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Cross Country Golf

I often wonder what the most strategic golf course in the world is. In my opinion it’s not the likes of The Old Course, Oakmont or Royal Melbourne. The answer lies much closer to home; anyone’s home in fact, your local club can be transformed if you play it cross country style; nowhere would a strategic thinking golfer prevail more.

For those who don’t know, the fundamentals of cross country golf are this: Tee it up, agree a distant green with your fellow players and plot your way there. It may involve going round forests, over outcrops of trees, streams and ditches, across fairways and bunkers to greens unlikely to be designed to accommodate shots from all directions. Your shot making skills will be tested to the extreme, not many standard courses will require, draw’s, fades, lob shots and punches all on the same hole; it’s this that makes cross country golf so great, after all, variety is the spice of life! Very few people would play a cross country hole and only think about one shot at a time, like chess you should think at least 2-3 moves ahead.

Many club players could benefit from applying these strategic thoughts to their usual game; too often I see people get the driver out on par 4’s without even looking what lies ahead, there is little else on the golf course as rewarding as making a strategic birdie exactly the way you pictured it in your mind the night before.

Next time you are at your club late one evening why not test your strategic brain cells and play to a different green? Please remember to keep it safe though; keep an eye out for other golfers and playing over roads and buildings is definitely not recommended!

We’d love to hear your cross country golf stories so please tweet us @eurogolfdesign; the most interesting will win a Nike hat signed by Paul Casey!

Carne Golf Links New 9 Holes – Duneland Golf On An Epic Scale

In these harsh economic times it is nice to be able to report on a golf course opening, even if it is one with which we have not had a design involvement. Such is the case with the unveiling of the new Kilmore 9 holes at Carne Golf Links in Belmullet, County Mayo, Ireland.

I must declare a personal interest in the course, as I am an overseas life member of Belmullet Golf Club. One of the key incentives for me joining was the prospect of this new 9 holes being developed through the most incredible dunes I have ever seen. I was shown a draft plan back in 2006, which had been prepared by one time EGD designer, Jim Engh. The course that has finally emerged some seven years later is much revised from this initial sketch and has, in the later stages of development, been spearheaded by a good friend of EGD, Mr. Ally McIntosh.

Whilst Ally has fronted the design of the new course, it only exists because of the willpower and dedication of one man, Carne’s Eamon Mangan. Eamon was the inspiration and the driving force behind developing the new holes, despite Ireland’s crushing recession. The holes have been built on the tightest of shoestring budgets, reportedly just €140,000. Work could only be carried out when there was money in the kitty to allow it, which meant that for long periods the fledgling links lay deserted. On more than one occasion I looked out over the new course and doubted that it would ever be finished, but with Eamon’s dedication and Ally’s design eye, the course was finally unveiled for play on Tuesday July 23 2013.

The entire Carne development is a good news story. This is a modern links, dating only from the mid 90’s, developed by the community as a tourism incentive. It was the last course to be designed by the great Eddie Hackett, whose light touch has left in place some outlandish fairway contouring that other more heavy handed architects may have flattened in the pursuit of fairness. The story of how the course came to fruition is succinctly captured by Richard Phinney and Scott Whitley in their excellent book, ‘Links of Heaven’. How the locals rallied together at the eleventh hour to purchase the links from seventeen separate landowners, each with a government grant to fence in their strip of duneland with five rows of barbed wire, is a story of devout community spirit and foresight. Their reward is a magnificent course, ranked consistently within the top 50 courses in Great Britain & Ireland. If ever a course was worthy of making a concerted effort to play, Carne is it. Nobody arrives in Belmullet by mistake and this amazing links at the very edge of the continent, makes the long, lonely drive across the dark peat moors of Mayo thoroughly worthwhile.

Carne now has twenty-seven of the most dramatic, natural duneland holes in the World. With such a minimal budget, the necessity was to use the lie of the land wherever possible and it is with great skill that the new 9 wends its way between and over dunes of epic proportions. It is thrilling golf, raw in form and with stern consequences for waywardness. The hand of man is evident only in the location of the few bunkers that punctuate the course and the sporty, turbulent green surfaces, that will be great fun to putt on once they have fully matured. One minute you are playing through narrow clefts between immense sand hills, fully 100-feet high. The next you have ascended to a pulpit tee, seemingly on the roof of the World, with incredible views across the dunes to Blacksod Bay, the Atlantic Ocean and the islands that pepper the horizon. Golf really can be this great. It is a lesson to all of us who design for a living.

The course is still admittedly something of a rough cut. Given some maturity it will become a polished diamond and further cement Carne’s growing global reputation. Eamon, Ally and all at Carne should be immensely proud of their achievements. It is superb.

