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Sultan Course welcomes the world’s best golfers

European Golf Design’s 7,000-yard Sultan Course at Antalya Golf Club introduces Woods, McIlroy, Westwood and Co to the layout that helped put Turkey’s Belek region on the golfing map

European Golf Design (EGD), the golf course design company of the European Tour and IMG, was an early pioneer of golf in Turkey when its Sultan Course at Antalya Golf Club opened nearly 10 years ago…today it welcomes the world’s best, playing for $5.2million in the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final.

Threading its way through pine and eucalyptus, up and over sandy ridges and around clear water lakes, The 7,000 yard Sultan Course typifies why the Belek region of Turkey has become one of Europe’s fast-growing golfing playgrounds.

Boasting 14 golf courses, Turkey’s Mediterranean coast has already established itself as an award-winning international golf tourism hotspot, hosting the International Golf Travel Market in 2011 and with ambitious plans for more golf resorts.

Since the Ministry for Tourism designated the Belek region for development, due to its outstanding beauty and consequent appeal to golf tourists, EGD has been at the heart of golf course design in the region, and is responsible for three 18-hole layouts – The Sultan and Pasha Courses at Antalya Golf Club, plus The Montgomerie at Maxx Royal.

Jeremy Slessor, EGD Managing Director, said: “Turkey has made great strides as an emerging golf destination and it is rewarding for EGD to play such a significant role in its development and, once again, witness the world’s best players competing over an EGD design this week.”

The Turkish Airlines World Golf Final sees eight of the world’s finest tournament professionals (Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Charl Schwartzel, Hunter Mahan, Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson) play in this unique matchplay event, a first for Turkey, and it underlines the country’s growing domestic interest in the game.

Jeremy added: “Turkey has made huge strides in the 10 years that EGD has been designing golf courses in the region and golf is now a high profile sport in the country, a trend that is only going to accelerate in the future.”

In addition to its completed work in Belek, EGD is currently working on a project in association with former World Number One, Annika Sorenstam, at Olivion Golf Resort that will see the construction of an 18-hole golf course, nine-hole par 3 pitching and chipping course, as well as an extensive short game practice area. This will form part of an integrated resort to include a private residential community, five-star hotel, retail plaza and waterside village community.

Ahmet Agaoglu, President of the Turkish Golf Federation, added: “The European golfing community has begun to recognise Turkey as a popular resort for golf tourism and with the Turkish Airways World Golf Final taking place, the whole world will take a view of golf in Turkey.”

Celtic Manor "Most popular golf destination in the UK"

Iconic EGD design underpins Celtic Manor Resort’s reputation as ‘most popular golf destination in the UK’

European Golf Design (EGD) has been recognised for its role in creating the iconic Twenty Ten Course at the Celtic Manor Resort, recently rated the most popular golf destination in the UK by a leading golf travel company.

The 2010 Ryder Cup venue tops the list of Best Selling UK Golf Hotels on yourgolftravel.com with the resort reporting a 26 per cent growth in golf revenue in the second year since hosting the prestigious matchplay tournament.

Russell Phillips, Celtic Manor Vice-President of Facilities and Development, who project managed the course build and staging of the Ryder Cup, said: “It was fundamental to the success of the Ryder Cup and the legacy of hosting the event that the Twenty Ten Course be designed for play by both the world’s best and the golfing public.

“As the steady rise in popularity and revenue proves, that is precisely what the design team achieved.”

Owner of Celtic Manor Resort Sir Terry Matthews hired the expertise of EGD in 2001 with the vision of winning the bid to host the 2010 Ryder Cup and bringing the prestigious event to Wales.

The joint venture company of the European Tour and IMG set about designing the first ever purpose-built Ryder Cup venue as part of a £16 million development setting the stage for the dramatic 2010 event.

Describing how to create a course that offers the drama and spectacle required for a Ryder Cup, combined with playability for the golfing public, Ross McMurray, Designer of Celtic Manor’s Twenty Ten Course, said: “With creative design, you can ensure that all golfers can enjoy even the most demanding of tournament courses.

