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Golf weekend at Celtic manor

It felt like just the other day we were all watching Europe regain the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor (maybe the wet ground conditions had something to do it) but it was great to be back, and this time playing some golf!

This past weekend Gary, Alex, myself and a mate went down for a golf break, where we had tried to organise a round on the Twenty Ten Ryder Cup course, but as to be expected, it was full, so we were booked in for a round on the Monty and the Roman Road courses……(A heavy fog would have made it impossible to play the Twenty Ten, so in a way it was a blessing).

The standard of golf was pretty poor, so the less said about it the better (a ‘slight’ over indulgence may have played some part in that). Nevertheless, there were numerous highlights, namely:

1. Gary attempting his ski impression down the 3rd on the Monty…….and ending up on his rear!
2. Me snapping my driver……whilst not even using it, and
3. Alex adamantly refusing to remove his coat and shoes for bed.

A memorable and enjoyable weekend, but unfortunately not too many good golf ones!!

Dave snapping his driver……whilst not even using it?

Getting Organic in St Kitts

Gary and I spent last week in St Kitts. We’ve had a contract there for several years – but the project has been on hold for the past three years as the developer has reviewed, revised and reorganised the financing of the project. That done, which is a major achievement in the current market, we were back on site to review the staking of the golf course before construction starts early in the new year.

The project is, for us, hugely exciting and incredibly challenging. The whole ethos of the project is that it be sustainable (which is not, in itself, unusual). As part of that aim, the golf course will be managed organically and many of the areas of the course that would normally be left to unmaintained rough should, instead, be used for organic agricultural production. This is challenging in terms of the design of the course, it’ll be challenging in terms of construction and, ultimately, in terms of the on-going maintenance of the course. But it’s a fascinating challenge to take on.

US based Project Manager and Shapers required – send CV’s to enquiries@egd.com

Total Domination

Accepting that, in the big scheme of things, it’s not quite as life-changing as remembering where you were when JFK was shot (for our older readers), or what you were doing when you heard that John Lennon had been killed, but what were you doing when you realised that Tiger was no longer the top ranked golfer in the world?

It seems like he has been number one for ever. And, until about this time last year, it felt like he would continue to be there for as long as he wanted it. Much has been written since then, and while one can only admire Tiger for his total domination of the sport for so long, how much more interesting is it going to be over the coming weeks and months as at least four players battle it out for the right to be called the best golfer on the planet?

Congratulations to Lee Westwood on reaching top spot. It’s an incredible achievement and testament to his skills and his perserverance – who would have predicted this when he was languishing, just a few years ago, in the mid 250’s on the world ranking.

And the top four players all find themselves in Shanghai this week, competing against each other. Each has the opportunity to become No. 1 by Sunday, depending upon their own result, as well as the results of others. That can only be a good thing for the game, and a great thing for those that follow it.

2010 Ryder Cup Blog

So that’s that. The 2010 Ryder Cup matches have been and gone. The Twenty Ten Course may have been 10 years in the making but it still took an extra day to get the right result – a European win and in bright sunshine! The weather gods may have done their worst but the golf course, spectators and Colin Montgomerie’s team came up smiling, as did all of us at European Golf Design who were privilidged to be there to watch the exciting finish to the worlds greatest golf event at The Celtic Manor Resort. In more ways than one the last week has been totally draining!

The weather aside this was one of the greatest Ryder Cup’s, coming down to the last match out, on the 17th hole, before the result was determined. The atmosphere on the closing holes was phenomenal, with tens of thousands of spectators lining the fairways and finally breaking through the ropes on the 17th green to join the European team in celebration. Even the mud didn’t seem to dampen the fans enthusiasm. As one spectator said, “It was just like Glastonbury, but with better singing!”

Congratulations to Sir Terry Matthews, the Celtic Manor Resort and all the organisers responsible for staging such a great event in such difficult circumstances. It will be a tough act to follow.

Get on your bike

Having decided to ride to The Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor for charity a few months ago the Monday morning start date was suddenly with us, after months of training, riding from the European Golf Design office to the Course should be no problem, after the training I did however, this was going to be very, very painful! Gary was in much better shape than me and feeling confident.

Having packed a tent and some cereal bars the night before we were almost ready, just one thing to do in the office before we left, print the route (very organised). With that done we set off on the road to Malmesbury (78 miles) where we hoped to spend the first night. After a steady start we quickly knocked off the first 25 miles, whilst having a drink it quickly dawned on me that we were not even 1/3 of the way through day one. Ouch. After another 23 miles we stopped for a late lunch – Super Noodles in a field – very tasty. It was almost 4 o’clock before we picked ourselves up again and had to get a move on as we still had 30 miles to cover before Malmesbury and we didn’t want to be setting the tent up in the dark. Finally we made it – the last 60 miles of day one were very painful! We pitched the tent and headed straight to the pub for a well deserved pint and some food. After the pub Gary went to the Co Op to buy some Bananas and Vaseline. Most men would be embarrassed doing that, Not Gary though. I was hiding under my hood outside the shop.