Above: This giant blow out bunker is the key feature of this drop shot par 3

Above: Second shot on this par 5 is played over giant dune above the flagstick!

Above: Do…Not…Go…Left!

Above: This stunning view is the reward for the steep ascent to the 9th tee

Zavidovo is European Golf Design’s 50th Major New Project

The opening of Zavidovo PGA National Russia represents an important milestone in the history of European Golf Design as the course is the 50th to have opened since the company was created in 1992. Russia also marks the 22nd country where European Golf Design has golf courses in play.

Following the opening ceremony, European Golf Design’s Managing Director, Jeremy Slessor, commented; “It is a great achievement to have created so many new courses in such a wide variety of regions and countries. We believe that our attention to detail and client support are the reasons why so many of our projects have been successful, not only for the quality of golf which they provide, but also for the economic advantages for our clients.”

The award winning Zavidovo PGA National Russia is the centre piece of a new exclusive development created by Moscow Agranta on the banks of the Volga river, 100 kilometres west of Moscow. Measuring 7,400 yards from the back tees, the course is characterised by wide fairways, undulating greens and heather clad bunkers.

Speaking after the golf course had been unveiled to the international media and other guests, European Golf Design’s project architect, Dave Sampson, said; “We are extremely proud of what we have created here at Zavidovo. We have been fortunate to have had a great construction and grow-in team, and that, combined with a great client, helped us to deliver a really high quality project.”

“The course is looking absolutely fantastic. The playing surfaces are hard and fast in accordance with our design intent, and the heather we have planted around the bunkers gives the golf course a heathland character which is quite unique for Russia.”

Dave Sampson is sure that the course will prove a stern test for the elite players, but will also be a fun and strategic challenge to high handicap golfers. “Russia is an emerging golfing nation, and we were fully aware when designing the course, that we would need to provide multiple teeing grounds for players of all abilities. In addition, to further encourage golf development, the course has extensive practices greens and a full length practice range with state of the art teaching facilities. In 2015 we will also be adding a PGANationalGolfAcademy.”

Above: Zavidovo PGA National in Russia

On Tour with European Golf Design

The past few weeks have been something of a blur here with so much going on around Europe on some of our courses. Firstly, Princes GC in Kent played host, with Royal Cinque Ports, to the strokeplay stages of the British Amateur Championships, eventually won by Garrick Porteous of England. The course, which has gone through an extensive renovation project over the past few years under the guidance of Gary Johnston, was in magnificent condition for the players, many of whom knew the course from past visits and commented on its much improved strategy, playability and conditioning.

From the seaside links of Princes, we moved to Russia where, just north of Moscow, the ‘inland links’ at Zavidovo PGA National Russia formally opened on the 23rd June. It was in magnificent condition for the weekend, enjoyed by more than one hundred members and guests – our thanks go to Course Manager Paul Avison from Braemar Golf for that. The day was organised perfectly by Phil Jones and Mike Braidwood also of Braemar Golf. The course, designed by Dave Sampson, is a real delight – from a player’s perspective, it is full of choices, which means that it can play differently every time you tee up there.

Linna Golf in Hameenlina, Finland, hosted the Finnish PGA Championships last week. Again the course was in fine shape and clearly challenged the field, with Joonas Granberg winning with a score of -2. It’s always hugely gratifying to visit a course years after it’s opening (Linna Golf opened in 2005) to see how it has matured. And it has matured beautifully – it sits within the landscape so well it appears decades older than it really is.

Finally, we made the short trip to Evian Resort in France for the opening of the Evian Resort Golf Club (formerly known as Evian Masters Golf Club). For the past two winters, we have been involved in the total redesign and reconstruction of the golf course. All eighteen greens, tees and bunkers have been redesigned, along with new irrigation and drainage systems. Working over a winter in the foothills of mountains was never going to be easy, and the past winter has been anything but easy. Thanks to the dedication of the entire project team the project opened on time last Saturday for invited guests and for the members today, Monday 1 July. Dave Sampson has done a stunning job to design the course for the Evian Championships in September when the course hosts the newest Major Championship in world golf.

Above: Zavidovo PGA National in Russia

Above: Linna Golf in Hameenlina, Finland

Above: Bunker sand going in at Evian Resort Golf Club

Paul Casey’s double for European Golf Design and Colin Montgomerie Design

This weekend’s win for Paul Casey at the Irish Open was significant for two reasons. Firstly it marked the return to form for one of England’s most popular golfers, and secondly, he became a two time winner on courses designed by Colin Montgomerie in association with European Golf Design.

The Irish Open returned to the Montgomerie Course at Carton House for the third time, having previously staged the event in 2005 and 2006. The course, which opened in 2004, is often described as an ‘inland links’, characterised by its steep faced, penal bunkering and dramatic swales and contouring on and around the greens. Paul Casey showed an early liking for the course in 2006 when he finished runner up to Thomas Bjorn, losing by just one shot after three putting the last green. He more than made up for that this year by holing a monster putt for an eagle three on the 72nd hole to confirm his first victory since 2011.

