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So Sad to be Leaving Turkey

When asked what makes a great project most golf architects would quickly say it’s having a great site. While this is true its only part of the equation, almost as important is the people. Without good people a great site will never reach its full potential. Fortunately for me I was given the chance to work on a project that was blessed with both.

On the first of September The Montgomerie Course at Papillon Golf Club opened its doors for a select number of golfers to experience the course prior to the course being overseeded at the end of month and the official opening ceremony in October. This marks the end of a two and half years of hard work, a awful lot of sweat and even some tears (usually at Golf Managers very bad jokes!) and although this was a very proud day for all involved it was also tinged with a little sadness. The opening of the course effectively draws to a close my involvement on what has been a hugely enjoyable project and also ends my fortnightly trip to the kebab shop in downtown Belek. As with any project it has had its fair share of stressful days and even the odd heated word but ultimately everything was always forgotten over a cold beer after work. As I said at the beginning it’s often the people that make the project and that has never been more true than in Turkey regarding all my new friends at Papillon and Golf Med.

Hot Stuff!

Racing driver Martin Brundle once described one of his crashes by saying, “I thought the last two barrel rolls were a bit unnecessary. I was already well aware I was having a big accident by then!” This is a little bit like I felt about the heat in Bahrain last week. Now, you don’t need to be a meteorologist to comprehend that August in the Gulf is going to be a tad on the warm side and all of us at Riffa Views who have routinely slogged away in temperatures well into the 40’s have got used to feeling uncomfortably sticky as we go about our work. Last week took this endurance test to an entirely new level.

It started after lunch, as we trooped out of the luxurious air-conditioned comfort of Subway and into the furnace of the 1pm Bahraini sunshine. We could tell it was going to be a long, energy-sapping afternoon. My first task upon returning to site was to stake out the bunker edging for the 11th hole. Being a desert course, this also doubled up as the extent of grassing all along the right edge of this 350-yard par 4. I loaded up four bundles of red stakes and four cans of red spray paint and drove the 300 metres from the site camp to the midpoint of the fairway. I trooped slowly back towards the tee and started to bang in the stakes at regular intervals. Already I could feel my heart begin to pound and perspiration was literally erupting from every pore. My sunglasses quickly became covered in sweat as it ran off my brow and into my eyes, stinging them viciously. Squinting through salty eyelids, I took my glasses off to wipe them clean, but I had nothing dry enough on me to clear the lenses. My bare arms were a slick of perspiration, with the occasional droplet falling to the floor. There was no point wiping my forehead with my arm; both were soaking. My body had sprung a leak!

“Just get this bit done and you can go and cool off”, I told myself. Moving very slowly and with regular breaks to catch my breath, it took another 20 minutes to mark out the rest of the bunker edging. By then, I was literally gagging for a drink and trudged wearily the short distance back to the 4×4 through the desert sand. Opening the door, I caught sight of the temperature gauge on the dashboard and the reason for my struggles became immediately apparent. Located together were two numerals I had only ever thought could exist in tandem on a Heinz beans tin. First….a 5….and then….a…7! 57° Celsius!!! Or if you like it in old money, 134.6° Fahrenheit. That isn’t a temperature, that’s a gas mark!

It’s been a long hot job getting Riffa Views built, but last week took the biscuit. In fact, you could probably cook biscuits in that heat!

Helping Hand

My name is Michael McIntyre I am going into my second year as a student at Manchester Metropolitan University. I am currently studying Landscape Architecture and then plan to take a further course in Golf Course Design after completing my 3 years at Manchester University.

I first worked at European Golf Design during my School Work Experience week when I was 15 and I then worked for an extra week in the School Summer holidays. I am now 19 and this is the third time I have been given the great opportunity to return to EGD to gain more experience within Golf Course Design.

The people at EGD are very friendly and have welcomed me into the company as one of the team. When I arrived on Monday last week I met Gary who gave me my first task which was to write the text for a course planner on a Golf Course in Bulgaria. This was very interesting but at the same time quite challenging as I had to vary the text ensuring that for each hole I gave, in my opinion the best way the golfer should play the hole. I then went onto work out the stoke indexes, Gary and I worked on this together and put the 18 holes in order of hardest to easiest, this gave us the stoke indexes for the course.

