Nothing quite explains the transformative process of golf course design as well as a before and after photograph. It was looking at such images in the World Atlas of Golf as a 10 year-old that first sparked my interest in golf architecture.
At the ‘before’ stage we concoct the ‘after’ image in our minds eye and then set about the task of making this mental image a physical reality.
Here are a selection of my favourites from the projects I’ve worked on for EGD. It would take more than a thousand words to do justice to the processes, personalities and pitfalls encountered to bring each to fruition, but I’ll leave that to your imagination.
Figure 1: The future 12th hole at Casa Serena, Czech Republic on a cold, wet day in November 2004. My first day of work for EGD.
Figure 2: The same view in September 2008.
Figure 3: From atop a high bluff looking out over the Bahraini desert in July 2006.
Figure 4: Less than 3 years later and the same scene has become the 3rd (right) and 8th (left) holes of the Royal Golf Club, part of the huge Riffa Views development. Photo taken in 2009.
Figure 5: Back in 2013 the view from Tee 15 of Plage des Nations looked like this, with the most enormous pile of foundation spoil sitting on top of the fairway.
Figure 6: In February 2016 it looks like this. The large hill to the right is formed in 9 metres of cut! The course is still growing in.
Figure 7: November 2012 and the view down the future 16th hole at JCB Woodseat Hall.
Figure 8: October 2015. More of a ‘during’ than an ‘after’ but the basic shape of the hole is formed.
My name is Kyle Taggart and I joined the EGD team in July ’14 as construction supervisor at the Dubai Hills Estate golf and residential project in the United Arab Emirates. For the previous 20+ years I have worked in the golf and turf industry in varying capacities, across five different continents and the most extreme climatic opposites conceivable. My passion for the game and hands on experience, teamed with a turfgrass management diploma has led me down this unique career path focused on delivering high quality golf experiences.
Working in the Middle East region isn’t for the faint of heart. Being positioned along the southern coast of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula, the weather conditions go from warm to hot to borderline inhumane. I have personally experienced temperatures in the high 50’s, then magnified by stifling humidity. With more than 200 nationalities co-existing in Dubai there is constant language, religious and cultural differences, but in my opinion, this just adds to the allure of the UAE. Security, tolerance, advanced infrastructure and (of course) tax-free income are the main factors attracting the majority of the approximately 7.8 million expats, which equate to more than 85% of the country’s total population.
This is my second ‘tour of duty’ in Dubai, the first being employed in a contractors’ role during construction of Jumeirah Golf Estates. That was a turbulent ride as we witnessed the peaks and valleys of the volatile real estate market before, during and after the global financial collapse in 2008-2009. JGE has hosted the year end DP World Tour Championship since ’09 and there is definitely a sense of achievement to witness the Earth Course manicured in all her glory, elevating the design intent to its fullest. Watching some of the games’ best battle it out in the EPGA’s richest event is a fantastic way to wind up the year.
I consider myself extremely fortunate to have travelled and lived in such a plethora of countries and cultures. You have to accept repeated temporary living arrangements in this profession but I am incredibly fortunate to have seen so much thus far. My global experiences have brought copious amounts of learning along the journey and I wouldn’t trade that for a 9-5, suit and tie job. While working abroad in the golf construction industry can be a love-hate relationship at times, I do not anticipate losing the passion any time soon.
Originally from Powell River, BC, Canada & currently living in ‘The Sandpit’
On the lush slopes of Mt Liamuga on north of the island of St Kitts sits Irie Fields, one of EGD’s newest Golf Courses. On first look it may not seem too dissimilar to many of our other projects but this pioneering destination is more than a little different. From the start the development team had the intention to create a world class golf resort but the overriding theme has always been to create a golf course that would be truly sustainable that, importantly, would provide a benefit to the local community. This thinking was not just limited to the design and construction of the golf course but also to the ongoing management and consequently Irie Fields is now one of the first completely organically managed warm season golf courses anywhere. The result of all this hard work is that Irie Fields has just become the first in the World to attain GEO Certified – Development Status helping to set new standards for golf course development.
Construction work on the golf course was completed in 2015 and the course is set to open in mid-2016.
Last week’s site trip to Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in Saudi Arabia was a momentous one, with grassing approvals granted for Holes 1 & 9, the last holes to be concluded on the front nine. Much work is still to be done on these holes, but this milestone is definitely a great achievement.
Landscape planting works shall commence early in the new year and this will really assist in transforming and defining the holes.
In terms of the course’s building facilities, construction works on the impressive Clubhouse are progressing apace, ground has now been broken on the Maintenance Facility, with the Academy building commencing next month.
So, after a project commencement date sometime in late 2007, I am pleased & excited to say that on almost the 8th anniversary of our King Abdullah Economic City project in Saudi Arabia, I finally witnessed the first grass sprigs getting planted at the Royal Greens Golf Club.
Back in 2009, following the shaping works of almost 16 holes, the recession hit, and works ground to halt. Six years on, and late last year, works re-commenced and the dozer machines were once again put to task.