“Our priority was to design a course fit for the Ryder Cup, which would challenge the professionals and create a sense of drama for the viewers, while also catering for the infrastructure around the venue required for the thousands of spectators, the world’s media plus all the event’s staff.

“However, one of the beauties of golf is that the fans can play on the same courses as the tour professionals, so it was also important that everyone could enjoy the course.

“This was achieved by ensuring the landing areas for public golfers are substantially wider than for professionals. We have to be careful that bunkers aren’t so difficult that golfers of all abilities can’t escape from them, while providing enough of a challenge to tour professionals. It’s a fine line, but it is possible.”

Established in 1992, EGD has made its mark on more than 50 projects across four continents, from Ryder Cup venues to nine-hole academy courses and is involved with preparations for both the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, Paris and the UK’s first European Tour Performance Institute at London Golf Club, Kent.

Jeremy Slessor, Managing Director of EGD, said: “The most crucial element of any development, golf or otherwise, is sustainability.

“The three Ps of sustainability are: Profit, People and Planet and each is as important as the other.

“At Celtic Manor, the infrastructure required was phenomenal. When you’re anticipating crowds of 40-45,000 people that will travel around the course with only three or four groups you have to know how they’re going to get there, what they’re going to do while they’re there and how they’re going to get out.

“With the event taking place in Wales during October, we could be fairly certain that weather would be a factor and by installing extensive flood defences and fairway drainage we ensured that the course would stand up to the deluge it experienced.

“The success of the event not only for the European Team, but also for the global audience, ensured the longevity of profitability at Celtic Manor as golf fans from across the UK and the world now recognise the Twenty Ten Course as the venue for one of the most beguiling Ryder Cup’s in history.”

Marrakech Golf City

The pace of work in Marrakech has been picking up recently as the contractors race to get tees and fairways seeded with bermuda grass before the temperatures drop in the Autumn.

This has meant frequent trips to Marrakech throughout July and August and many hours spent on site in the baking sun. Thankfully the temperature on site this week topped out a bearable 44c which was much easier to work in than the 52c experienced on the previous visit!

This week saw approval of the first three holes to be seeded with Bermuda grass with another 3 expected to be ready in September and the earthworks well under way on 3 more.

How to design a golf course for the Ryder Cup

European Golf Design, the golf course design company of the European Tour and IMG, has created some of the most successful professional tournament courses in Europe, including the Twenty Ten Course at the Celtic Manor Resort, venue of the 2010 Ryder Cup. In this feature interview, Jeremy Slessor, Managing Director of EGD, and designer Ross McMurray discuss the factors owners, investors and developers must consider in making their tournament course a success with the public as well as the professionals, and reveal the extraordinary challenges of a designing a golf course for one of the world’s biggest sporting events, the Ryder Cup.

How did you become involved with the design of the golf course for the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort?
Ross: “We were approached by the owner, Sir Terry Matthews, whose vision it was to bring the Ryder Cup bid to Wales. Having just opened a third course at Celtic Manor, the original intention was to design a fourth course, specifically for the event. However, the Usk Valley is a challenging landscape with steep slopes, and it would have been impossible to create a new course there that could have been walked twice in a day, which is required in the Ryder Cup.”

So, what was the solution?
Ross: “We began looking at sites close to the venue, but kept hitting the same hurdles.
We persevered, looking at various concepts, before agreeing a scheme to build nine new holes and add them to nine on what was then the Wentwood Hills Course. It took ten years of diligent design and construction, but ultimately it was this concept which came to pass at the 2010 Ryder Cup.”

Besides the golf course itself, what factors must be considered when designing a Ryder Cup venue?
Jeremy: “The infrastructure required is phenomenal. It’s much more than we deal with when masterplanning courses for European Tour events. The primary concern is the volume of spectators. There can be upwards of 40-45,000 people who, because of the nature of the Ryder Cup, want to see the start and stay to the end of play. So you have to consider this and how you get them onto and off the site, so transportation is fundamental.”