I was impressed with the changes in the office, with a large flat screen TV and comfy sofas, giving me absolute comfort when watching the Olympics with the colleagues. Surprisingly they still continue their lunch time habit of a trip down to Waitrose and I was soon to follow in their footsteps, however everyone did look forward to pizza Friday which was understandable after a week of Waitrose and healthy eating.

I then went onto produce some photo montages on a prospective job. The purpose of these is to try and show what alterations we could make to certain holes on the course to improve them aesthetically and strategically. I produced three montages for the Designers to look at. They gave me their comments on how I could improve on my ideas ie. the shape of a bunker. I made some adjustments and printed off the photo montages.

At the end of my first week I began to work on the strategic design on a layout adding two 9 holes to an existing 9 holes. The routing plan has been laid out and I will be continuing to come up with the more detailed plans throughout next week.

I have really enjoyed my first week at EGD and in just a short space of time have already begun to learn a lot more about Golf Course Design. I am looking forward to carrying out my next challenging tasks during week two however I am unsure what we’ll be watching now the Olympics has finished, the office will be in despair.

EGD Trip to Casa Serena

On Friday of last week, Dave, Alex and I were lucky enough to take advantage of Robin’s very kind offer of visiting the recently opened Casa Serena course that he designed near Prague. The course is currently being prepared for it’s first tournament, a European Senior Tour event – The Casa Serena Open on 5th to 7th September.

We arrived at Casa Serena at 8pm on Thursday evening with just enough light for Robin to give us a quick guide to the course that we’d be playing the next day. Our initial concern was the brutal rough that encompasses each hole. We were all struck by the joy of the landscape and beautiful scenery that the course is set within.

After an evening with Stuart Burridge (the Head Greenkeeper) in the local town, Kutna Hora we awoke to be spoilt in having the course completely to ourselves. We threw the balls up and began our round (incidentally, I’d torn my calf muscle a week ago playing football and after a late Paula Radcliffe fitness test it was obvious with a lot of office pride running on the match, Dave wasn’t completely overawed at his luck of having me as his playing partner).

As the game went on, the rough was as brutal as we’d imagined with quite a few provisional balls being struck but the course was a joy to play and I particularly loved the shaping of the fairways. During the round, I noted a designer who is fully aware of the hazards he’s set out, isn’t immune from them. I also came to the conclusion Dave’s become the barometer or acid test for each designer at EGD as he’s always encouraged with his immense length to attempt to drive a short par 4 or to take on a long carry. Being his playing partner this can be rather stressful when he misfires but when he’s successful it’s thoroughly enjoyable.

On the 18th Hole, Alex retained his 100% losing streak on EGD courses as Dave and I were the winners of a tightly contested match, winning two up. It was apparent Robin was slightly frustrated at losing on the course he’d designed but with ever reason extremely proud to show it off to his fellow work colleagues (possibly the biggest critics).

On a final note, I have to mention my delight with Terminal 5 at Heathrow, especially after experiencing the speed and diligence of BA staff in retrieving the office camera (that has become the most popular toy here since the putting machine) I’d left on the plane. It would have been a long Monday explaining that one.

Elie – Where it all Started for Braid

With his fantastic victory at Royal Birkdale Padraig Harrington became the first European golfer since James Braid in 1906 to successfully defend the Open Championship. Braid of course won the Championship 5 times in all and went on to become a prolific golf course designer.

A Scot, Braid learnt his golf over the links at the Golf House Club, Elie, a wonderful seaside course of great charm and character and the setting last week for a golf match between representatives of EGD and PGA Management.

Flying the flag for EGD were Ross and Rob, while Keith Haslam and Jonathan Pendry stepped up to the plate for PGAM. Elie has no par 5’s and only two par 3’s but probably has as good a variety of par 4’s as you are likely to see on any course. It demands good positioning from the tee and a fine short game to make a score. From the 12th the course steps up a gear with several holes well over 400 yards and long straight hitting is needed to reach the greens when the wind is from the east.

It may not be the most difficult golf course in the world but it is challenging enough for most, the setting is glorious, the greens are testing but fair and the course rewards good shot making. All in all, just what you want for holiday golf and a reaffirmation that modern day designers don’t need to resort to over complication and trickery. Golf is, after all, meant to be enjoyable.

