These 'Boots' Are Made for Walkin……

It may have been a big hit for Frank Sinatra’s daughter, Nancy, but for those of you who have been to New York New York, with the wife or girlfriend, will fully appreciate the amount of ‘Walkin’ that takes place. The architecture, the museums, ‘Top of the Rock’, Central Park, the ‘Sex and the City’ tour (no comment), Statue of Liberty, Time Square (not last Saturday thankfully)……..and the shopping, the shopping, the shopping!!!
It’s a pulsating and energising place, but come the end of our five day stay in the Big Apple, both of us were very ready to put the ‘boots’ up.

The wife’s ‘boots’ were up for a bit longer than mine, as it was straight from Heathrow Terminal 3 to Terminal 4 to catch a connecting flight to Moscow for the first construction visit of year at the Zavidovo project.

Work has only recently recommenced on the PGA National Russia course and the site has come out of the winter well. Erosion has been minimal and it’s great to see that the course is draining pretty well. Conditions since the winter thaw have been favourable and in less than three days on site, we were able to approve shaping work and mark out grassing lines on five holes. Irrigation has also been staked on these holes so if all things go well we should have some seed in the ground in June.

A tiring, yet fun and rewarding nine days away from home, where the ‘walkin’ boots, were replaced by the ‘site’ boots, and upon return……….the ‘cricket’ boots!

  • Dave outside the Guggenheim Museum, New York
  • Construction underway on the 10th Hole at the PGA National Russia course.

In trepidation !!

Asked by Sarah recently what the highlight of my year at EGD has been I suppose, as Accountant, I should really say things like a successful audit etc…etc.

2009 hasn’t yet finished and I am full of trepidation for part our forthcoming Christmas outing on Wednesday. If I succeed with the mission set…………….that will be my personal highlight of the year. I am hoping the EGD team will help me through it!!

I should start with my experience last year. As part of our Christmas outing we went to Kew Gardens and as part of that, several of the team went on the Tree Top Walk. I didn’t!! In the past I have been o.k. with heights etc. but recently the whole idea has become very scary. O.K I thought be honest, “I don’t like heights – I’ll try”. I got to the first step of the Tree Top Walk and then retreated, hastily.

This year we have another good Christmas outing planned except I am really being tested. As part of the outing Jeremy has booked a trip on the London Eye.

Firstly I have to step into the pod which I fully appreciate is TRANSPARENT I know travels very very SLOWLY, very very HIGH, in a very very ENCLOSED SPACE with ABSOLUTELY NO WAY OUT!! (Please do not expect a tweet from me at this stage).

My personal highlight will be to survive this experience with help from the team (and a large glass of white wine or two once released from the pod).

Groovey Kind of Love

As from Jan 1, 2010 the R&A and USGA rule regarding grooves shall come into enforcement for all professional golfers. The rule affects irons and wedges that have a loft greater than or equal to 25 degrees (a 5-iron and above). The rule is the result of research done by the R&A and the USGA into how the grooves on a club affects the amount of spin that can generate especially out of the rough. Basically the powers that be want to limit the amount of backspin that lofted clubs can achieve in the hope that wayward shots off the fairway into the rough will be more challenging to the player. The rule will specify that clubs have “V” shape grooves rather than the controversial Square “U” shaped grooves. It might be a step back in terms of technology but by reducing backspin this will increase stopping distances making it more desirable to hit fairways and place a premium on accuracy.

Anything that encourages players to be more accurate off the tee can only be a good thing. Golf should not be all about launching the ball into space but, surely, with an emphasis on shotmaking, strategy and skill. Players will need to be more proficient or less aggresive with an emphasis on course management. It will very be interesting to see how courses will be set up to account for this in the future and how players manage their game.

EGD designer Dave Sampson points out “there will be a ‘better’ position to be … whether in the fairway or rough. The professional golfers will still be able to control the ball from the fairway, however tee shots will now be enhanced / exaggerated / challenged as ‘control’ from the rough will no longer be a given.”

The change by the R&A and USGA shall be very interesting and the intent by the governing bodies is a very positive stance.

Football Mugs and Football Thugs

Football is well represented at EGD; it is often at the heart of a heated discussion especially on a Monday morning.

Starting in the back of the office we have Gary, a Glasgow Rangers fan, I don’t have much to say about Rangers apart from Gary could probably get in that team at the moment. It also helps getting tickets when your uncle is the Chairman!!

