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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

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.

Foxhills Club & Resort – 16th hole on the Longcross officially open.

It has been a privilege to have been part of the major golf course modernisation project at Foxhills Club & Resort, Surrey, UK.

It was a special moment over the weekend when the signature par 3, 16th hole on the Longcross was officially open!

Members enjoyed a ‘pro’s masterclass’ with David Howell and Shergo Al Kurdi, hosted by the one and only Wayne ‘Radar’ Riley.

With drinks flowing, the hole was unveiled with a celebratory event where we got insight into how the pro’s would approach the hole and how strategy is crucial on our redesigned par-three. With everything from swing tips and club selection, our members were treated to an inspiring and memorable occasion. ⛳️