• Latest News from European Golf Design

    Dubai Hill named ‘World’s Best New Golf Course’ at the prestigious 2019 World Golf Awards

Game Changers

GEO Sustainable Golf Foundation has identified EGD’s, Gary Johnston as an individual who has gone above and beyond in his measurable day-to-day actions. Gary has taken leadership steps to raise awareness of important global issues, while working hard to find effective, sustainable solutions for course sites and their immediate environments.

Thanks to the project’s focus on positive social and environment impact, Irie Fields at Kittitian Hills, St.Kitts was the first golf course globally to attain the GEO Certified Development status. Irie Fields was designed by Gary Johnston from European Golf Design (EGD) in partnership with Ian Woosnam.

“Sustainability was integral in everything we did at Irie Fields, from the moment we picked up our pencils through to seeding the last hole,” said Gary Johnston. “We are incredibly proud to have been part of this project. We have already recommended the GEO Developments programme to other developers and we hope that Irie Fields is just the first of many golf courses that we are involved with that will gain the GEO Certified Development mark.”

Gary has a long list of design projects under his belt including Dubai Hills Golf Club which was named ‘World’s Best New Golf Course’ in 2019. Gary is also a Senior Member of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects and sits on the EIGCA’s Council.

Irie Fields Achievements

– World’s first “zero-chemical” construction of a warm season golf course
– More than 97% of bulk construction materials sourced from the island
– Over 25 hectares of new edible landscapes integrated throughout the golf course
– 95% of construction labour workforce came from the island

Find out more about the Sustainable Golf Champions at https://sustainable.golf/champions/designers-and-constructors/

2023 Sustainable Golf Developments


2023 has been an exciting year working with sustainable golf developments. With more projects engaging, working in new locations, more certifications being achieved and in general more interest in sustainable golf and climate action throughout the entire golf industry. This continual and increased industry engagement emphasises how parts of the industry are feeling about this important topic and that they are willing to try and make a difference.

Another point of note from 2023 was the launch of a Sustainable Golf Renovations guide and improved support for courses planning a renovation. This the latest in a series of Sustainable Golf guidelines produced by the development team. This improved support will help golf courses to carry out connected and sustainable renovations, whether a small upgrade or wholesale changes to the course and surrounding area.

The team continued to work alongside the three major architect’s organizations (American Society of Golf Course Architects. (ASGCA); European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA); and Society of Australian Golf Course Architects (SAGCA)) as they progress with their joint pledge to take climate action.

For more information visit https://sustainable.golf/

Bognor Regis Golf Club

In Planning
Bognor Regis, England
Designer: Gary Johnston, EIGCA, European Golf Design

When the land that the original Bognor Regis Golf Club sat on was planned to be sold for housing, a new site was required where the course and club could be re-built and re-invented. When land was found, new permission was required. As the development was seeking to achieve GEO Certified® Development status we worked with the club and European Golf Design to help with the planning application. A very open, large, arable agricultural field greeted us at the site visit and the team were convinced that this project would have a number of positive impacts – and that this was a process that we wanted to assist in as much as we could.

By creating a Sustainability Blueprint for the project, which set out the positive sustainability impacts and outputs from the designs, we were able to provide the local council with the assurances that the planned development of the golf course would be have a positive impact on the community, site and local wildlife population.

As the planning permission process continues and wait for the development process to begin we have no doubt that this project has the potential to significantly boost the biodiversity levels and be able to address minor flooding issues around the area with its proposals.

Hulton Park

In Planning
Bolton, England
Designer: Ross McMurray, EIGCA, European Golf Design

Similarly to the Bognor Regis project, Hulton Park is a development in England which is seeking GEO Certified® Development status. We have been involved here since 2016 in the early conceptual stages of the project and as such, have been involved throughout the planning application process.

The project, designed by European Golf Design and owned by PEEL Holdings, has a primary ambitious objective to host a Ryder Cup in the future. Situated on a landscape of mixed woodland, recreational and livestock uses, the project looks to restore a historic designed landscape framework and weave a set of exciting ‘match play’ specialist golf holes throughout the property. Twinned with a best-in-class training academy and short course area, this will also significantly boost the golf offering for the aspiring golfer in Bolton and the North-West of England in the future.

Having recently secured planning approval, focus in the team now switches to Ryder Cup hosting efforts. We have no doubt that this course has to potential to be one of the premier courses in the country.

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 2023 Ryder Cup – EGD’s Marco Simone Story

The ability of journalists to analyse within moments of an event has never ceased to impress me, but has never been a skill I’ve possessed, so it’s taken me twenty-four hours or so to process the past week at Marco Simone. I hope you’ll bear with me, because this is the end of a nine year project and a lot has happened.

Towards the end of 2014, we were invited to visit Rome by the Federazione Italiana Golf (‘FIG’) to inspect courses for a possible bid for the 2022 Ryder Cup Matches. We looked at a couple of good golf courses that had no space to hold the necessary infrastructure for a Ryder Cup, we looked at a pretty awful course and then there was Marco Simone. My first impression – the course was not nearly long enough and was in need of a complete refurbishment, but it had more than enough space (and space meant ‘potential’) to host the Matches and so, on that basis, Marco Simone became the candidate venue for FIG’s bid.

It was during those initial visits that I met two amazing women – Laura and Lavinia Biagiotti, the owners of Marco Simone. Sadly Laura passed away in 2017 so never got to see the results of her effort, but I have no doubt that she would have been extraordinarily proud of Lavinia for getting through the years of turmoil and challenge. Lavinia’s assistant, Valentina Virgili and right-hand man, Marco Piermattei, also became invaluable colleagues and friends over the years.

