On Site and On Course

Sometimes you’re in the office for days – and sometimes you’re not. Variety is the spice of life!

Monday 1st June
9.00 – Sunningdale. On holiday last week so I spend an hour in the office checking emails and then it’s off to the airport to catch a flight to Amsterdam. ‘The Dutch’ is a course we’re building with Colin Montgomerie near Gorinchem. 6 or 7 holes have been shaped and hopefully I can approve some areas for drainage and irrigation.

14.00 – Holland. Arrive Amsterdam, hire car and drive south. It’s a public holiday today so for once the traffic in Holland is fine.

15.00  Arrive at The Dutch. Only the shapers working today and we spend several hours walking the course and discussing the style of the shaping which is going to be something quite different. We all agree that there will be nothing in Holland like this!

Tuesday 2nd June
7.30 – Back on site working with the shapers and putting our thoughts into practice. The guys are working really well together so I leave them to it and meet with the Contractor and Project Manager. We discuss the programme of works and try to come up with some solutions to one or two problems which have arisen.  The site is below sea level and has its own particular challenges.

12.00 – I check tee sizes and inspect drainage and irrigation installation then head to the 9th green which has now been roughly shaped. It’s not bad but something isn’t quite working. I ask the machine operator to dig out a huge chunk on the right side. He looks at me as if I’ve gone mad but plunges the bucket into the subgrade. It certainly doesn’t look plain now!

16.00 – Another meeting where we discuss the work that has been approved and what will be done before my visit next week. 5 mins before I’m due to leave our irrigation designer turns up. He’s had a nightmare drive from Amsterdam. He wishes me the best of luck as I head off for the airport. I make it, just!

Wednesday 3rd June
9.00 – Sunningdale. Two hours in the office and then it’s off to the Twenty-Ten Course at Celtic Manor Resort for the Wales Open which starts tomorrow. I’m looking forward to seeing how the players handle the course this year prior to next year’s Ryder Cup on the same course.

13.30 – Wales. Meet up at the 18th green with a BBC crew to film a piece for their Raise Your Game programme, which is aimed at inspiring and motivating people from all walks of life. We discuss why I became a golf course architect and what it takes to become one. Afterwards I talk to Jim Mckenzie, Director of Golf at Celtic Manor Resort and David Garland, Director of Tour Operations at the European Tour. We discuss the set up of the golf course and particularly the work that has been done on the course since last year’s Wales Open. Jim has been working on firming up the greens and we have added one fairway bunker on the 4th and a new back tee on the 14th. Apart from that the only changes have been to the fairway outlines and David already has some thoughts about making another tweak to the mowing line on the 16th hole. I’ll go out tomorrow and see how the players tackle it.

15.30 – Meet up with another film crew from European Tour Productions who are filming a promotional piece to be shown next year before the Ryder Cup. We talk a little about how the course was built and I point out the work we did on the 18th hole. I agree to meet them again tomorrow so they can film more with the crowds on the course.

17.00 – I speak to a couple of the pros and also to some of the participants in the pro-am. Everyone is very positive and comment on the improved condition of the course now that it has had an extra year to mature. The only minor issue is the thickness of the rough which is a bit inconsistent, mainly because of the warm dry spell we have had in the weeks leading up to the tournament. I see a couple of old friends in Wayne Sheffield and Jason O’Malley from Wisley GC and Woburn G&CC respectively. They have just played in the pro-am together. Wayne has played well and knocked it round in about 75, a fantastic score. I tell him I obviously need to make it more difficult. No one else seems to agree!

19.00 – It’s a beautiful evening so I go out on the course and take some photos.

Thursday 4th June
10.00 – I’ve driven to Marriott St Pierre near Chepstow, a few miles down the road from Celtic Manor. We’ve been carrying out an extensive upgrade to both the courses here over the last two years and I want to check the two newest greens which opened for play on Monday. They look in fine condition but I make some suggestions regarding the edging of the bunkers to Stewart Wood the Golf Course Manager. We also discuss the last phase of the work, programmed to start in the autumn.

13.00 – Back at Celtic Manor I meet up with Jonathan Smith of Golf Environment Organisation. The GEO is a non-profit organisation working to maximise the social, environmental and economic benefits of golf and they are currently working on the 2010 Ryder Cup Environmental Action Plan. We discuss how this is going and also about GEO’s involvement with two of our other projects. 

15.00 – More filming with European Tour Productions then I can finally watch some golf. I meet up with my colleague Matt Sturt and we follow Colin Montgomerie as he plays the last 6 holes. It’s been another beautiful day. Let’s hope it stays like this for the weekend.

Friday 5th June
12.30 It was a late night! I spend a couple of hours catching up with emails and sending reports and then see a little bit of golf before having lunch with Russell Phillips from CMR. Many of the people who were involved in the construction and engineering of the golf course are also on the table. We reminisce about the project and some of its peculiar difficulties but there is an underlying sense of pride about our involvement and what has been achieved. Gareth Edwards is another of our guests and he and Thomas Bjorn do an excellent question and answer session.

19.00 It’s just starting to rain! One last word with Chris Sentence at the Twenty-Ten clubhouse who, with all the team there, make’s everyone feel so much at home and then it’s back to the hotel. I’ve been invited to have dinner with the members of the Twenty-Ten Course. It’s a great evening hosted by Sir Terry Mathews. Corey Pavin, US Ryder Cup team captain, is also in attendance. Sir Terry’s enthusiasm for the Ryder Cup and the Twenty-Ten Course is clear for all to see and he is obviously held in much affection by the membership.

Saturday 6th June
06.00 A few hours sleep broken only by the noise of heavy rain thundering against my window. 35mm of rain fell in just three hours, the course is flooded and it is still raining. Another 15mm falls and play is inevitably delayed but it is a testament to the new drainage system and the hard work of Jim McKenzie and his greenstaff that only an hour after the rain stops play is underway and virtually all the rounds are completed. A tough test but one that needed to be seen to be passed. 

So that’s it for this week. Three hours in the office over the last 14 days. I need to get behind the desk next week – or maybe not!

  • Shaping on the 2nd hole at The Dutch
  • Crowds around the 18th hole on The TwentyTen Course at Celtic Manor.