It’s amazing what a few good weeks of weather can do. The previous visit was pretty much a damp squib, very similar to the conditions encountered during the whole of late May and early June, and construction progress was slow and very stop-start.
However, the middle of June has seemed like a defining date where glorious sunshine and unseasonably high temperatures have dried the site substantially and allowed for quick and quality progress to be made. So much so that the project is now ready to ‘sow its first seeds’!
The topsoil has been replaced on four holes and seedbed preparation is virtually complete on two of them. The irrigation system is up and running, sand is being spread in the bunkers and the heather has been planted around them. A few final tweaks to the seedbed prep and grassing will be ready to commence next week……. something we have all be striving towards.
Cart golf is rubbish! You can keep your GPS tracking, complimentary tees, iced water and towels. I prefer to walk. That is the pace at which the game is supposed to be played. You have time to appraise your next shot, take in the scenery and chat to your playing partners. Golf in a cart is an impersonal and hurried affair and heaven forbid you have to stick to the paths, requiring you to haul an armful of clubs on the inevitable trudge to the rough at the far side of the fairway, only to find when you get there that you don’t have the right one! Carts? Not if I can help it.
However, I have a guilty secret. I actually enjoy the design challenge of routing and specifying the cart roads. Does that make me a hypocrite? When I was a young kid I used to scribble down made up grand prix tracks on paper and repeatedly do laps with my stubby HB pencil until I had worn a hole in the paper. I guess laying out cart paths is my outlet for these juvenile doodles. Single or double track? Where should we put the kerbs and parking bays? How about a turning circle, or a nicely cambered corner? How are we going to snake down that steep hill? What should we make it with? Asphalt, concrete, block paving? All these decisions and more are part of the design process. Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, carts are here to stay and its our responsibility as architects to make the cart tracks work as best as we can.
The reasons for having a formal path are numerous, but they will include several of the following. If the site topography is quite severe, a cart is going to be a big help in getting you up, down and around the inclines. There are now plenty of sites that have only been developed for golf because golf carts exist. Whether courses should be developed for that reason is a discussion for another time. Climate can play a big factor. Having worked on a course in Bahrain, it is very much the exception to see somebody walking. It is uncomfortably hot for golf and the cart minimises the physical strain. Resort and real estate courses can be quite strung out between holes and a cart undoubtedly speeds up the transit times between holes. Transit times are one of the main reasons why golf takes longer now. If you average only 3 minutes between putting out and teeing off, you add an hour to the round. Often, it is quite a bit longer than that. Finally, and most pertinently, is the commercial aspects of having carts. Operators will charge you for having a cart and it is a lucrative add-on for them. Taking the above factors into consideration, it is also clear that access to a cart extends the time span and the variety of courses that a golfer with restricted physical movement can play. For that, they are a good thing.
On both projects that I have completed for European Golf Design, we have built a partial cart track system. That is where the path alongside the fairways on par 4’s and 5’s is omitted, ostensibly because the carts will run down the fairways all the time, so there was little point in going to the extra expense of building the road. The first one, in the Czech Republic, was on a course with such limited play that turf wear was never going to be a problem, and the second, in Bahrain, was on a course where the carts were fitted with GPS systems, so they too would be on the grass generally.
Cart tracks never add positively to the landscape, so it is a matter of trying to minimise the detrimental aesthetic impact whilst maximising the functional demands. This isn’t so easy to achieve, as generally the path will be running directly in the line of sight from the tee, where it will be closest to the point of play. I try to route the path to the outside of a doglegged hole, even if this means that the path has to cross the line of play, as it is far easier to obscure and less of a factor in play on the far side of play. Clearly, on straight holes other factor come into play, such as the direction of slope and how the path links in from the previous and to the next holes.
