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    Dubai Hill named ‘World’s Best New Golf Course’ at the prestigious 2019 World Golf Awards

One of the best 9 hole Courses in the Land?

In December 2011, Golf Monthly ran an article on ‘100 Hidden Gems’. One of these mentioned ‘gems’ was Reigate Heath Golf Club, a 9 hole course situated on the common land just outside the picturesque Surrey town.

On a balmy summers evening last week, Gary, Rob and I headed round the M25 for an evening’s game. Setback from the main road, for those unfamiliar to the area, the course is actually rather well ‘hidden’. But as you make your way along the country road, turning right up the entrance track, you are immediately struck by the view of a most amazing clubhouse and accompanying windmill! (National Golf Links of America aside, we couldn’t think of too many other courses with such a feature). Perched on top of the hill, with fantastic views down over the course and surrounding countryside, this clubhouse was a stopping point for golfers, walkers and runners a like.

After taking in the views for a short while, we made our way down to the first tee. Although only a 9 hole course, each hole has two sets of tees, offering some good variety in terms of playing angles, elevation change and length. Playing over heather and through woodland, the course itself is not overly long, but we were warned by the club pro that we shouldn’t be fooled…. ‘You’ve played well to shoot your handicap’, he said. How right he was….this is a proper test of golf!

The greens themselves offered numerous pin locations, but with some steep and long slopes in places, they were definitely a challenge. As were the well placed riveted bunkers! The front 9 plays to a par of the 34, with three par 3s, five par 4s and the solitary par 5 on the course, coming at the 4th. This hole is played as 450yard par 4 on the back side. There is good mix of hole lengths and the collection of par 3s, which range in length from 120yards to 230yards off the back, was excellent……just like the course conditioning!

A couple weeks back we managed to enjoy the fun and quirkiness of Painswick Golf Club in the Cotswolds. Reigate Heath is just as enjoyable….and as Rob mentioned, ‘If only we lived a little closer, we could be filling in those membership forms!

It may be a 9 hole course, but personally, I haven’t played a better one!

18 Holes on 25 hectares; you must be joking I thought!

For years Robin has been telling us about Painswick Golf Club in the Cotswolds. Last week we finally managed to get there to see it for ourselves; it didn’t let anyone down.

After a monster breakfast we were thrown in at the deep end, a 220 yard par 4 which on the scorecard looks like a very friendly start; wrong, it plays 25m up the hill to a blind green with a 15ft quarry in front of it. It must be one of the shortest holes that is virtually un-driveable. So the first hole breaks some our ‘rules of golf architecture’, and so does almost every hole after that, there are blind par 3’s, shared fairways, crossing holes, and last but not least, holes playing over roads and even cross roads.

Having said all that it was as much fun as I’ve ever had on a golf course, for every shot there was a choice of 3 or 4 clubs, and for every club there was 3 or 4 shot options, you definitely have to think your way round this course and I look forward to returning knowing it a little better, I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing to be honest, blissful ignorance helped me a few times the first time round!

Above: Pano from 6th tees

Above: Approaching the 15th Green

What's happening at European Golf Design

We’re currently working, on a geographical basis, from the Caribbean to India. The construction work at Kittitian Hill in St Kitts is nearing completion – Gary was on site last week and with the help of near-legendary shaper/project manager Bob Harrington and the unlimited passion and involvement of developer, Val Kempadoo, it’s shaping up to be a quite beautiful course. For more information on Val’s philosophy and approach to the project, take a look at the project web site, which is inspirational: www.kittitianhill.com. Gary is finishing up the project in Marrakech which opens next month and is also involved in the new project in Dubai for Emaar at their Dubai Hills development. It’s fair to say this has been a fast-track project – design didn’t start until September while machines rolled on to site early in January to start the bulk earthworks.

As well as his work at the JCB project in the UK and Plages des Nations in Morocco, Rob is currently working on master planning with Vatika Group and U+A Studios on a beach site near Puducherry in southeastern India which will feature golf, a limited number of villas (most of which will have sea views) and a boutique hotel. It’s not often one is presented with 80Ha of beachfront property to work with – even less often when the property is absolutely untouched by previous development of any kind. He’s also involved with a project in North Cyprus for an Istanbul based development group.

