The influence of seaside links is reflected clearly in all of our work, with a strong emphasis on the design of greens and their surrounds that thoroughly test all aspects of the short game. In the era of the lob wedge, our courses allow a far wider range of shots to be played around the greens than is the norm in modern golf. It is an approach that can work equally well in all climates and locations.
We are fervent believers that golf courses should fit into the landscape and be in keeping with their setting. People who travel to Scotland, Sri Lanka or The Bahamas should be able to enjoy something that is true to their location. The most common criticism of golf courses is that they appear alien in the landscape. Our common sense approach leaves as much of the site unaltered as possible, retaining existing vegetation and limiting the use of bunkers and water. Ecological and environmental issues are taking ever increasing importance during the planning process and our success in even the most sensitive environments shows what can be achieved with care.
Too often these days, golf course architects concentrate on bulk earth movement with huge machines, rather than the fine detail around greens and bunkers. Look at the great old courses. It is not their longevity alone that makes them great, they remain amongst the best courses because the gifted architects of old, with their lack of modern tools, had to concentrate on the fine detail. These courses serve as our model for design. Our overriding philosophy is to keep earth movement to the absolute minimum required to produce a high-quality golf course. This limits costs and makes it easier to gain permission for projects in even the most sensitive locations. Another advantage lies in keeping the construction process simpler, an important consideration in new markets. However, where site characteristics dictate moving large quantities, we will always attempt to do so in a way that leaves either a natural appearance or a traditional, man-made feel.
Most of the Open Championship courses are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and alterations to these great links require considerable attention to detail and negotiation with the conservation bodies. We deliver tournament standard results on some of the most sensitive sites in Europe.
Golf has been played here since the days of Old Tom Morris but the original course laid out by the great man was lost before World War Two. Working as part of a team of volunteers, we have restored the links by walking the land and then mowing out the greens and fairways as would have been done a century ago. The result is a course that sits comfortably on the land retaining the natural flora which is still grazed by animals at certain times of the year. The course is already becoming recognised internationally, bringing valuable revenue to an island that has suffered economically in recent decades.
Heythrop Park is one of the most important parks in the history of the English Landscape Design School but its trees had been dying off rapidly as they were nearly 300 years old. A golf course was planned as a way to fund the restoration of the park and was approved so long as 95% of the original trees were re-planted. The course layout had to: work around the original parkland design even though most of it had disappeared and involve minimal earth movement to preserve the character of the park. It also had to be of championship standard. It has now been built and has hosted European Challenge Tour events. The irrigation system is fed from a winter storage reservoir that is topped up using water that is harvested from fairways in that area of the estate. The remainder of the water is taken from a stream under licence between the end of November and the end of March.
At great old heathland courses like Liphook (pictured), New Zealand, Hindhead, and Royal Wimbledon we have been intimately involved in encouraging clubs to remove trees and restore precious heathland areas, a diminishing resource in the UK, offering wonderful habitat for reptiles and insects. Tree removal has the dual effect of reducing the incidence of turf diseases which may otherwise need to be treated with fungicides.
We successfully gained planning approval for a new project on the Island of St Helena in the South Atlantic. The site is home to endemic and endangered ground-nesting birds called Wirebirds and the design for the course had to demonstrate to the planning authority that we could enhance the bird numbers while also creating the golf. The proposals also involve an extensive non-native predator control plan and removal of invasive non-native plants which are to be replaced with endangered endemic species. Tied up with the economic regeneration of the island, the project is on hold as a new airport starts to bring more tourists in.
Kovenhavns Golfklub has been on its present site in the Danish Royal Family's deer park, the Dyrhaven, just outside the city of Copenhagen since the late 1920s. The course sits in one corner of the 1000 hectares of park and occupies something like 65 hectares. The Park Authority has strict rules on how the course and Club can be run and, as a result, this is a remarkable place to play golf. The tall rough is completely protected and cannot be cut. It can only be grazed by the herds of deer in the park. We have worked closely with the Club on a renovation programme for the course while working within the existing maintained areas and in a way that kept the character of the park intact.
(Designed when with Donald Steel & Company, with major upgrading carried out by Mackenzie & Ebert)
Sections of the course sit within a Site of Special Scientific Interest and all of the course lies in the Dornoch Firth National Scenic Area. Such designations made planning approval unlikely, but it was achieved and the course has now established itself as a fine example of cooperation between golf and conservation organisations. It won “Best New Courese” from Golf World when it opened and a national environmental award in the same year. This all required a close working relationship with Scottish Natural Heritage the government body in charge of nature and landscape conservation in Scotland.
(Designed when with Donald Steel & Company)
This land at Carnegie Abbey was criss-crossed with wetland systems and was also the site of the Battle of Rhode Island. It is owned by Portsmouth Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery, and the first step was to convince the monks that the course could be built in a way that was sympathetic to the landscape. Prolonged planning negotiations were successful and the project has gone on to be a success. It was awarded a conservation award by the Rhode Island Government for the work on the historic battleground.
(Designed when with Donald Steel & Company)
This seaside site was being invaded by non-native Australian Pines (Casuarina australis) and a beach plant called Scaevola taccada. These are listed as highly invasive by the government and the first stage of the construction involved removing thousands of these trees and bushes. It is now virtually free of them over an area of about 180 hectares. A well-field was built about 4 kilometres from the site which uses a brackish water supply. There was a lens of water below the site, but it was felt that this was likely to become depleted, so the alternative supply was used. Seashore Paspalum was planted because of its salt tolerance and ability to survive sea spray from tropical storms and hurricanes.
(Detailed design when with Donald Steel & Company, all construction inspections by Mackenzie & Ebert)
Goodwood sits on the long ridge of glacial moraine near Toronto. It is lovely terrain for golf and the construction of the course involved minimal earth movement. Existing vegetation was retained in many carries although some of the site was in agriculture. One main valley was developed as an area to retain drainage water from the site, turning it into what is becoming a rich and diverse wetland system.
(Designed when with Donald Steel & Company, final construction inspections by Mackenzie & Ebert)
All golf course architects are faced with the dilemma of whether to tell their client that their land is unsuitable for golf. There were 5000 hectares in the Blue Ridge Mountains to choose from and, after a day of searching, things looked impossible, until a small area of flatter ground on top of a mountain was found. The course was built there and involved a remarkably small amount of earth movement through careful design that maintains the character of the ground.
(Designed when with Donald Steel & Company)
Set overlooking the Victoria Reservoir in the mountains above Kandy, Victoria Golf Club is a course that was built almost entirely by hand using local labour. Local villagers work there maintaining the course and working as caddies and they are also given the opportunity to play the game. Native grasses were retained and used in the final course in the rough and the fairways are not irrigated, being allowed to change colour with the seasons.