Robin and Dave are Spurs Fans. One would be too many. Sleeping Giants? I think they are in a coma. We mustn’t also forget Rob’s first love Halifax Town who languish in the Unibond league.

The Man Utd Mug belongs to Matt, he doesn’t like the diving that has come into the modern game and hates Ronaldo’s greasy hair, he was glad to see the back of him. His Favourite Utd player? I would say Wayne Rooney, of course, the toffees taught him everything that he knows.

Jeremy is a Gooner, he has not forked out for a mug though. Maybe he is not very proud. Or is it us? Maybe we haven’t seen it like Mr Wenger.

Sarah is a part time Liverpool fan, when they lose (quite often this season) she cheers on Fulham. I think she fits in better with the fans in South West London rather than the Merseysiders. She does own a pair of highly one sided Liverpool goggles though.

Shara, as far as I know the only team she supports is the one that her sons James and Sam play in. She is probably the most sensible of all of us.

Ross – he is a Hammer, currently they are in the relegation zone, the team that put them there last week with a win at Upton Park? Everton , that happens to be my team. The Pride of Merseyside.

Stan also likes football, his favourite team? The Chicago Bears. Huh.

Come on you Toffees!

Whistle While We Work

Paying a visit to European Golf Design can be a musical extravaganza. As you walk through the office a diverse array of musical tastes can be heard as you pass from office to office.

At EGD peoples doors are always open. First you pass by Stan Eby’s office, you’ll find him listening to classic 60’s & 70’s Rock, one of his favourites being Little Feat. Next you swing by Ross McMurray’s room, he’ll be generally sat at his drawing board tapping his foot away to the Blues.

When you enter the main office you can hear more than the sound of keyboards tapping and phones ringing. Generally it’s a mixture of the radio or peoples playlists on Napster. There’s 6 of us so banging out Metallica all day doesn’t please everybody!! It’s a fine balance, something interesting, but not too distracting, but there are times when you can’t beat the good old sound of silence.

Going past the print room you come to Robin Hiseman and Gary Johnston’s offices. The doors are right next to each other and standing outside you can sometimes be greeted by a wall of sound. There’s a mixture of Indie from Rob and Dance/Rock beats from Gary.

Let’s us know the music that does it for you when you’re designing or need inspiration at work?

Designer Stan Eby’s favourite – Lowell George and Little Feat

Golf in Gullane

I have just arrived back in the office from a long weekend in Scotland. I visited Gullane in East Lothian for a couple of rounds with some of my family, the weather prohibited any more than that, I have never seen so much rain in September, and when it wasn’t raining, I think the term ‘blowing a hoolie’ sums it up. It was our first long drive with the new dog, who behaved much better than Alaina in the car, sleeping most the time.

Alaina and I lost narrowly to my Dad and Brother on the first day on Gullane number 3. A short but not easy course, the pictures not really doing the wind justice. We then got another game in on Gullane number 2, another nice links course with some great views over the Firth of Forth and into Fife. Luckily, I did not lose the second game, My Brothers and Dads nerves getting the better of them.

There is some other news from the weekend, Alaina and I are getting Married. Against the odds she said yes to my question on Friday night. The Picture of her and Mac(the dog) was a few minutes before I asked her……..

  • Alaina and Mac just before I got down on one knee
  • My brother Duncan Hay hits a good one

On Site and On Course

Sometimes you’re in the office for days – and sometimes you’re not. Variety is the spice of life!

Monday 1st June
9.00 – Sunningdale. On holiday last week so I spend an hour in the office checking emails and then it’s off to the airport to catch a flight to Amsterdam. ‘The Dutch’ is a course we’re building with Colin Montgomerie near Gorinchem. 6 or 7 holes have been shaped and hopefully I can approve some areas for drainage and irrigation.

14.00 – Holland. Arrive Amsterdam, hire car and drive south. It’s a public holiday today so for once the traffic in Holland is fine.

15.00  Arrive at The Dutch. Only the shapers working today and we spend several hours walking the course and discussing the style of the shaping which is going to be something quite different. We all agree that there will be nothing in Holland like this!

Tuesday 2nd June
7.30 – Back on site working with the shapers and putting our thoughts into practice. The guys are working really well together so I leave them to it and meet with the Contractor and Project Manager. We discuss the programme of works and try to come up with some solutions to one or two problems which have arisen.  The site is below sea level and has its own particular challenges.

