European Outlook: Golf course architects expect some pick up in activity outside of the UK
By Trevor Ledger
Europe did not have an easy year, and many predict further economic struggles ahead. But whether recession is on the horizon or not, the news for golf is not all bad. We recently contacted golf course architects across the continent to gauge how the year had gone and, more importantly, to predict how 2013 would shape up in terms of forward orders and inquiries.
One well-respected golf course architect, who understandably wished to remain anonymous, said “The majority of my workload…redoing the kitchen and insulating the spare-room ceiling. As for growth, it is strictly limited to toenails, hair and lawn.”
But five others got back to us with fairly positive responses: Jonathan Gaunt, Gaunt Golf Design, Simon Gidman, Tim Lobb, Thomson, Perrett & Lobb, Kenneth Moodie, Creative Golf Design (all EIGCA Senior Members); and Kyle Phillips, Kyle Phillips Golf Course Design.
How has 2012 exceeded/fallen short of your expectations?
Kenneth Moodie: It has exceeded my expectations with turnover and profits up a bit from last year.
Jonathan Gaunt: 2012 has exceeded my expectations — we’re busier now than we have been since 2008.
Simon Gidman: I think generally it has exceeded my expectations — not necessarily in the volume of work I have done this year, more the potential for the next two years.
What sorts of projects currently form the majority of your workload?
[It’s] very mixed. We currently have two new courses under construction, have completed construction on a new 18-holes this fall, completed the first nine of an 18-hole remodel recently and started clearing for a complete redesign/reconstruction that will be completed next year.
We’re mainly remodeling existing courses in the UK, but have 36 new holes under construction (18 at Ramside Hall Hotel, nine at Caddington Golf Course, Luton and nine at Dyrham Park Golf & Country Club in Barnet). Plus we’re doing several planning applications for new nine-hole, 18-hole and 27-hole projects in the UK, which should all be on site in 2013.
New nine-hole course up in Pontefract — replacing existing nine-hole course — and redevelopment of golf course to new housing development. This will take two to three years to complete. Existing golf club work: some of the work I have includes
new practice facilities, refurbishment of bunkers and remodeling greens. These are all in the UK and whilst I have enquiries from Dubai and Ajman — these started in 2007-2008 and then went quiet for four years, but are now back in the pipeline again. I’m not sure if any will evolve.
Where (if anywhere) do you see most growth in the next few years?
Eastern Europe, Africa, Middle East and further renovation work in the UK
Difficult to say — the Institute [European Institute of Golf Course Architects] still gets a number of enquiries from China and India, though personally I think parts of Africa are the most likely to develop.
Eastern and southeastern Europe, Middle East and North Africa for new developments. Also we are starting to work on course improvements in Germany and we hope to expand on this.
What do you believe that golf trade organizations can do to improve the golf industry?
Encourage golf clubs to become more family friendly and offer more flexible memberships for those who can’t play as much. Golf clubs need to become the center of communities and more welcoming to women and children. There must be more nine-hole competitions, shotgun starts, Texas Scrambles and other fun events. I also think there needs to be more starter facilities, such as putting courses and well-designed, constructed and managed pitch and putt courses. These facilities should also run fun competitions to stimulate interest and encourage young golfers to improve their games.
Further communication on the importance of golf course design as a profession.
We need to make the game easier to participate in, especially for girls and boys. Moreover it has to become less snobbish and elitist — even Colin Montgomerie says this. We also need to make golf more exciting to play and watch, Ryder Cup style. To do this we need to get the UK Government to support it and start to televise it again on terrestrial television — satellite/cable TV has killed golf.
Kyle Phillips Golf Course Design. The par 4 hole No 15 at the South Cape Golf Links in Korea. The course is scheduled to open this spring.
If you could have one single message for the golf world to hear, what would it be?
We are living in the new normal. The golf industry will need to learn from past mistakes and rethink our models, if we expect to move the game forward.
Employing a qualified and experienced architect will save a client many times the value of their fee.
Open the game up to the masses, care less about the background/upbringing of the non-golfer and teach them skills, respect for others, manners, good behavior, and other things through playing the game.
We are slowly getting away from the “everything must look like Augusta” approach to a more sympathetic/natural feel.
This article originally appeared in Golf Inc Winter 2013.
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El Ein Bay course in El Ein Sokhna, Egypt. The first nine holes opened in January 2012 and the second half of the course will open in the new year.