After a surprisingly good sleep next to Gary in a tent which is small at the best of times we headed off on Day 2. 71 Miles to go. We were reliably informed that the road to Gloucester was hilly, after that apparently it flattened out to Celtic Manor. The road to Gloucester via Stroud was indeed hilly and very painful! We made it though spurred on by the fact that it would get flatter. After getting lost in Gloucester and some lunch in another field we began the last 40 miles or so on the A48. Unfortunately our reliable information turned out to be unreliable, the flat never really came and the hills were relentless! By this time I was struggling to keep the bike going forward, Gary was patient and never once told me to ‘hurry the f*** up.’ Slowly but surely we ate up the miles (along with all the food we could find) and arrived at the course about 6.30. We stood proudly by The Celtic Manor sign and asked a security guard to take our photo – very kindly he refused! Luckily Sarah and Ross were close by. We threw the bikes in the car and headed off to the pub. As satisfying as it was to complete the ride look out for my bike on e-bay.

Details of the charity and sponsorship information can be found at: http://www.justgiving.com/Alex-Gary

  • Alex Hay and Gary Johnston set off from the EGD office in Sunningdale
  • Checkpoint 1 - One wrong turn could add miles!
  • Gary start to feel the strain!
  • The finishing line 150 miles later at Celtic Manor

Shooting at The Marquess

Early mornings are not an infrequent part of life here but, even for us, this past Wednesday was unusual. We are in the middle of shooting a new company video and, as part of that, wanted to get some film of everyone together on a golf course. The nearest one that we’ve designed to the office is The Marquess at Woburn Golf Club so, at 5:30am, we all met in the office to drive the 90 minutes or so up there such that we’d be on the course at sunrise.

All the way, the weather was looking good – scattered cloud with a real possibility of a beautifully red sky as the sun peaked over the horizon. As it turned out, the clouds thickened by the time the sun did appear, but we still got some good footage of the team on a dewy morning.

In order to get some close-up shots, Ross was the ‘stunt double’ and spent about an hour or so putting on a glove, taking off the glove, walking up to a tee, putting a ball on a peg, practice swinging, addressing the ball and, finally, hitting a shot or two.

The completed video should be ready by Christmas (what a perfect gift for a loved one!).

Here come the Men (and Women) in Black

Golf in 2010

Another golfing summer has passed by and yet again glorious golf opportunities have not been made the most of. From the outside, people may assume that as a golf design company, we get countless rounds of free golf, play four times a week and all play off single figure handicaps…….that is not, and never will be the case.

My main excuse for not playing as much golf as I would like are weekends packed with cricket (that may be changing soon) however, I have been able to play a couple of glorious courses which I would strongly recommend.

The first one is the famous Portuguese course, Praia del Rey. A links course set on the cliff tops overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the course has two very distinctive nine hole loops. The inland front nine predominantly meanders through the mature pine forest, while the back nine makes the most of the fantastic ocean views with many holes framed by some mighty dunes. The wife and I went there for our summer vacation and thoroughly enjoyed the entire resort……..great weather, accommodation and golf. I was only able to get in one round at Praia but it was definitely worth it!

Praia del Rey

The second great course played this summer was this past weekend at The Addington, just outside Croydon in Surrey. Designed in 1912 by John Abercromby, the heathland course is a masterpiece of inland golf. Some say that the opening six holes are a ‘taster’ for what is to come, but nothing can prepare you for the fantastic rollercoaster ride that you are taken on from holes seven to seventeen. Woods, heather, topography, great green sites, ravines, bridges – The Addington really does have it all.

The Addington

However, even if I did make more of the potential golf opportunities, the highlight of golf in 2010 was always going to be, The Twenty Ten. As the course designers, the entire company is going down to Celtic Manor to watch the Ryder Cup…………….it’s going to great! Come on Europe!!!

"Keeping my eye in" – Ally McIntosh

Having graduated from the EIGCA education program but as of yet not working full time in golf design, I know the importance of keeping my eye in. So I was extremely grateful that the guys at EGD accepted me in to their office for a week to set me a challenging task, based on one that they had faced themselves a few years prior.

The project at hand was to redesign a new eighteen hole golf course from the remaining land available from two previous courses. Although the work had been undertaken by Ross McMurray, it was Robin Hiseman that would be my primary host and whilst he explained the brief to me, it immediately became clear that it would not be entirely straightforward: Firstly, the land had some of the severest elevation change that I had encountered. Secondly, redesigning golf holes over a site where existing holes are in place creates a very different set of problems than at a green-field location, not least because it is harder to visualise the land without what is there already.

Still, with a bottom line objective of routing the “best members’ course available on the land”, I stuck at it, going through countless iterations of possible outcomes and trying to fit the most pleasing jigsaw together from the options available. Finally I made some fundamental decisions which left me with two solutions, one of which I opted to develop in to an overall master plan.

My final day in the office was spent putting some shape, strategy and life in to the golf course and I’ll spend some further time back at home creating some detail to the design with some grading plans and green designs.

The week culminated in a visit down to the course for a match of the utmost seriousness. I think it better not to reveal the magnitude of my loss against Mr. Hiseman but the fact that we were shaking hands at the furthest point from the clubhouse perhaps hides a clue. Fortunately, I’ve had to invent a whole host of new excuses to account for my recent erratic golf; so it was pleasing to inform my opponent that I had been spending far too much time comparing the as-built course with my own routing from the drawing board. How was I supposed to concentrate on winning the game as well?

Needless to say, my warmest appreciation is due to Jeremy, Robin, Ross, Alex and all those in the office that gave their time up to help me. Go raibh mile maith agaibh.

By Ally McIntosh

Ally McIntosh on the 3rd Tee at The Montgomerie, Celtic Manor