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.

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.

My Top 10 Courses

When asked to put together my Top 10 list of Golf Courses, my initial plan was to put together a list of the Top Ten courses, Played!

I quickly realised that unfortunately, unlike some of my fellow work colleagues who have been fortunate to have been brought up, or lived in, Scotland, ‘The Home of Golf’, comparatively I hadn’t played on that many great golf courses!

I would not like to put this entirely down to my South African roots, as there are some great golf courses in SA, (some of which are on the list, and helped generate my passion for the game) however, I feel that personally, it would be more appropriate for me to put together two lists: ‘Top 5 Golf Courses – Played’ and ‘Top 5 Golf Courses – Wanting to Play’

So here it is.

Top 5 Golf Courses – Played.

1. Turnberry Ailsa, Scotland.
Most probably the finest stretch of golf holes from 4 thru 11. (Definitely the finest I have ever played) It may have been a cold March morning when I played the course, but it didn’t matter, just loved it!

2. Humewood GC, South Africa.
Not at all on the list because it was a 2 minute drive from the University and cost only R20 (£1.30) a round!!! The finest links course in South Africa, great challenge especially when the wind blows – which it always does!

3. Sunningdale New, England.
Over the road from the office, and have been fortunate enough to play there a few times now. Some of the best green complexes around!

4. Portmarnock Links, Ireland.
No bias because it was designed by Stan, but it truly is a little gem on the outskirts of Dublin. (Also, not on the list cos Gary and I, gave Will and Alex a hiding!)

5. Gary Player Country Club – Sun City, South Africa.
Growing up in SA, watching the Million Dollar on tv (now, the Nedbank Challenge), this course was always the one you wanted to play. A tough and challenging course, which is always in fantastic condition.

Top 5 Golf Course – Wanting to Play, ‘The Wish List’.

1. Augusta National, America.
Name me a golfer who doesn’t? Would be happy just to visit, but to play it would be something else.

2. St Andrews, Scotland.
A close second to Augusta, definitely on the ‘hit list’ for the coming year.

3. Cypress Point, America.
‘Have you seen the pictures?’ enough said!

4. Royal Melbourne West, Australia.
No list would be complete without a trip to Aus to play on beauty. Love the bunkers!

5. Durban Country Club, South Africa.
A dark horse on this list, but for all the times I went on holiday to Durban, never got the opportunity to play on this world renowned course, still want to!

Life at EGD Towers

After last week, when many of us were out of the office on site visits, the reverse is true this week, with all but Dave and Jeremy in the office, everyone else will be concentrating on reports and design work.

So, what is the office like at EGD Towers?

We’re based in Sunningdale, a small town to the south west of London, close to the famous heathland courses of Sunningdale, Swinley Forest and The Berkshire, as well as a few minutes from Wentworth where one of our parent companies, The European Tour, is headquartered. From the office to Heathrow is a journey of about twenty minutes, Gatwick is forty minutes in the other direction. To the centre of London takes about forty-five minutes on the train, the station being a few minutes walk from the office.

The office itself is on the top floor of an old stable building, dating back to the 1830’s. The main area of the office is open plan, with several of the designers having their own offices off of this room. The open plan area is the nerve-centre – it is from here that the financial, administration and IT functions operate. It’s where people congregate to tell stories of amazing sights, or amazing sites. It’s where we have lunch together every Friday. It’s also home to the EGD indoor putting course. While a very popular game for us, it is less popular with the restaurant downstairs who claim that there is a direct link between the celebrations of a holed putt and their lights swinging from their ceiling (our floor).

One of the other main features in the office is the drinks shelf. We have rule that whenever one of us goes to a new location, they need to bring back the cheapest bottle of local alcohol they can find. In very nearly all cases, ‘cheap’ and ‘tasty’ don’t go hand-in-hand, so while there’s a lot of alcohol on the shelf, very little of it ever gets, or ever will get, drunk.

EGD Boys Visit Ireland

It was an early start on the Friday, our flight left at 6.15. Will resisted (just) the temptation to have a beer at the airport! We arrived in Dublin, picked up the hire car and headed to Carton House, stopping in Maynooth for a suspect Irish/English breakfast along the way.

We teed off at 11:30 on the Montgomerie Course, fortunately the rough was trimmed and from tee to green we all put in a good show. After many bunker shots, good, bad and ugly, Will and Gary were victorious against Dave and I, winning on the 18th green after I had left a putt short that we needed for a half! A couple of weeks later I think Dave is still angry with me!

After a short drive to the Portmatnock Hotel, a shower and a change, we headed to Dublin for a few pints of Guinness. Gary took us to a rather dodgy ‘locals’ bar but fortunately we survived the evening!

We teed off the next morning (a little blurry eyed) at 9:00. After a mix of good and bad golf again, Dave and Gary won beating Will and I rather easily! That left myself as the only person to lose both matches! The ‘shot of the holiday’ came at the 18th at Portmarnock Links, Gary hitting a 3-wood to about 6 feet from 240 yards out, the surprised look on his face was unforgettable! All in all we had a really good trip and it was great to play two excellent courses designed by EGD!

A big thanks to Dave a Stan for organising the golf!