The surface and width of the paths is very important. I used to prefer concrete to tarmac, but a well made tarmac path is usually more visually discrete, unless you’re tying the path into the desert. Our path in the Czech Republic was formed of block paving. It looks great, but having seen it recently, is very susceptible to weed infestation between the blocks. The path should be a minimum of 8-feet (2.4m wide). Less than this and cart drivers will tend to nip across the corners and wear the turf away. Passing bays and two-way traffic requires a 12-foot (3.65m wide path). Paths are also really useful for the maintenance crew, so a good, wide track will contain most, if not all of their vehicles. We’ll put kerbs in on the inside of some corners, or where we want to contain the carts on the path, such as besides tees. One has to be careful with kerbing, because they can easily act as dams if surface water is allowed to collect on the path. It doesn’t even have to be raining. Overspray from the irrigation system can quickly turn a path into a muddy mess if the drainage is wrong.
Golf is a walking game and so it must remain. Whilst I strive to accommodate cart traffic as best as possible, my focus will always be on trying to make the course as user-friendly as possible for the golfer prepared to sling a bag over their shoulder and burn some calories whilst they feel the design under their feet. That is how we want you to experience our work.
Brick paver cart path in construction at Casa Serena
Cart paths are a preferred route that golf buggies should follow around the golf course. A recommended golf course design feature in warm climates, to help reduce turf grass wear on the golf course, can be an important component for the golf course presentation. In today’s resort golf courses cart paths provide a beneficial support for golf course operations.
Basically a mini road, construction can be concrete, brick pavers, asphalt or more eco friendly materials. Typically a cart path will be 2.25-2.5m wide with a 2% fall for drainage. Below the surface will be a 150mm subgrade of crushed rock and a compacted subgrade. Kerbing may also be necessary depending on the golf course terrain. Typically, kerbing may be installed in the areas of greens and tees to direct traffic away from areas of play.
Design of the cart paths is very important. The route should be efficient, unobtrusive and safe, avoiding steep slopes and tight turns. Where possible, paths should be placed away from play areas to avoid interference with play. The path will often follow the shortest route tee to green. Cart Paths may be installed in stages and partial systems are not uncommon. It should be noted that entry and exit points are areas that commonly exhibit turf wear problems and may require restoration.
Cart Paths can impact greatly on the overall construction costs depending on materials and terrain. Cart Paths can also help and support drainage by collecting runoff in channels along the path thus directing water away from the fairways.
Many modern construction methods are regarded as low maintenance, but poorly constructed cart paths can have a significant negative impact upon the presentation of the golf course and golf course maintenance.
As designers, we make great efforts to design cart paths to avoid disrupting the natural setting. Where possible we try to utilise the natural topography into the design of the cart paths. On flatter ground, mounding can be used to provide natural barriers to help screen the cart paths. Landscaping can also be used to screen cart paths from view.
We spend a lot of time considering the cart path route for a golf course to ensure that the visual impact for the players is minimal.
Graeme McDowell produced a simply brilliant victory in The 2010 Celtic Manor Wales Open after an exhilarating final round. Following the event here’s what people had to say about the Twenty Ten Course.
MARC WARREN: The last few holes coming in are a natural amphitheatre and if you have 40,000 people along there it will be fantastic. But it is a great venue and the course is in great condition. You just can’t see why it won’t be a success here.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I think it stacks up tee to green as one of the best courses we play right now and I am not the only person who is saying that. I have read the reports from other top players and they feel the same way. Very, very few courses get as less criticism as this if you know what I mean. This is fabulous tee to green. The changes that have been done not just by myself but by EGD (European Golf Design) have been fantastic and have proved worthy. I think the pin locations are going to be similar to those that we play in October and I think the pin placements need a lot of thought, it is not just about length here, you need to be in the right side of the fairway for certain pin positions, it is a great set-up. I am biased in some ways but, as I said, I am not the only one saying this, a lot of the top players are saying exactly the same thing. This is a great test of golf and people are enjoying playing the course, they are enjoying the challenges of certain shots into tight pin locations and the challenge of hitting the fairway is number one because you can’t get near the pins if you’re off the fairway. It has proven itself over the last four days, yes.