What else do you have to take into account?
Jeremy: “The media must be looked after, as they take the Ryder Cup to the world and so the media centre is a small community in its own right. A significant amount of space is required for a tented village, which is occupied by sponsors and retailers. Then there’s catering to consider – it must be possible to deliver food to the site, cook it and then clean up afterwards. So the whole event is a significant logistical challenge and the golf course design has to fit into the overall masterplan for the site.”

Does this actually impact on the course design?
Ross: “Definitely. In fact, the first tee on the Twenty Ten Course had originally been designed close to the clubhouse, but was moved more than 200 metres in order to facilitate the tented village and the media centre. I was actually able to come up with a potential design for the new nine-holes relatively quickly. However, there were so many considerations that impacted on the course layout, it ultimately took nearly six years to finalise the routing.”

Forever remembered as the wettest Ryder Cup ever, had you factored in the weather to your plans?
Ross: “It had been a point of discussion from the outset. Any outdoor event in Wales at the end of September has to expect some rain. Having three courses already, the resort had an understanding for what was needed to improve the drainage, but we had more to consider than just rainwater. In the event of heavy rain, the course was also threatened by rising floodwater from the River Usk and the local high-ground water tables.”

So what did you do?
Ross: “We raised the ground level around the river with a bund to prevent flooding and put perforated drainpipes through every fairway using a combination of drains and catch basins to capture surface water. We worked closely with the project engineers and the contractors to develop an overall drainage scheme which we felt would handle any eventuality. We wanted to ensure we’d done everything we could in order to protect the course from wet conditions. And thank goodness we did, as it was only because of those precautions that the Ryder Cup was completed.”

What was Sir Terry Matthews like to work with?
Jeremy: “He is very driven and demanding, but he’s very reasonable, too. He drove the project from beginning to end with the single goal of putting on the most successful Ryder Cup of all time and he would not take ‘no’ for an answer. The word just isn’t in his vocabulary. “On a number of occasions we were faced with a situation where all options seemed exhausted, but he couldn’t accept that. Invariably, we found a solution and learned a valuable lesson from that – if you look hard enough, you almost always find a solution to a seemingly insurmountable problem.”

Ross: “What I found admirable, was how he had put a great management team together who worked exceptionally with all the consultants involved in the process. It was a fantastic team to work for and over the years on the project, we got to know each other very well, learning how each other worked – it definitely made a positive impact on the overall result because we all pulled together, cohesively to ensure the Ryder Cup would be as good as it could be.”

You mention that Sir Terry wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer, but are there occasions when a developer must listen to his team and moderate their hopes?
Ross: “Yes, absolutely. There are times when you must stand up and be counted, particularly when it comes to environmental issues. It is important to be responsible and developers are generally receptive to a professional opinion, provided there is sound reasoning behind it.”

What do you say to developers when they ask you to design a tournament course?
Jeremy: “The first question we ask is why they want a tournament course. There are occasions where it just isn’t suitable to build a facility of that stature. One of the mistakes some developers have made in the past, particularly in emerging markets, is building tournament courses without thinking who their paying customers are going to be day-to-day. Supply and demand in a locality are key factors and if the local market is ignored, commercial success can take longer than it should.”

How might a developer in a new golfing territory increase domestic demand for golf?
Jeremy: “We design different types of golf facilities including nine-hole par-3 courses, golf academies, practice areas as well as club courses, European Tour courses and Ryder Cup courses. In some circumstances, supplementing a championship golf course with an academy will provide the necessary nucleus to stimulate domestic participation.”

Does creating a tournament golf course reduce its playability for the golfing public?
Ross: “With creative design, you can ensure that all golfers can enjoy even the most demanding of tournament courses. We design the course so that the landing areas for public golfers are substantially wider than for professionals. We have to be careful that bunkers aren’t so difficult that golfers of all abilities can’t escape from them, while providing enough of a challenge to tour professionals. It’s a fine line, but it is possible.”