Dave is spending most of this time on the 36 holes planned for Bodrum in Turkey. Dogus Grubu, one of the largest companies in Turkey, has bought an existing course, with additional land already zoned for development. Our brief is to deliver a resort-friendly course and a longer, more challenging tournament venue, effectively starting from scratch. IMG will be developing a sports academy on site, in addition to the ubiquitous residential and hotel elements which are being designed by WATG. When he’s not concentrating on that, Dave’s working on our long-standing project at King Abdullah Economic City in Saudi Arabia which, after a hiatus of several years, has recommenced with construction due to start again in the very near future.

From the middle east, we move to Russia and, more specifically, the city of White Nights – St Petersburg – where Ross (between meetings for his project in Manchester) is putting the finishing touches to the detailed design package for a course on the southeastern edge of the city. If you’ve never been, it is a beautiful city but suffers from horrendous traffic problems (as does Moscow) which means getting from A to B can take an inordinate amount of time, but once you’re there… The site is relatively flat, but possesses a magic ingredient in that the soils are a wonderfully pure sand. As the client wants to develop a family friendly project with many different leisure facilities, we (along with WATG who are working on this one too) are creating a lake with a total area of around 50Ha (not far short of the size of an average golf course) which will be used for boating, swimming and so on in the summer, and skating in the winter. All of the excavated material is being used to raise the remainder of the site out of the flood plain. Everyone’s a winner.

Beyond that, Matt is hugely busy with tournament planning for the European Tour’s staging team, in addition to the web site work he does for various players, and his production responsibilities for us. Alex is keeping the production work on schedule, as well as being a house-dad this month to his two young boys – he did suggest after the first couple of days that he couldn’t see what all the fuss about child care was all about…he’s been less vocal as the month has continued! Shara takes care of everything else – she’s been through our annual financial audit, helping me prepare for Board meetings with our shareholders, preparing month-end accounts and generally keeping the office ticking over with her normal (extraordinary) level of efficiency. And I’ve been out and about talking with new and existing clients. Without wishing to tempt fate, it seems that things have picked up across many regions and confidence has returned sufficiently that legitimate people are moving ahead with legitimate projects – if there has been anything good to come out of the past five years, it is that it’s acted as the biggest ‘idiot filter’ in living memory: the time-wasters have disappeared from the marketplace and long may that continue!

Return of the Bolton Wonder

We have received many admiring comments about the clay model made of the new course we’re designing for JCB…and rightly so. It is a wonderful piece of craftsmanship. The man responsible for the model is Jeff Shuttleworth, from Bolton and he deserves all of the plaudits.

The idea for the model came from JCB Chairman Lord Bamford. He’s not a fan of computer generated imagery and prefers the tactile, three dimensional qualities of a good model. He felt that the golf course proposal could be more amply appreciated and understood if people were able to get up close to and walk around a large scale site model. He was proved to be right.

EGD was asked to suggest a model maker and I immediately recalled this chap who had made a fantastic single-hole model for us back in the days when I used to work for Hawtree. This was nearly twenty years ago though and both his name and company details had long since escaped me. I turned to the one person who I thought may just remember him, my former design colleague, Mike Cox. Remarkably, Mike not only remembered him, but had done some work with him in recent years. The only problem was, as Mike told me, that Jeff had retired from professional model making several years ago. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I gave Jeff a call and left a message on his answer phone, explaining what we had in mind.

Later that day, Jeff called back, sounding somewhat surprised and said that he’d be very keen to look at the job, but that he’d thrown away his model making tools, thinking he’d never be needing them again! Things move quickly and efficiently when you deal with JCB and shortly thereafter, Jeff was engaged to produce the model in time for a public exhibition and press launch in January 2014. This gave Jeff two months to complete a task that needed three! It also forced us to accelerate our design schedule, as Jeff’s model is scaled to our detailed 1:1000 plans, which weren’t due to be completed until Christmas 2013.

Necessity is the mother of invention and to cut a long story short, we pumped out the design plans in double quick time and Jeff exceeded all expectations of him and delivered the completed model in good time, working 18-20 hours a day, all through December and the Christmas holidays.

There was a palpable sense of excitement when the model was unveiled and it was, for me, immensely rewarding to see the design of our course so accurately portrayed. Jeff is very particular about how the model should be lit to accentuate the shadows and contours. Keep the lighting at a low angle and from one position only. In these conditions, the model springs to life, highlighting every bump and hollow. Jeff’s attention to detail is incredible and you can spend hours gazing over the model. It is quite mesmerising.