12.00 – I check tee sizes and inspect drainage and irrigation installation then head to the 9th green which has now been roughly shaped. It’s not bad but something isn’t quite working. I ask the machine operator to dig out a huge chunk on the right side. He looks at me as if I’ve gone mad but plunges the bucket into the subgrade. It certainly doesn’t look plain now!

16.00 – Another meeting where we discuss the work that has been approved and what will be done before my visit next week. 5 mins before I’m due to leave our irrigation designer turns up. He’s had a nightmare drive from Amsterdam. He wishes me the best of luck as I head off for the airport. I make it, just!

Wednesday 3rd June
9.00 – Sunningdale. Two hours in the office and then it’s off to the Twenty-Ten Course at Celtic Manor Resort for the Wales Open which starts tomorrow. I’m looking forward to seeing how the players handle the course this year prior to next year’s Ryder Cup on the same course.

13.30 – Wales. Meet up at the 18th green with a BBC crew to film a piece for their Raise Your Game programme, which is aimed at inspiring and motivating people from all walks of life. We discuss why I became a golf course architect and what it takes to become one. Afterwards I talk to Jim Mckenzie, Director of Golf at Celtic Manor Resort and David Garland, Director of Tour Operations at the European Tour. We discuss the set up of the golf course and particularly the work that has been done on the course since last year’s Wales Open. Jim has been working on firming up the greens and we have added one fairway bunker on the 4th and a new back tee on the 14th. Apart from that the only changes have been to the fairway outlines and David already has some thoughts about making another tweak to the mowing line on the 16th hole. I’ll go out tomorrow and see how the players tackle it.

15.30 – Meet up with another film crew from European Tour Productions who are filming a promotional piece to be shown next year before the Ryder Cup. We talk a little about how the course was built and I point out the work we did on the 18th hole. I agree to meet them again tomorrow so they can film more with the crowds on the course.

17.00 – I speak to a couple of the pros and also to some of the participants in the pro-am. Everyone is very positive and comment on the improved condition of the course now that it has had an extra year to mature. The only minor issue is the thickness of the rough which is a bit inconsistent, mainly because of the warm dry spell we have had in the weeks leading up to the tournament. I see a couple of old friends in Wayne Sheffield and Jason O’Malley from Wisley GC and Woburn G&CC respectively. They have just played in the pro-am together. Wayne has played well and knocked it round in about 75, a fantastic score. I tell him I obviously need to make it more difficult. No one else seems to agree!

19.00 – It’s a beautiful evening so I go out on the course and take some photos.

Thursday 4th June
10.00 – I’ve driven to Marriott St Pierre near Chepstow, a few miles down the road from Celtic Manor. We’ve been carrying out an extensive upgrade to both the courses here over the last two years and I want to check the two newest greens which opened for play on Monday. They look in fine condition but I make some suggestions regarding the edging of the bunkers to Stewart Wood the Golf Course Manager. We also discuss the last phase of the work, programmed to start in the autumn.

13.00 – Back at Celtic Manor I meet up with Jonathan Smith of Golf Environment Organisation. The GEO is a non-profit organisation working to maximise the social, environmental and economic benefits of golf and they are currently working on the 2010 Ryder Cup Environmental Action Plan. We discuss how this is going and also about GEO’s involvement with two of our other projects. 

15.00 – More filming with European Tour Productions then I can finally watch some golf. I meet up with my colleague Matt Sturt and we follow Colin Montgomerie as he plays the last 6 holes. It’s been another beautiful day. Let’s hope it stays like this for the weekend.

Friday 5th June
12.30 It was a late night! I spend a couple of hours catching up with emails and sending reports and then see a little bit of golf before having lunch with Russell Phillips from CMR. Many of the people who were involved in the construction and engineering of the golf course are also on the table. We reminisce about the project and some of its peculiar difficulties but there is an underlying sense of pride about our involvement and what has been achieved. Gareth Edwards is another of our guests and he and Thomas Bjorn do an excellent question and answer session.

19.00 It’s just starting to rain! One last word with Chris Sentence at the Twenty-Ten clubhouse who, with all the team there, make’s everyone feel so much at home and then it’s back to the hotel. I’ve been invited to have dinner with the members of the Twenty-Ten Course. It’s a great evening hosted by Sir Terry Mathews. Corey Pavin, US Ryder Cup team captain, is also in attendance. Sir Terry’s enthusiasm for the Ryder Cup and the Twenty-Ten Course is clear for all to see and he is obviously held in much affection by the membership.