That last win came at the inaugural Volvo Golf Champions at the Royal Golf Club at Riffa Views in Bahrain. As at Carton House, the Montgomerie Course at Riffa Views was designed to provide a links style golf experience, but this time in a desert environment, with fast running fairways and open approaches into huge, firm greens which are dramatically contoured. It is clearly a style which suits Paul Casey’s game.

So, if you’re wondering where Paul’s next win might come, then our tip would be to look no further than the Turkish Airlines Open which will be played at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal in November as part of the exciting Final Series of The European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Above: The 18th green on the Montgomerie Course

Carton’s Montgomerie Course Ready for Irish Challenge

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.

You can find out more about the 2013 Irish Open at http://www.golf.discoverireland.ie/Irish-Open/Home/

Above: The 12th hole on the Montgomerie Course

Amateur Championship to showcase European Golf Design upgrade of Prince’s Golf Club

(Sunningdale, UK – June 12, 2013) Prince’s Golf Club will host the Amateur Championship next week, following a major renovation of the golf course by European Golf Design.

The Championship, which will be played over the historic links, represents an important landmark in the renaissance of one of Kent’s finest courses. Prince’s famously staged the 1932 Open Championship, won by Gene Sarazen, but the original course layout was subsequently destroyed during the Second World War and completely redesigned in 1950 by Guy Campbell and John Morrison to create the current 27 hole layout.

Prince’s Golf Club has recently redeveloped their facilities. As part of this project European Golf Design was commissioned in 2010 to oversee a number of improvements ahead of the course hosting both the Final Open Championship Qualifying in 2011 and the 2013 Amateur Championship, which the club is co-hosting with Royal Cinque Ports.

European Golf Design’s role was to carry out a strategic review of all 27 holes and oversee a total bunker restoration programme. A number of new tee complexes have been constructed and two fairways relocated to restore the original design intent and improve strategy.

Gary Johnston, lead designer on the project for European Golf Design, said; “Our role wasn’t about toughening the golf courses, it was more about reviewing the strategy of the holes to take account of the advances in technology. In all we relocated about 22 bunkers and built a further 19, whilst also removing a number of other bunkers which were redundant. The biggest change came at the 6th hole on the Himalayas where we have moved the fairway 30 yards to the left to improve the alignment of the golf hole and bring a new wetland into play.”

“It has been a long term project which was broken into phases and mostly carried out over the last three winters, which is actually the best time to build revetted bunkers. It has been hugely rewarding to work on the restoration of such a historic course and I am looking forward to seeing how it is tackled by the world’s best amateur golfers.”

The Amateur Championship is taking place between the 17th and 22nd of June. The 288 player field play one round each at Prince’s and Royal Cinque Ports, after which the 64 players with the lowest scores go forward to compete in the match play stage of the competition.

Merion – 2013 US Open

How refreshing will it be to see a major golf tournament being played on a course under 7000 yards? Personally, I think it is and the USGA should be applauded for it!

It’s been 32 years since the USGA took their national championship to the famed Merion GC, so the course will be a bit of mystery to most. The plot of land is small at 127 acres and the spectator experience will be akin to an Open Championship at the Old Course St Andrews, but this tournament is the US Open, so you know the test is going to be tough!

The course is renowned for being ‘tricky’ and with the only two par 5’s coming in the first four holes, birdies will need to be made early and scores held onto for the remaining fourteen. Setup would have undoubtedly been firm and fast, but the heavy rain over the past week has unfortunately put an end to that. On the flip side however, the rough will be now be even more brutal than usual and the fairways will in all probability be even narrower than their usual ‘pencil thin’, but hopefully not too narrow that the bunkers seem detached. With the course playing soft, the famous wicker basket pins will most definitely be hidden away to protect the course and likely threat of low scores. (Click on link to the USGA website for a fantastic fly through of each hole) http://www.usopen.com/en_US/course/index.html

From a course design point of view it’s going to be a fascinating watch to see how the best players in the world approach the challenge and strategise their way round. Will Tiger employ a similar strategy to the one which won him the Open Championship at Hoylake in 2006, where he took an iron from nearly every tee? On paper, it must offer up the best chance of a first major success to some of the game’s shorter hitters like Luke Donald, Matteo Mannaserro & Matt Kuchar? Perhaps it will be the year for the Steve Stricker!! But as a man who likes the odd flutter, Graeme McDowell must have a great chance!

Nonetheless, whoever the champion come Sunday, I can’t wait to see how the course stands up…..could this become the new template for championship golf??