GRAEME MCDOWELL: The golf course is magnificent. They really have a successful, successful golf course here. I love the way this golf course sets up. I drove the ball fantastic this week, and that’s what you’ve got to do around here. The fairways are reasonably generous targets in places about you if you missed them, there was some horrible, horrible rough out there, really thick, wiry type stuff. This golf course has all the length you want and I think they have a fabulous amount of tee options.
TERRY MATTHEWS: All of the players say they really like the course. It’s really hard to get everybody in agreement on things but there is pretty much an alignment of opinions. The European Tour have been all over it and its development has been very technical.
OLIVER WILSON: I felt that it was built to an American design, though situated in a Welsh valley where the ball doesn’t run so far as it does in the States. But now I am a complete convert and convinced it is going to produce a very exciting Ryder Cup. Do not get me wrong, it is still a very tough and strong course. But they have now got so many options with different tees and pin positions it can be adapted to suit the weather.
The Welsh Open might not normally set pulses racing amongst all but the most die-hard of golfing aficionados, but this year’s event in Newport, South Wales will attract a little more interest in golfing and indeed wider sporting circles.
For the third year in a row, the Open will be staged on the Twenty Ten course in Celtic Manor, the first course in history to be built specifically for the Ryder Cup, which takes place at the same venue from 1-3 October this year.
Completed in 2007, the splendid TwentyTen course, one of three at Celtic Manor, was designed by European Golf Design (EGD), a joint venture between the European Tour and International Management Group (IMG) established in 1992. Planning for the course started as far back as 1999, construction began in 2004 and was completed two years later.
Managing director of EGD Jeremy Slessor explained to JOE the dynamics of building a course specifically for a once-off event that will not only attract thousands of fans to the course but will be viewed on television by millions worldwide.
“It (the Ryder Cup) is like a normal tour event on steroids,” he says. “Space was a primary concern. Space for spectators, for the village, for hospitality, for the media, for bus terminals, for contractors compounds, for TV compounds, those sorts of things.
“The scale of it is so much bigger than a usual event and the other factor in terms of spectators is it’s not like a normal event where you’ve got golf around the entire golf course. Apart from Sunday, you’ve only got four games on the course at any one time so you’ve got 40-50,000 people fairly well concentrated in certain sections of the course. You need some extra space to give that volume of people the ability to move around the place.”
The result of the EGD design, combined with the input of engineers, ecologists, archaeologists and the European Tour Staging Department, is a par 71, 7,493 yard course in Wales’ Usk valley that offers spectacular views of the area towards nearby Caerleon, which was once the site of a Roman legionary fortress. Water is a threat on a significant number of holes and there are also plenty of trees on site to punish anyone wayward from the tee.
As well as building the course to be able to deal with the important logistical elements of staging an event like the Ryder Cup, the TwentyTen course has, according to Slessor, specific features built in that will suit the match play format of the competition.
“You can’t ignore the fact that the course is going to hold the Ryder Cup once, but certainly, there was thought given to how holes might play coming down the stretch. Therefore, on the last five or six holes there’s certainly a lot of risk and reward opportunity.
“If you take it on and hit a good shot, there’s a reward there but if you miss it, the penalty is fairly severe. The way the course will be set up for the Ryder Cup on many holes will be different to how it will be set up for the Welsh Open.”
European captain Colin Montgomerie has made clear his wishes that his players play the Welsh Open so that they can get a feel for the course ahead of the Ryder Cup, but so far has been hit by the withdrawals of stellar names such as Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Ireland duo Padraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy to name but a few.
Montgomerie will play the event himself, however, and should be familiar with the course given that he had a hands-on role in some of the modifications and refinements that have taken place at the Newport venue.
“Colin has been involved over the past year or so in terms of looking at where there were opportunities to make some subtle little refinements,” says Slessor.
“In a couple of places, he wanted it so that the penalty of – I won’t say hitting a bad shot – but not hitting the perfect shot, was increased. It was little tiny tweaks like that he was involved in instead of wanting to add five additional bunkers or taking a bunker away or anything like that.
“Then as a design team we’ve looked at those suggestions and certain things have actually been done and other bits we’ve decided in the end weren’t going to achieve very much so we’ve left it as it is.”