It’s been a thrill to see the model take shape under Jeff’s skilled hand. He’s lost none of the magic and if there is any justice, he should find himself with a few more to do in the future. JCB are thrilled with his work and so are we. Photographs of the model have formed the centrepiece of the worldwide press coverage, explaining what the course will look like better than any computer rendering or sketch can do.

The model sits for now in the JCB executive offices, but in time it is envisaged that it will reside in the foyer of the new clubhouse at Woodseat Hall. Hopefully, you might get to see it there, but for now, here are a few photos of Jeff’s fantastic work.

JCB Tees Off 2014 with Plans for £30 million Golf Course

Above: JCB CEO Graeme Macdonald (left) with designer Robin Hiseman of EGD

JCB has announced a new wave of investment in Staffordshire with plans for a £30 million golf course next to its World HQ to help boost sales and build global awareness of its brand.

The proposals for a spectacular 18-hole, 7,150 yards, Par 72 championship golf course centre on 240 acres of rolling countryside to the south of its Rocester headquarters. When completed in 2018, it is expected that up to 100 people will be employed in groundcare and hospitality roles.

The course will be designed by European Golf Design – the golf course design company of IMG and the European Tour – best known for the 2010 course at Celtic Manor in Wales, host of the 2010 Ryder Cup. It will be built to tour-quality standard and could potentially host a major tour event, attracting competitors and spectators from all over the world.

The plans have been conceived by JCB Chairman Lord Bamford and follow an announcement in early December that JCB will invest £150m to build two new factories in Staffordshire and significantly increase production to meet an anticipated growth in demand for its products.

At the heart of this premier golf development is Woodseat Hall, an 18th Century mansion currently in ruins, but which will have a new lease of life under plans to renovate it as the course clubhouse, complete with a new luxury spa, leisure facility and five-star hotel-style accommodation for visiting JCB guests from across the world.

Lord Bamford said: “JCB is a global manufacturer with a successful track record in growing sales in overseas markets. As part of our plans to increase manufacturing capacity and grow sales, we need to build an even stronger awareness of the JCB brand around the world.

“Golf is a truly global sport and is a perfect fit for JCB as a global manufacturer as we look to develop strong relationships with customers and dealers worldwide. I’m not a golfer myself but I’m excited by the opportunity it presents us in driving our future plans for business growth.”

JCB Chief Executive Officer Graeme Macdonald said: “The golf course will be the biggest marketing tool available to JCB in its history, helping grow sales and create jobs. If the course were to host a major tournament, the television coverage would certainly put the JCB brand firmly on the world stage. It would also help to raise the profile of Staffordshire and promote the county as a tourist destination to millions of people around the world.”

European Golf Design’s course architect for the JCB course, Robin Hiseman, said: “We were asked to create a premier tour-proven golf course to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the very best contemporary golf course designs in the UK. We are very confident that our design meets this requirement, taking full advantage of a rich landscape that includes deciduous woodland, classic English farmland and historic parkland with many arboretum-standard specimen trees.

“The course design, which is burgeoning with imaginative design concepts, will twist and turn around the natural contours of the site, dipping in and out of the woodlands and involving the existing water features in a range of exciting ways, including the spectacular and unique Par 3 17th hole, which plays onto an existing wooded island in the South Lake.

“We are looking forward to building this JCB course, and as you might expect, JCB machines will be doing all of the work in what will be a 240-acre shop window for its product range.”

The new golf course, which is subject to planning consent, will be made available mainly to JCB’s network of 770 global dealers. It will be used to drive business growth, helping to build relationships with new customers and strengthen relationships with existing customers. Upon completion, golf days will become a feature of the wider JCB visitor experience, which already includes factory visits, the ‘Story of JCB’ exhibition and machine demonstrations.