Italy won the right to host the 2022 Matches at the end of 2015, almost exactly a year after my first visit. Part of the commitment from FIG and Marco Simone was that the course would be completely redesigned to create a purpose-built venue. It was at that point that the design process was handed to my colleague, Dave Sampson. It was a bit of a gamble, given his relative experience at the time, but I had seen enough of his work in Zavidovo, Jeddah and Switzerland to believe he was more than capable. He didn’t let me down!

The design process, and subsequent construction, was anything but simple. There were high-voltage powerlines to relocate, high-pressure gas pipelines to avoid (which always seemed to be right where we didn’t want them); there was archaeology in several key locations which, at one point, caused a redesign of at least two holes just days before the dozers were due to move in. In order to keep golf open for the members, we had to phase work in nine-hole blocks adding time and logistical hassle. And then there was COVID which, as well as shutting the project down for about four weeks, meant we had to take multiple PCR tests prior to each visit to be allowed on to site which, in effect, became a sterile environment with distance restrictions and the construction teams operating in isolated groups with no contact with anyone outside their group. It also meant that Ryder Cup 2022 became Ryder Cup 2023!

All the construction work finished in 2020 and the first Italian Open was staged in 2021. Since then, two further Opens have been staged, in September 2022 and May of this year, all of which gave valuable feedback to Captain Stenson and his team…until Captain Stenson was no more and Captain Donald took the helm, ably assisted by Eduardo ‘Dodo’ Molinari who seemingly has every golf statistic since the beginning of time at his fingertips.

It wasn’t just the course design that we handled – our colleague Matt Sturt produced all of the on and off-course graphics for Ryder Cup Europe.

And so we come to this past weekend. This was my 76th visit to Marco Simone since 2014 (Dave has done many, many more) and I’d like to think I know the place, but arriving on Thursday morning, I was speechless as the entirety of the Ryder Cup build came into view – what a sight! I knew the course would work; I was a little less sure about the logistics of getting 55,000 spectators, 1800 volunteers, thousands of employees, players and support staff onto, and off, the venue in a timely manner – as it turned out, apart from a few minor setbacks (and, compared to past Ryder Cup matches I have attended, I really do mean minor), it all worked beautifully. That it did so, as with all of the on-course facilities, is the work of many people and so, if you will allow me, I’d like to take a few moments to thank them.

  • First, everyone at Marco Simone, led by Lavina Biagiotti, with Valentina, Marco, Riccardo, Massimo, Emilio and the rest of the project team.
    Gian-Paolo Montali, Alessandro Mancini and Barbara Monteduro at FIG.
  • The guys at SOL Golf, especially Mike O’Leary and Marcus Broeder.
  • Tommy Fazio II who assisted with construction management before COVID hit in 2020.
  • The amazing team at Ryder Cup Europe: Guy Kinnings, Richard Atkinson, Edward Kitson, James White, Paul Dunstan, Chris Trainor, Ben Bye, Rachel McCulloch, Claire Giacomotto, Graeme MacNiven, Eddie Adams and David Garland, along with past RCE stalwarts Richard Hills and David MacLaren.
  • Andy Brown, Gian Domenico Dorigo and Xavier Agusti Muñoz at Toro.
  • Course Superintendent, Lara Arias, and her soon-to-be husband, Alejandro Reyes (along with their colleague, Steve Okula) – what you did was nothing less than miraculous! We wish you the best of luck for the future and look forward to meeting the Superintendent for Ryder Cup 2053 soon!
  • Finally, Dave – I am almost lost for words. I always knew you could do it, but just hadn’t realised that you would do it with such creativity, vision, professionalism, energy, empathy and, when needed, bloody-mindedness . For all of the temporary, transient nature of an event like the Ryder Cup, there is a single element of permanence and that is the course – the way it handled everything we have talked about for so long , and did it so well, has blown me away. Mere congratulations are not nearly enough!

By Jeremy Slessor.

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 manager@driftgolfclub.com

Dave Sampson
European Golf Design
dsampson@egd.com www.egd.com

We were the FIRST Golf Course Design Company in the WORLD to become a Sustainable Golf Climate Leader

In the (bad) old days, it was perfectly normal to start a project by taking a parcel of land, figuring out the absolute best golf course routing and only then considering the implications of that layout on the land itself. Of course, in many instances that led to immeasurable environmental damage. We’re all older, wiser and more aware now of the impact our work has on the land. We are also infinitely more conscious of the potential that what we do (if done well) can actually enhance the value of land – so now the process starts with evaluation and the identification of areas of sensitivity and only following that do we start to route golf around the site, avoiding those sensitive areas. In this way, golf, flora and fauna can happily co-exist and flourish. The bottom line? Net positive impact – if that criteria cannot be met, don’t develop.

Even with this objective benchmark, we knew that in order to do the best work we could do, and despite utilising technology as much as possible, we simply needed to travel to sites and that our carbon footprint would increase as a result. So, working with GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf (GEO) and guided by the Net Zero programme , we set about measuring our total footprint using GEO Foundations Carbon Tracker Tool – from air travel to commuting to and from the office; from the purchase of paper to the volume of paper sent for recycling; from the gas used to heat the office to the fuel used in site vehicles – any measurable resource or output was calculated and, from that, our carbon emissions were accurately recorded. But then, what to do about it? Again through GEO we have taken responsibility for unavoided greenhouse gas emissions through the Gold Standard, retiring carbon credits with quantifiable contributions to climate change mitigation and the Sustainable Development Goals.

We thought we were late to this party. It turned out that we were actually the first golf course design company in the world to become a Sustainable Golf Climate Leader. We’re proud of that, but equally proud that we are not the only ones now – the more groups that get on the programme, the better the golf industry, wider society and the planet will be.

By Jeremy Slessor
Managing Director