It’s clear that Slessor is proud of what the EGD team have achieved with the Twenty Ten course at Celtic Manor. Like a father asked to pick his favourite child, however, Slessor balked slightly when asked which hole in particular on the course stood out as one to watch:
“It’s quite tough to pick out a stand-out hole,” he says. “I think that each hole has got something to offer; we don’t design signature holes. That’s pointless, you take a huge amount of money and try and make one hole good and it’s to the detriment of the others.
“Each hole adds to the flow of the course, each hole has a slightly different challenge to it but I guess that as you get into the round, certainly with the Ryder Cup atmosphere, the pressure will start to build the closer you get to the Clubhouse because the opportunity for taking a gamble becomes greater.
“Certainly, on holes such as the 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th there are great opportunities to take a risk; if you pull it off you’re a hero and if you don’t, you’re a numpty.”
Only one question remains for Slessor, then. Will Colin Montgomerie be repeating the K-Club antics of Ian Woosnam in 2006 and downing pints of Guinness after lifting the prestigious trophy? Or will it be those pesky Americans running wildly onto the green to celebrate with a man waiting to putt, like Brookline in 1999?
“Europe will win,” he says. “I wouldn’t put my mortgage on it, but I’m quietly confident Europe will win.”
Considering that he’s been involved intimately with every nook, cranny and divot on the course, we’ll take Slessor at his word.
The 14th hole on the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor
Recently, it was my great privilege to be in Madrid to participate in the 2-day presentation ceremony for Spain’s 2018 Ryder Cup bid. We are designing the new course proposed for the event on a magnificent site at Tres Cantos, about 25 kilometres north of the city centre. It was exciting to be an active participant in such a high profile event. Think of the bid presentations you have seen for either the Olympics or the World Cup and you’ll have an idea of the extent of the trouble that the proud city of Madrid went to, to make the Ryder Cup committee of Richard Hills, Scott Kelly, David Maclaren, Edward Kitson and Gordon Simpson feel welcome. It was red carpet treatment from arrival to departure.
My event started on Wednesday morning, where I was picked up from Madrid airport by Juan Jose Abaitua, Madrid’s Bid Director. We went straight to the site at Tres Cantos, where we met Julián de Zulueta from the Spanish Golf Federation. Our task was to locate the greens and tees of the proposed course and put in flags and tee markers, in preparation for a site visit by the Ryder Cup committee the following morning. Followed closely by a troop of greenkeepers armed with strimmers, I marked the locations and within a couple of hours we had cut out all of the greens and tees we needed for the site tour. It is amazing how the addition of a solitary flag can suddenly give a site context and scale. No need to point vaguely into the distance. It was crystal clear what the course routing would be.
Then it was into Madrid to meet up with the bid team for a run through of the formal presentation to be made the following morning. After that it was time for a late dinner and a beer in the bar watching Fulham’s unsuccessful Europa league final against Atletico Madrid. As you can imagine, the locals were pleased with the result and the celebratory rasp of car horns split the cool night air from far and wide across the city until long after midnight.
Early next morning it was time to meet the Ryder Cup committee for the first time and to commence the formal bid presentation. Amongst others, I gave a short talk about the design project and introduced the brilliant computer generated fly through that navyblue had created from our design plans. We were off to a good start, but there was no time to dwell, as we were on a tight schedule. Into the official cars and off to Nuevos Ministerios station, where we all got onto the train to Tres Cantos. They had bedecked a carriage in the official livery of the bid, so we had to be on the right train! Just 25 minutes later and we were in Tres Cantos to be met by the town mayor. The site is just 500 metres from the station, so within minutes I was starting my main task of the event, which was to host the site tour. I gathered the group of 18 guests and officials in a semi-circle at the magnificent clubhouse site and talked them through the concept behind the course. We only had 45 minutes for the site tour, so I had pre-selected several key spots where we all got out of the fleet of 4×4’s and I explained further important features of the site. To be honest, we could have done with another half hour, but we all had to be back in Madrid by noon for the press launch.