ENDS

For further information contact: Nigel Chell JCB Press Office

Tel: 01889 590312 Fax: 01889593455 E-mail: nigel.chell@jcb.com Web: www.jcb.com

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

Heads are surprisingly un-fuzzy today at EGD given that yesterday was our Christmas party which, for some of us (but not me), ended way after midnight. While the evening ended in a local pub which served very good food and very alcoholic alcohol, the afternoon started with the first ever EGD Clay Pigeon Shooting Championships, held at the National Clay Pigeon Shooting Centre in Bisley, which is about ten miles from our office in Sunningdale. Only one of us, Michael King (known as ‘Queenie’ to all) has ever shot before and the thought of the rest of us having access to guns should be a cause for great concern. Given the lack of experience, we actually all did quite well and a significant proportion of the ‘pigeons’ were blown to kingdom come during flight. Queenie was so good that he was told that once he’d hit the clay with his first shot, he should then shoot the largest remaining piece of it with his second shot, which he managed to do repeatedly. Shara started a round by missing several before hitting about six in a row. What changed? “I got cross” she said. Colleagues, consultants, clients – be afraid of this woman…do not ever make her cross.

The afternoon ended with a head-to-head shootout between the teams, with the final shootout between Queenie and Matt. As we knew how good he was, those of us on Queenie’s team relaxed knowing victory was soon to be ours. How wrong – like some gunslinger from the American west, Matt smoked him 2-1. “You’ve got to dig deep.” was all Wy-matt Earp had to say as the smoke cleared as we moved off for dinner.

Jeremy.

Above: Shara on the rampage.

‘Save the Planet. It’s the only one with beer.’

Throughout our daily lives, we are bombarded with banal ‘noise’. At every turn, and in every medium, we are faced with advertising, branding, and comment. Increasingly, everyone has an opinion on everything, regardless of their knowledge or understanding of the actual issue. When was the last time you heard a member of the public admit that they had no opinion on a subject when a microphone was thrust into their face by some over-eager newshound from a local/regional/national news agency, even as it became obvious that that was the case?

So, with this saturation of banality, when one does come across a moment of real insight, or at least something that is thought-provoking, it is more than refreshing. I was in Dubai a week or so ago and came across this phrase credited to His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai:

‘The path towards excellence does not stop – on the contrary, success acts as an incentive to greater success’.

As a philosophy, this seems to me to be right on the money. It’s to the point, it’s ambitious and it’s limitless. As a rallying cry for a nation reinventing itself in the modern world (and, arguably, helping to define that world), it is inspirational to the generations building that nation now (even if, for many, Dubai is an adopted home), and for those to come.

I’ve said before on this blog that one of the great joys of my job is that I have never once heard any one of my colleagues at EGD say anything like “that’s good enough” – there is a constant drive to improve what we do and the way we do it. To that end, Sheikh Mohammed’s quotation resonated strongly with me.

The other thing I read last week that also resonated was this:

‘Save the Planet. It’s the only one with beer.’

Turkish Airlines Open

This is a little bit of a belated blog as I have spent the past few weeks travelling but the highlight of these trips was definitely being in Turkey for the inaugural Turkish Open. It really was very cool seeing the pros, including a certain Tiger Woods, playing on a golf course that we had designed. It was, however, a little strange standing on the 18th on the Sunday afternoon surrounded by thousands of spectators and remembering when a small group of us first visited this lovely site which, at the time, was just a ministry of agriculture pine forest and exploring every part of it without seeing another person.

If memory serves me correctly it was a little over seven years ago that we began the process of creating the Montgomerie Maxx Royal Golf Course. While there wasn’t much there but pine trees and sand it was clear that this was a very special site, but it wasn’t without its challenges. Being so close to the sea the ground water table was only just below the surface which made building the course pretty challenging at times and resulted in us having to lift all the playing surfaces to ensure they would drain. Also, during construction some of the particularly wet areas would without warning turn to quicksand and on one site visit all of us (including Monty) ended up in one of these wet pits – I believe there is still a pair of Colin’s trainers buried somewhere under the 4th hole! Thankfully we all escaped and were able to complete the construction of the course in just 18 months ready for opening in 2008.

Originally when we designed we didn’t expect it to host a tournament on the scale of this year’s event but based on the nice feedback we have received over the past couple of weeks it seems to have passed its first test with flying colours. So all being well we are looking forward to returning next Autumn when the course is once again due to play host to the European Tour elite competing for the Turkish Open title.

Above: Crowds on the 18th hole at the 2013 Turkish Airlines Open

Above: Start of construction, designer Gary Johnston and Colin Montgomerie