseeded at the end of month and the official opening ceremony in October. This marks the end of a two and half years of hard work, a awful lot of sweat and even some tears (usually at Golf Managers very bad jokes!) and although this was a very proud day for all involved it was also tinged with a little sadness. The opening of the course effectively draws to a close my involvement on what has been a hugely enjoyable project and also ends my fortnightly trip to the kebab shop in downtown Belek. As with any project it has had its fair share of stressful days and even the odd heated word but ultimately everything was always forgotten over a cold beer after work. As I said at the beginning it’s often the people that make the project and that has never been more true than in Turkey regarding all my new friends at Papillon and Golf Med.