I had to break off from the main group, to reprise the earlier introductory presentation for the benefit of the media, before rejoining the main congregation for the official presentation of the bid document, which was attended by several bid ambassadors, led by Seve Ballesteros, Miguel-Angel Jiminez, Miguel Martin and Iker Casillas, of Real Madrid. Whilst the Ryder Cup committee went to a formal lunch, myself and Juan Jose accompanied CNN back to Tres Cantos for a filmed interview. Whilst the Ryder Cup committee’s agenda continued into the evening with a tour of the Bernabeu Stadium and attendance of the Madrid Tennis Masters, myself and some of the bid team went out for a well deserved meal.
After breakfast the following morning, I joined the main party for a tour of the Torre Espacio, (the Space Tower), one of the tallest skyscrapers in Spain. The building is owned by OHL, the Spanish civil engineering and construction company, who hosted a presentation on the 52nd floor attended by Madrid’s private enterprise partners in support of the bid. To conclude, we all clambered up to the roof of the building, some 774-feet above the ground, for an incredible panorama of the city. For me, that was it. I went back to the airport, whilst the Ryder Cup committee’s visit continued with a trip to the Royal Palace for an audience with HRH The Prince of Asturius.
Madrid put on a tremendous show for the Ryder Cup committee. The support for the bid from Royalty, the government, private enterprise and the sporting authorities is rock solid and Seve’s leadership of the bid ambassadors is a great boost. It was good to see him looking so well. Add to this a fantastic site for the course, what we think is a great design, textbook event staging facilities and transport links and Madrid has a very compelling case to be awarded the 2018 Ryder Cup. We’ll be working hard to make sure that our part of the bargain is of the very highest quality. Exciting times ahead.
Both Gary and Stan made the trip, Gary was attending the KPMG Golf Business Forum being held at the beach resort of Belek on Turkey’s South Coast and Stan was there to meet up with Annika Sorenstam for a site visit to Annika’s new 18-hole project, Olivion Golf Resort. The developer Belek Emlak ve Ticaret, will be creating the first golf course in this region with freehold residential units available for sale. The Olivion development will also include a boutique hotel and sports academy.
Turkey has fast become one of the most popular golfing holiday destinations in Europe and Belek is one of the centres of Turkey’s tourism industry. Olivion is located just outside the Belek resort and is approximately 45 minutes from Antalya international airport. The site is a mixture of agricultural land and olive groves that rise to form a hilly and rolling landscape. The design focus is to incorporate the olive trees and create environmental wetland areas into the new golf course. Annika, Stan and the Management Team spent several hours walking the site and discussing the course strategy, bunker placement and green positions.
Regarded as one of the greatest ever female golfers, Annika is able to draw from over her 15 years career playing on the worlds greatest golf courses. Combined with Stan’s design experience which includes the acclaimed PGA Golf de Catalunya, Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, The Montgomerie at Carton House and The Faldo Course at Sporting Club Berlin, Olivion is destined to be one of the top golfing experiences in Turkey. Annika and Stan have previously worked together on another of Annika’s golf course projects at Euphoria Golf and Hydro in South Africa. Opened in 2008 Euphoria is already rated as one of South Africa’s finest courses.
Gary represented EGD at the KPMG Golf Business Forum. The forum was attended by over 300 industry professionals who were there to discuss the latest trends in the golf business, amongst those speaking was former Open champion Greg Norman. Attending the conference on Friday morning Annika was awarded the Golf Entrepreneur of the Year Award in recognition of her commitment to the game and her ability to expand the Annika brand into new areas of business.
The forum was brought to a close with an afternoon golf competition and barbeque held at the EGD designed Montgomerie Course at Papillon Golf Club. The event was a big success and was a good opportunity for Gary, having designed the course with Colin Montgomerie, to catch up with a lot of friends and colleagues that had been involved in the construction of the golf course.
EGD’s designer Stan Eby (left), Annika Sorenstam and the golf management team visit the new 18-hole project, the Olivion Golf Resort, in Belek, Turkey.