Arran – Well Worth a Visit

The Isle of Arran, Scotland, is one of the most southerly Scottish islands and sits in the Firth of Clyde between Ayrshire and Kintyre. Arran is 19 miles long by 10 miles wide but has a remarkable diversity of landscapes and seascapes.

With 7 golf courses, Arran has the highest ratio of golf courses to people (around 4,500) anywhere in the world. Another world record Arran holds is the golf course at Shiskine, Blackwaterfoot. It is the only 12-hole course in the world! Shiskine seaside links is a short journey across the island and is a true gem with stunning views over to Mull of Kintyre, this is the true heritage of Scottish golf; golf as it was played by Old Tom Morris, Willie Park and Willie Fernie too, who laid the course out. Golf World have regularly ranked Shiskine as one of the top 100 courses in Britain.

Often referred to as ‘Scotland in Miniature’, the Isle of Arran within a short compass captures many aspects of the beauty of Scotland as a whole, from towering granite peaks to peaceful sandy bays overlooked by palm trees growing in the warm climate of the Gulf Stream.

Carbon Offsetting

As we launch our Environmental Policy (which can be found on the Environment Page), it seemed a good time to bring you up to date with our thinking on the whole carbon emission/zero carbon debate.

For a long time, we’ve wrestled with the dilemma that in order to visit our projects to ensure that the design and construction achieves environmental enhancement, we need to get on a plane and fly – with all of the inherent problems that creates with regard to our carbon footprint. So, we’ve been looking for some time at various schemes that could reduce that footprint. The one thing we’ve learned over the past few months is that there are a lot of snake-oil schemes that achieve nothing.

Half of the problem is trying to determine what kind of offsetting (actually, the better term for it is ‘mitigation’ as real one-to-one offsetting is very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve) any programme is contributing to – it’s all too easy to say that planting trees, or giving low-emission light bulbs out in third world countries, will “offset carbon footprints” but it is just not that easy to work out – offsets are an imaginary commodity created by deducting what you hope happens from what you guess would have happened.

We’re now investigating various schemes, with the assistance of Golf Environment Europe which might, in the long term, be a better ‘green pound’ spend than anything else.

We’re working on it, and will update the Blog once we’ve reached some conclusions. In the meantime, do take a look at our Environmental Policy Statement.

EGD Host Media Day

This week saw European Golf Design hosting a Media Day at the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor. Golf and Travel writers from the UK and Europe were invited by EGD and Celtic Manor to experience the new Ryder Cup Course, designed by European Golf Design.

An early start, 6.30am on a Monday (Sarah had no idea such a time existed) saw Ross, Matt, Sarah, Jeremy and Queenie (MIchael King – EGD Director, ex-Ryder Cup and Walker Cup golfer “as he describes himself”) drive down to Celtic Manor in torrential rain and gale force winds. Why didn’t we chose to hold the event in the summer?

As we drove over the Severn Bridge, the rain stopped, the clouds parted and brilliant sunshine shone down on us. Who says it always rains in Wales?

Joining us on the day was the Twenty Ten Honorary Captain, Gareth Edwards CBE ex Wales and British Lions rugby footballer, and school friend of Queenie. Poor John Hopkins from The Times who played with them was subjected to five hours of school boy tales and humour.

Golf writers from Finland, Denmark, Ireland and Scotland joined us for breakfast before venturing out onto the Twenty Ten Course. Despite the heavy rain that has fallen for weeks, the course was in superb condition. As usual with golfers, everyone complained about their game and the putts that didn’t drop but everyone was in agreement the course was in fantastic shape, and a true test of golf. Reliving their rounds over lunch, another golfers trait, they all talked about how they hoped to play the course again and what a fantastic day it had been.

Several stayed on for the night at the hotel, apart from poor Mark Alexander who missed his train and was contemplating the sleeper train back to Scotland, arriving home at 7am Tuesday.

Mike Harris from Golf Monthly took the prize with a score of 28 points but the real winner was the course.

P.S. If you’d like to watch our day out at the Twenty Ten Course, the Audi Channel (Channel 884 – Sky Digital) and Audi’s website (Check the Audi Channel link) will be showing highlights towards the end of August.