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
With it being the Dutch Open week on the European Tour we thought it would be a good time to look back at the course we designed (EGD’s Ross McMurray) in association with Ryder Cup Legend Colin Montgomerie, aptly named course “The Dutch”. It is also a fitting time as The Dutch is celebrating 10 years since it opened back in 2011. The course was designed with a mission to transfer the Scottish experience to Dutch soil. The result: a beautiful Inland Links Championship Course. The Dutch is part of European Tour Destinations; a network of world-class golf courses all closely linked to The European Tour. It has hosted the KLM Open from 2016 to 2018 in collaboration with KLM, TIG Sports and the European Tour, it recently hosted The B-NL Challenge Trophy. Find out more on The Dutch website at https://thedutch.nl/
After more than twenty years of planning Royal Norwich has finally relocated to its new home at Weston Estate, a few miles outside the city. The golf course, created by European Golf Design, was officially opened for play by Ian Poulter, who took time out from his BMW PGA Championship preparations to play the course on Monday 16th September.
The move for Royal Norwich comes after 125 years at its Hellesdon site and after selling that property to Persimmon Homes.
Speaking about the project European Golf Design MD, Jeremy Slessor, said: “I first visited the site in 2006 and knew immediately that it had the potential to become a fine golf course. The mature parkland with its many specimen trees sets it apart from most other sites. After all this time I’m thrilled that we have played a part in creating an exciting future for Royal Norwich and I wish the membership the best of luck in their new home”.
Ross McMurray was the lead designer on the project for European Golf Design and he commented: “From the start our design goals have been inspired by the wishes of Royal Norwich. The club developed a clear vision for its future and set strategic aims which helped us to define the design requirements on the Weston Estate. ‘Acknowledge our heritage and embrace the future’ was one of Royal Norwich’s fundamental objectives and so we have gone to great lengths to design a golf course which is very modern in its outlook but respects and responds to the existing landscape. I wanted the course to possess an immediate sense of maturity so that it sat comfortably within this fabulous parkland and I’m delighted that this has been achieved.”
“The club wanted the course to be long enough to challenge the best golfers if required, but most importantly it needed to be a course which was playable for higher handicaps and short enough for golfers of all standards to enjoy. The course measures over 7,200 yards from the back tees but only 5,330 from the forward tees, so there should be a course length that is suitable for everyone. I’m sure the members will find it great fun.”
As well as the new 18 hole course at Royal Norwich, European Golf Design has also created a six hole Academy Course. Built to the same standards as the main course it provides a much shorter golf experience with three par 3s and three par 4s and should take no more than one hour to play. The Academy Course has been an important part of the proposals from the start and it fulfils another key objective for Royal Norwich, to ensure there is a clear members’ journey in place from junior through to senior.
Ross McMurray continued: “I must say I am full of admiration for what Royal Norwich have done. To relocate their golf course and also change the whole structure and strategy of their club has been a magnificent achievement. They deserve every plaudit and I hope what they have done provides a template for other golf clubs to follow.”
On his first full day in the role, everyone at EGD offers their congratulations to Ross McMurray on his election to the Presidency of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA). This is a great honour for Ross and recognises the contribution he has made to his colleagues at the EIGCA and to the wider industry over the last thirty years or so.
We know Ross will perform his new role with his usual quiet diligence, professionalism and competence, and wish him much success over the course of his two-year term. The rumour that he wishes to build a wall around Europe and get Mexico to pay for it is, as far as we can tell, unfounded.
Above: Ross McMurray (right) is congratulated by outgoing President Tom Mackenzie (centre). Christoph Städler (left) takes over from Ross as Vice-President.
Having turned fifty last year (I know, it’s almost impossible to believe!) I have found that the last 12 months has been a fairly hectic time with numerous parties and reunions of old friends celebrating the same milestone. Another particularly memorable reunion was a recent celebration with university friends marking 30 years since we started as students and it was amazing how we all seemed to gel together again, as if we had only been apart for a few weeks rather than for over twenty five years. Of course the one thing that we all agreed on was the fact that none of us had changed a bit!
I had similar thoughts a few days later when I was invited to visit a golf course I had not seen for the best part of twenty years.
One of the great joys of being a golf course architect is to be able to return to a course which you have designed years after it was first opened. Our official involvement with most projects ends on the day the golf course opens for play, although often you are invited back if there is a special event or you need to check on the golf course set up.
At EGD we normally maintain a close relationship with our clients and often return to our courses over the years, sometimes even with our clubs! However, inevitably clients and personnel change, and like an old friend you sometimes begin to lose touch. Add to that the remoteness of some projects and it is easy for both sides to find themselves ‘moving on’.
So it was with a mixture of surprise and delight that I received an invitation to join in the 20th birthday celebrations of Schloss Wilkendorf Golf Club in Germany, near Strausburg, about an hour’s drive east of Berlin.
Schloss Wilkendorf was a large project we designed in the early 90’s with 36 holes and extensive practice facilities, including a three hole academy course. The championship course was designed in association with Sandy Lyle.