The project has had a few hiccups along the way since then, most notably importation and custom issues, dewatering of the four sea water lakes and the installation of the storm drainage systems from the neighbouring residential areas; but we are now finally full steam ahead! Four holes are already fully grassed, and fingers crossed, the whole front nine should be showing a beautiful tinge of green come the end of the year. In the accompanying aerial image, holes 2 & 3, which play around lake, had just been grassed, while the par 5 4th & par 4 5th (top right of the image) were grassed just over a month back. During this week’s site visit, further grassing approval should be given for holes 6 thru 8 (The 8th is the short par 3 in the bottom right)
Its been a long and tough road to get to the stage, but the finishing post, which should be sometime mid next year, is not too far off now. For regular project updates, follow us on twitter @eurogolfdesign, @RoyalGreensGC
Aerial view of front nine holes at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in Saudi Arabia during grassing.
Having turned fifty last year (I know, it’s almost impossible to believe!) I have found that the last 12 months has been a fairly hectic time with numerous parties and reunions of old friends celebrating the same milestone. Another particularly memorable reunion was a recent celebration with university friends marking 30 years since we started as students and it was amazing how we all seemed to gel together again, as if we had only been apart for a few weeks rather than for over twenty five years. Of course the one thing that we all agreed on was the fact that none of us had changed a bit!
I had similar thoughts a few days later when I was invited to visit a golf course I had not seen for the best part of twenty years.
One of the great joys of being a golf course architect is to be able to return to a course which you have designed years after it was first opened. Our official involvement with most projects ends on the day the golf course opens for play, although often you are invited back if there is a special event or you need to check on the golf course set up.
At EGD we normally maintain a close relationship with our clients and often return to our courses over the years, sometimes even with our clubs! However, inevitably clients and personnel change, and like an old friend you sometimes begin to lose touch. Add to that the remoteness of some projects and it is easy for both sides to find themselves ‘moving on’.
So it was with a mixture of surprise and delight that I received an invitation to join in the 20th birthday celebrations of Schloss Wilkendorf Golf Club in Germany, near Strausburg, about an hour’s drive east of Berlin.
Schloss Wilkendorf was a large project we designed in the early 90’s with 36 holes and extensive practice facilities, including a three hole academy course. The championship course was designed in association with Sandy Lyle.
I well remember my first visit to Schloss Wilkendorf in 1992, only three years after Germany’s reunification, and driving seemingly miles along cobbled streets to get to the site. I thought it quite unlikely that golf would be considered as a serious sport in this part of the world. Yet how wrong could I be? Before construction even started a short course was mown out in a meadow alongside our course and it was soon filled with children going around with borrowed clubs, quickly reaching a very good standard.
Returning to Schloss Wilkendorf I was delighted to see that, like my friends from college, the golf courses had hardly changed, and one other thing had not changed at all. I was amazed to find that the head greenkeeper was still Gordon Smith, the man who had grown in the golf course for the contractors, Southern Golf, all those years before. Gordon has matured and developed the course without losing any of its character and I thoroughly enjoyed our day as we toured every hole.
Schloss Wilkendorf is a lovely, secluded place, with both golf courses totally enclosed by woodland. The region is well worth a visit and it now boasts some fine golf courses. Not far away is Sporting Club Berlin at Scharmützelsee which boasts two EGD courses created by our former colleague Stan Eby, including the Faldo Course, which he designed in association with Nick Faldo, and the Eby Course, named in Stan’s honour.
Inevitably, at the end of all the reunions and 50th birthday celebrations we all make promises to meet up again soon and to not leave it so long the next time. Similarly I resolve to visit Schloss Wilkendorf again before I’m invited to their next 20 year anniversary. Certainly I want to make that visit before I am doing the rounds of 70th birthday celebrations!
Last week Gary, Ross, Dave and myself attended the annual EIGCA conference and AGM at the Marine Hotel in North Berwick. It was a great trip that involved golf at North Berwick West Links and Gullane no. 2, courses that attracted golf architects and industry specialists from all over the world. Along with golf and the AGM, a conference day featured guest speakers covering a wide range of topics including ‘Growing the Game’, Flat v’s Undulating Greens’ and ‘Rating GB&I’s Top 100 Courses’.
For many reasons it’s probably best I don’t go into details about the golf, congratulations to Paul Kimber and Niall Glen though who picked up first and second prize in the President’s Cup respectively. The prizes were awarded at the President’s dinner which also saw Peter Fjällman hand over to Tom Mackenzie.
Thank you to all at the EIGCA for organising the event, their industry partners who make it all possible and North Berwick and Gullane Golf Club for making us most welcome. We are looking forward to next year already!
As the first earthworks phase comes to a close for the winter break, we are moving into the tree clearance programme. The first two areas completed have revealed the exciting prospects in store for the 1st and 17th holes of the Woodseat Hall Golf Course.
We’ve cleared some of the bushes and trees for the Medal tee on Hole 1, which has revealed the challenging diagonal tee shot across Woodseat Lake. This is only the start of the story, for the lake is going to be substantially enlarged between the tee and the dogleg to make this view even more dramatic.
Elsewhere, we’ve cleared the trees away to display the full panorama for the tee shot on our already iconic 17th hole. I’ve been looking forward to finally seeing this view in its full glory and am entirely satisfied that we’re on the right track to create a hole to do justice to this wonderful setting.
Below:From the 200-yard tee down to the island that will become the 17th green.