Is the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor Resort an example of that?
Ross: “I believe so. It is certainly a demanding course, but it has become hugely popular with golf tourists and the feedback we have had has all been positive. Golfers appreciate that they’re playing a Ryder Cup course and they expect there to be a level of difficulty they’re not used to.”

How will your experience at Celtic Manor Resort influence your work at Le Golf National, Paris, ahead of the 2018 Ryder Cup?
Jeremy: “Le Golf National is a very different project compared with Celtic Manor Resort, but the experience that we gained in Wales will be crucial. Although it has hosted the Alstom Open de France, this is a much bigger event.”

What changes are you making to the golf course itself?
Ross: “Although there are some strategic changes to make, we will avoid significant alterations because there are so many aspects of the course which golfers really enjoy. Some bunkers will be moved, or upgraded, to offer more of a challenge to long-hitters – and the Ryder Cup demands a greater variety of flag positions than the existing greens offer, so we will rectify that. We will also move some of the tees to make the holes a little more interesting. Most of the major alterations we are planning to the golf course are to provide improved infrastructure, viewing and spectator circulation for the event. In particular we will be looking to create extensive areas for hospitality, using the experience we gained from Celtic Manor.”

Having spent more than ten years working towards it, what are your feelings looking back at the 2010 Ryder Cup?
Ross: “I am quite sentimental about it now. I thought I’d be glad for it to be over, but I do miss it and how it would occupy my day-to-day thoughts. It is the absolute highlight of my career; it isn’t everyone who gets an opportunity to design a course for the Ryder Cup. I think the memory of Graeme McDowell sinking his putt on the 16th will be with me forever.”

The Twilight Saga

Ranking right up there with equivalent rarities such as witnessing a solar eclipse, the aurora borealis, or an England penalty shoot out victory, the staff of EGD, or myself, Ross and Gary to be precise, managed to all be in the same place at the same time and with the required spousal permission to convene for a twilight golf match. Having been spurned by a well-to-do, hilly heathland course, who decreed that our £140 was of no value to them on a quiet Monday evening, we plumped instead for the welcoming embrace of the lovely North Hants Golf Club, in Fleet, Hampshire. If I had a home club, this would be it, as I live just a couple of miles away. Unfortunately, such inconveniences as joining fees, membership subscriptions and parental duties come between me and my rightful place strolling the turf of this beautiful heathland course.

North Hants is the real ‘sleeper’ amongst the Heathland belt courses, but it has a high caliber design pedigree with Braid, Colt and Simpson all having significant hands in its development. In more recent times, Donald Steel’s office designed some new holes, including the excellent par 5 3rd, which plays over a lake that was previously hidden within the undergrowth. Over the past few years, the club has been undertaking an extensive tree removal and heather regeneration programme, which combined with a bunker remodelling scheme meant that the course was presented to us in tip-top condition. It’s the course where Justin Rose honed his game as a boy and where he was still a junior member when he had his unforgettable run at the Open Championship at Birkdale. It’s well worth a look, with strategically placed bunkering and large, undulating greens. Ross said that it was definitely the best course he has played this year. High praise indeed from our Ryder Cup designer, only marginally diminished when he confessed that it was also the only course he has played this year!

And so to the golf. High stakes Skins was the order of the day. They say you should only play for what you can afford to lose, so it was 25p per player per hole for the first six, 50p for the second six and a whopping £1 a hole for the final six. All told, one could stand to lose up to £10.50 if everything went against you. Now, one of the vagaries of the Skins format is that it is often the case that the best player doesn’t win and so it proved as Gary came out as the victor…well, if you can’t be good, be lucky they say. Both Ross and I grinned through gritted teeth as Gary tramlined a putt of fully 60 feet across the 18th green (our 9th) to take the pot. To be fair, the boy played good, as this was also his first round of the year. He’d be dangerous if he played a bit more. For the record, Gary scooped 10 skins and £21.75. I came second with 4 skins and £6.75 and Ross third with 4 skins and £3. With the light fading and the money exchanged, Gary drove off into the twilight with heavy pockets and the certain knowledge that his loving fiancé had his dinner on the table when he got home. Ross and I left with a lighter load and the equal certainty that our spouses would not be catering for us this evening. It is for such times that the chip shop comes into its own.