I well remember my first visit to Schloss Wilkendorf in 1992, only three years after Germany’s reunification, and driving seemingly miles along cobbled streets to get to the site. I thought it quite unlikely that golf would be considered as a serious sport in this part of the world. Yet how wrong could I be? Before construction even started a short course was mown out in a meadow alongside our course and it was soon filled with children going around with borrowed clubs, quickly reaching a very good standard.
Returning to Schloss Wilkendorf I was delighted to see that, like my friends from college, the golf courses had hardly changed, and one other thing had not changed at all. I was amazed to find that the head greenkeeper was still Gordon Smith, the man who had grown in the golf course for the contractors, Southern Golf, all those years before. Gordon has matured and developed the course without losing any of its character and I thoroughly enjoyed our day as we toured every hole.
Schloss Wilkendorf is a lovely, secluded place, with both golf courses totally enclosed by woodland. The region is well worth a visit and it now boasts some fine golf courses. Not far away is Sporting Club Berlin at Scharmützelsee which boasts two EGD courses created by our former colleague Stan Eby, including the Faldo Course, which he designed in association with Nick Faldo, and the Eby Course, named in Stan’s honour.
Inevitably, at the end of all the reunions and 50th birthday celebrations we all make promises to meet up again soon and to not leave it so long the next time. Similarly I resolve to visit Schloss Wilkendorf again before I’m invited to their next 20 year anniversary. Certainly I want to make that visit before I am doing the rounds of 70th birthday celebrations!
“Do you get to play the courses you’ve designed?” It’s a question I’m often asked by people when they hear what I do for a living, and the answer is “yes, but not as often as you might think”. Although we might visit a new golf course thirty or more times during construction and establishment the opportunities to play the course are actually few and far between. We might get a small window of opportunity to play the course, or more usually a few holes, before opening day, and then perhaps once or twice more when we make our final site visits, but thereafter the chance to take on our own design are fairly infrequent. Even when you do visit the course over subsequent months and years, we’re normally too busy looking at it professionally to have time to play it leisurely.
So when we get the chance to return purely for golf we tend to grab it with both hands, and recently we’ve revisited a couple of EGD courses which were originally opened in the late ‘90’s. Ten days ago three of our number took time out to play the course we designed with Ian Woosnam at Dale Hill Hotel & Country Club in East Sussex. The course, which has some wonderful panoramic views of the surrounding “1066” countryside (a reference to nearby Hastings), was in great shape and a delight to play on a wonderful summer’s day.
And then last week I was lucky enough to be invited to the Woburn Classic Golf Day which was played on the Marquess Course, the youngest of three wonderful courses at Woburn Golf & Country Club. It had been some time since I last visited the course and I was eager to see how it looked and played. Well, all I can say is that I was impressed. The conditioning was superb, certainly the best I’ve seen there over the last 15 years, and John Clarke, the Golf Course Manager at Woburn, and Gary Leadbetter, his head greenkeeper on The Marquess, deserve a huge amount of praise.
This has been an exciting time for Woburn, and especially for The Marquess Course which had its 14th birthday in June this year and had two great reasons to celebrate. Earlier this month it was one of four courses around the country to stage the Final Open Championship Qualifying (the other three qualifying courses selected by the R&A were Sunningdale New, Hillside and Gailes Links). Irish amateur Paul Dunne comfortably led the Woburn qualifiers with Oliver Fisher and Celtic Manor touring pro Rhys Enoch (a man who obviously likes EGD courses!) taking the other two places available.
The week after Open Qualifying it was announced that The Marquess will be the venue for the 2016 RICOH Women’s British Open Championship. This is a major coup for Woburn and shows how The Marquess is held in increasingly high regard, particularly when one looks at the current rota for the championship. The venues for the proceeding years leading up to 2016 will have been; The Old Course, St Andrews (2013), Royal Birkdale (2014) and Turnberry Ailsa Course (2015).
The Marquess already has a track record of hosting high quality tournaments, having staged two British Masters soon after it opened in 2001 and 2002 and then the English Amateur Championship in 2011, and it is great news that it will now stage one of women’s golf major championships. In fact 2016 will be an exciting year for EGD as well. With the RICOH Women’s British Open on The Marquess and the Evian Championship at Evian Resort Golf Club, two of that year’s women’s major championships will be played on EGD courses.
Lists of the World’s top golf courses always sparks lively debate in EGD towers whenever they are published. No one ever agrees with the actual rankings and mock indignation is often expressed at the inclusion of some courses at the expense of others. If our own golf courses fail to make ‘the list’ then we decry the inability of the selection panel to understand the obvious superiority of the design and we criticise the whole concept of trying to compare one course against another. On the other hand when courses by European Golf Design are included then we congratulate the panel members on their fine judgement and impeccable ability to understand the intricacies of great golf course architecture!
