London, England: Golf course architects from around the world came together to study and play some of southeast England’s finest golf courses.
Organised by the European Institute of Golf Course Architects [EIGCA] and supported by Toro, an Executive Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation, the study tour, entitled ‘To Heath & Links’, gave members of the EIGCA, American Society of Golf Course Architects and the Society of Australian Golf Course Architects the opportunity to learn about and play four classic courses – two heathland and two links.
More than 70 architects attended the tour together with representatives from Toro and Jacklin Seeds. Golf course photographer Mark Alexander joined the party as official recorder of the event.
‘To Heath & Links’ was the third golf course architects’ study tour, following tours to Australia in 2009 and the United States in 2012.
The tour began at Sunningdale Golf Club with a presentation of Harry Colt’s lost holes. In recent years, the greenstaff have been uncovering some of Colt’s holes that were abandoned in 1934 and it was fascinating to step back in time to see how holes seven to 10 on the New Course were originally created.
Keith Duff, former Chief Scientist and National Director of English Nature and now the EIGCA’s Course Director for its Sustainable Golf Design professional development programme, explained how the heathland courses in the area make a vital contribution to the retention and safeguarding of lowland heathland, which is now particularly scarce in southern England.
From Sunningdale, it was onto The Berkshire Golf Club and its Red Course. Both courses at The Berkshire were designed by Herbert Fowler in 1928 and the Red Course, in particular, was selected for its fun and unusual format of six par-threes, six par-fours and six par-fives.
Having visited the heathland, the architects then turned their attention towards the links and next stop saw the group at Open Championship venue Royal St George’s.
After dinner in the clubhouse, Duff gave a synopsis of the importance of golf to the preservation of dune land habitats on this stretch of Kent coastline. Both Royal St George’s and neighbouring Royal Cinque Ports are Sites of Special Scientific Interest and are additionally designated as Special Protection Areas, which are of European wildlife importance. The land must, therefore, be managed in a way that maintains these protected habitats.
Royal Cinque Ports played host to the architects on the last day of the tour. Like Royal St George’s the putting surfaces are bold and occasionally quirky.
During the banquet dinner at Leeds Castle, presentations were made to Toro and Jacklin Seeds in recognition of their support and to Julia Green, EIGCA Executive Officer.
Phil Ryan, from the Society of Australian Golf Course Architects, introduced the venue for the next study tour in 2018. Called ‘The Four Reds’, the tour will visit Adelaide and its surrounding sand belt golf courses.
Speaking at the conclusion of the tour, EIGCA President Tom Mackenzie said: “It has been a great honour to welcome so many of the world’s top designers to England for the third golf course architects study tour. Bringing together the members of the SAGCA, ASGCA and EIGCA to study and play these wonderful golf courses and, perhaps most importantly, to share our knowledge, has been a wonderful experience.
“I would like to thank Sunningdale, The Berkshire, Royal St George’s and Royal Cinque Ports for their welcome and hospitality.
“My biggest thanks must go to Toro for their support. Without their backing and enthusiasm it would be impossible for us all to visit such wonderful courses in this way.”
On behalf of the Toro Company, Andy Brown said; “I would like to congratulate the EIGCA on the superb organisation of the 2015 Study Tour. I would also like to pass on our thanks to the four clubs that provided such wonderful hospitality.
“All the participants thoroughly enjoyed the mix of heathland and links golf and some of England’s finest golf clubs and I am sure they returned home with an abundance of stories, pictures and experiences that they will share for many years to come.”