Saturday 6th June
06.00 A few hours sleep broken only by the noise of heavy rain thundering against my window. 35mm of rain fell in just three hours, the course is flooded and it is still raining. Another 15mm falls and play is inevitably delayed but it is a testament to the new drainage system and the hard work of Jim McKenzie and his greenstaff that only an hour after the rain stops play is underway and virtually all the rounds are completed. A tough test but one that needed to be seen to be passed. 

So that’s it for this week. Three hours in the office over the last 14 days. I need to get behind the desk next week – or maybe not!

  • Shaping on the 2nd hole at The Dutch
  • Crowds around the 18th hole on The TwentyTen Course at Celtic Manor.

EGD Twilight Golf

The first EGD twilight golf match of the year saw Alex, Dave, Gary and Robin take on the majestic Woking Golf Club, one of the acknowledged classics of golf course architecture. Despite an extremely murky and drizzly evening, it was clear enough to see that anyone with a professional interest in golf course design should be making a beeline to this outstanding heathland course. It is an object lesson in thoughtful, economic, strategic design, topped off by a simply wonderfully conceived set of greens. I have no doubt that we will be making several return trips as the summer progresses.

As for the golf, it was Gary who came away with the honours, with a very impressive 40 stableford points off a scarcely credible 12 handicap. So scarce is his credibility off that handicap that he is forthwith cut to 10 for EGD matches! Dave and Robin scratched around the 30 point mark and as for Alex….well let’s say he enjoyed the scenery.

  • The clubhouse at Woking Golf Club. The club was founded in 1893 and is the oldest of the Surrey heathland courses. Tom Simpson designed the course and it is currently 77th on the list of the top 100 courses in Britain.

A Day at Wembley

As a toffee I have been starved of trips to Wembley for many years. 1995 was the last time the blue half of Merseyside made the trip. Sunday saw a repeat of that years final.

The day got off to a good start, I managed to convince Alaina (my girlfriend) that a pre game trip to Ikea wasn’t a good idea. After being dropped off at the ground, my brother, his colleagues and I headed in for some food and drink. A few glasses and bets later (most of which were on a first goal scorer!) we headed to our seats for Kick Off. The wine helped with the nerves and seeing a under strength Man Utd team I felt quietly confident. The fans were as loud as I have experienced, my ears are still ringing two days later.

The first half was tight with chances few and far between. Getting to half time with it goalless I felt that Everton would not have better opportunity to get to the Final of the FA Cup for many years to come. The blues started well in the 2nd half and the fans were making themselves heard. Utd slowly took control after 60 minutes or so, Vidic and Ferdinand winning the aerial battle with Evertons 6’3” (6’7” including hair) Fellaini, the Reds were looking the more likely to break the deadlock. Mid way through the second half they were denied a clear penalty and I’ve never seen a man more angry than Alex Ferguson at the moment, his face was a new, undiscovered, shade of red.

With it still goalless after 90 minutes the game headed for extra time. Again not much action, but, Cahill was stopped in his tracks when through on goal having been adjudged to have fouled Vidic, another suspect decision from the ref! A few minutes later the final whistle went and penalties were to decide who would play Chelsea in the final. After Cahills rugby conversion my head was in my hands, however, Berbatov and Ferdinand both missed allowing Phil Jagielka to score the winning spot kick. A blue day it was, The red half of the stadium emptied very quickly!

  • Manchester Utd and Everton coming out onto the pitch before the 2009 FA Cup Semi-Final.

The Thirsty Traveller

It’s become a tradition at European Golf Design that whenever travelling to new countries or cities we bring back a national or local beverage to the office. From projects across the world we have a very comprehensive selection!  Each and every experience has its own memory or story,  from happy times spent with the client to a hard days work spent on site with the Contractor.  From construction and course opening to meeting up with old aquaintences and hosting tournaments the friendship never ends.

The collection even has artefacts that have been found during construction like at Worsley Park in England.  The site was an old Victorian dump site and many 19th century bottles were found during excavation work.

A toast is for celebration and what better way to celebrate completing a project or job well done than to raise a glass (or two) amongst friends.


  • The European Golf Design 'Drinks Cabinet'.