So, in the past week, we’ve had nothing but praise for those fine fellows at Golf World magazine following the publication of their biennial list of the Top 100 Golf Courses in Continental Europe. And the reason? It’s because there are no fewer than six courses within the rankings which we’ve been involved with. Five of our Courses (Stadium Course at PGA Catalunya designed in association with Neil Coles and Angel Gallardo, The Faldo Course at Sporting Club Berlin designed with Nick Faldo, The Sultan at Antalya Golf Club, Navarino Dunes with Bernhard Langer and Linna Golf) all made the list in 2011 and for 2013 they are joined by a brand new course in The Netherlands called The Dutch. The Dutch is another of the courses we have designed with Colin Montgomerie, who (with our assistance) is building a fine portfolio of work across Europe. Two of Colin’s courses are on the European Tour schedule for this year and The Dutch is already marked down to stage the Dutch Open for three years from 2016.
In addition to the top 100 courses a further five of our courses are included in Golf World’s list of the next 100. These include Lighthouse GC designed with Ian Woosnam, the newly renovated Evian Golf Club, the recently opened Zavidovo PGA National Russia, The Montgomerie Maxx and The Pasha at Antalya GC. Impressively that makes eleven courses by European Golf Design and our partners in the top 200 in Europe.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these courses is their geographical spread, located as they are in The Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, France, Russia and Finland, confirming our reputation for building high quality golf courses in different styles and in many different regions of the world.
It’s another big tournament week for European Golf Design as an impressive list of Major Champions gather near Dublin for the 2013 Irish Open at Carton House Golf Club. Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and World Number Two Rory McIlroy will all be challenging for their national title over the Montgomerie Course, designed by Colin Montgomerie and European Golf Design’s Stan Eby. It is one of two European Golf Design courses at Carton House, the other being the O’Meara Course, designed in association with Mark O’Meara.
Set within open parkland the Montgomerie Course has the feel of an inland links, and is characterised by steep faced bunkering as well as dramatic swales and contouring around the greens. It is a very strategic, thinking man’s golf course which demands accurate shot placement as poor shots will tend to be swept away from target areas and towards the penal bunkers.
This is the third time in the last nine years that the Irish Open has been staged on the Montgomerie Course, which was named as the “Best New Design of the Year” in 2004 by Golf World. To add to its tournament credentials the course has also successfully hosted the 2004 Irish Amateur Open Championship, the 2010 Irish Seniors open and the 2012 European Amateur Championship.
The Irish Open is the first of two European Tour events which will be staged this year on Colin Montgomerie/European Golf Design courses. The other will be at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal in Turkey for the Turkish Airlines Open, part of the inaugural Final Series of The European Tour’s Race to Dubai.
“Sustainability is absolutely the centre pole that keeps this whole Olympic tent up”. So says Head of Deliverance Ian Fletcher in the BBC comedy ‘Twenty Twelve’, the spoof series based on the organisation of the 2012 Olympic Games. It’s a metaphor, often used by the lead character, played brilliantly by Hugh Bonneville, to express the central importance of various issues as the Olympic Delivery Commission lurches from crisis to crisis.
Yet is this metaphor so far from the truth? I’d argue that sustainability is becoming the ‘centre pole’ for many new developments. At European Golf Design sustainability is certainly at the heart of our design process. From the early stages of any project we work hard to create courses which exhibit a positive environmental, social and economic benefit.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s the principal concern was the environment. At that time there were growing concerns about the impact of golf, especially regarding the use of water and the effects of chemicals and fertilisers on natural habitats and water courses. Environmental Assessments were incorporated into the UK planning system in 1988, and this led to projects having to compensate for any negative environmental impacts.
In the mid-1990s the Committed to Green initiative led the way in giving golf a voice within the environmental lobby and for the past decade that task has been led by the Golf Environment Organisation (GEO). It has taken many years for the golf industry to put across the message that golf is not the blight on the landscape that many perceive, and in fact golf courses which are properly designed, constructed and managed can actually benefit local ecology and provide valuable green space.
But it is no longer just the environment that concerns us. Today’s developments not only need to demonstrate a greater degree of environmental awareness, they also need to achieve higher standards of social and economic stewardship. Sustainability is defined as the relationship between these three elements.
GEO is dedicated to ensuring that golf leads the way in the development and management of sustainable projects and at European Golf Design we work closely with GEO to help all of our projects meet the appropriate sustainability criteria. As part of our commitment to sustainability, three of our staff will soon be taking part in an important new initiative jointly organised by the European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA) and GEO.
The EIGCA’s ‘Raising the Standard of Sustainable Golf Course Design Programme’ will be the first Continuing Professional Development course on sustainable golf in the world. Those who attend the course will learn design principals based on the six action areas that comprise Sustainable Golf: Water, Energy & Resources, Environmental Quality, Landscape & Ecosystems, People & Communities and Products & Supply Chains. In the final phase of the programme, designers will need to demonstrate their understanding through the submission of a real case study. Those who successfully complete the programme will then be listed on a Sustainable Design Register.
It is an important step forward for golf and one that will hopefully lead to real improvements in the standard of golf course design and also in the way that golf developments are perceived outside the industry.
If sustainability wasn’t the ‘centre pole’ of the golf course design tent before, then it is definitely moving closer to the centre now, and to quote Ian Fletcher once again, “were it not for that centre pole at the centre, then how would we know where the centre was”!