Above: 8th Hole – North Hants Golf Club.

PGA National Russia nears completion

I was back in Russia last week, mainly to present the Detail Design package for the PGA Academy course at Zavidovo, but also for the ‘soft opening’ of the first 9 holes on the PGA National course.

The National course really is coming on great, and Paul Avison and his team have done a fantastic job growing in and presenting the course, the greens in particular were in excellent condition.

Minor tweaks have been made, mainly to grassing lines and bunker edges, but it was good to have the opportunity to see the course again prior to the official opening which is on the 7th of September – can’t wait to see it completed!

Above: Par-3, 12th Hole at PGA National.

What's happening today

Here’s what’s happening at EGD today:

Gary is in St Kitts, inspecting the construction underway for Kittitian Hills. It’s a tough job, going to the Caribbean, but he bravely volunteered for the duty.

Ross is in the office, catching up on the work generated from his trip to Nevis last week. The programme is to submit for planning at the end of the summer, so it’ll be pretty much full-on until then. And he’s trying to do some planning for our project north of Athens.

Rob is working on the final touches to the golf element of a planning application for our project in Anif, Austria. This has been moving slowly but surely for several years, but after months of negotiations with the many varied stakeholders, it looks like progress is being made.
Matt is helping Rob with the production for Anif, as well as doing some graphics and planning for the Irish Open.

Shara is working on money – getting it and spending it (admittedly more of the former than the latter). And getting her glasses fixed.

Dave is getting ready to go to Evian for meetings later in the week with representatives of the Resort and the LPGA to discuss the second phase of work leading up to the Evian Masters 2013 when the event will be elevated to Major status on the ladies tour.

I’ve got things to do from my trip to Turkey last week. Saw two potential projects in Anatolia and in Izmir which now need some attention.

Alex is enjoying the sunshine somewhere as he’s on holidays this week.

Jeremy.

EGD Update

We’ve not posted a blog for a while so, for those of you that regularly check in to read the latest brilliance from the brains of EGD, our apologies for the lack of anything brilliant. But, we’ve been busy, which is a good thing, and while it would be too early to suggest that the European economy is picking up, at the very least we can safely say things are not getting worse.

In the past couple of months, we’ve made several trips to Turkey – the economic climate there does seem to be relatively strong – to look at various projects. We can’t say too much at this stage, but we’ve picked up a very interesting project there that could, ultimately, be 36 holes with an Academy and training facilities. We’ve also just won a job in Greece on a beautiful piece of land outside Athens. Working with a local project management team and international master planners, we’re going through various land use options at the moment with a view to submitting a final plan mid-Summer. We’ve been awarded a project outside Rabat in Morocco for Prestigia, the same group with whom we’re working in Marrakech, and have also started some strategic planning for an existing course in Slovakia, in the foothills of the Tatra mountains to the north of the country – it may be hellish cold there in the spring, but with snow-capped peaks and bright blue skies, it is a very pretty place to be.

On top of all that, the work at Evian Masters Golf Club has continued through the winter. Phase one of the work is now complete and the second phase will start as soon as the Evian Masters tournament is over this summer, to ensure perfect conditions for the event in the summer of 2013, which will be the first year the event is a Major tournament on the Ladies schedule. Construction has also kept going in Marrakech where we’re working with Colin Montgomerie, and in St Kitts with Ian Woosnam. Planning and design work has kept us busy on projects in the UK, Russia, France, Turkey, Ireland and Spain.

Oh, and Alex became a dad, Gary got engaged, Dave ran the London Marathon, Matt spent every waking hour outside of work in the gym, Rob had a knee operation, Shara stepped up her levels of organisation to previously unimagined heights (and her standards were already high), Ross seems to spend his time on-line shopping judging by the number of packages coming his way and I fell down the stairs. Other than that, we’ve been sitting back!

Jeremy.