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European Institute of Golf Course Architects conference

03 April, 2017

European Institute of Golf Course Architects conference, Puerto Banus, Spain on 24 March 2017

Delegates to the conference were welcomed by EIGCA President Tom Mackenzie, who introduced the theme of the get together as “Spanish Lessons – Golf in Southern Europe”.

The first presentation came from Jacobo Cestino, Managing Director of La Zagaleta Group, who spoke about the development of the two golf courses on the private, 900-hectare Zagaleta property (designed by Brad Benz and Jonathan Gaunt) and his group’s recent acquisition of Valderrama, where a new 18-hole layout is currently being planned. As yet, no architect has been appointed for this prestigious project.

Alejandro Nagy of Spanish golf website golfindustria.es, who is also an accredited verifier of the Golf Environment Organization, then delivered an overview of the golf industry in Spain, past, present and future. The game has certainly come a long way since the first Spanish course was fashioned in Gran Canaria in 1891, with 425 courses now in play and around 11,000 jobs supported by a million visiting golfers annually.

The conference learned more about the recent Sotogrande and Las Brisas renovations from representatives of both clubs, with Kyle Phillips also contributing to the presentation for the latter. Patrick Allende Dyer, Superintendent at Sotogrande since 2011, assisted with the project management of the upgrade on his course, where 43 kilometres of drainage was installed and 71,000 tonnes of sand used during two 6-month periods at the start of 2015 and 2016.

Paul Munoz Langley, General Manager of Las Brisas since 2011, and architect Kyle Phillips spoke about the challenges associated with the ongoing remodelling of the Las Brisas course. The plan was to maximise the use of the land while paying respect to the Robert Trent Jones Snr design and to that end the routing remains largely intact, save for changes at holes 15 to 17 to improve the flow of play; 16 is a new par three and 17 is now played in reverse. Conditioning on the back nine has been dramatically enhanced due to the fairway sand capping and installation of new drainage and irrigation lines.

After lunch, the afternoon session was dominated by the topic of water management, with talks from three EIGCA partners. First up was Mohan Subramanian, International Sales Manager for the Golf Division of Rainbird International, who made reference to the fact that only 1% of the world’s water is available for use so, as demand grows, it has to be utilized more efficiently, with recovery, recycling and retreating becoming more important as time goes by.

Xavier Agusti, Area Manager for Toro in Southern Europe, Central & South Africa and the Middle East, compared 3-row to 4-row sprinkler configurations, arguing that extra sprinkler heads can provide a more effective irrigation solution for golf courses, with the cost of installing extra equipment paying for itself within four years from savings made by using less water and consuming less electricity.

Mark Ganning, with thirty years in the irrigation industry, spoke on behalf of Hunter Industries about the mitigating effects of wind on sprinkler performance. In a rather technical, though very engaging address, he mentioned the importance of triangular and square patterns for sprinklers in achieving a distribution uniformity of greater than 80% and a scheduling co-efficient of less than 1.3.

Josep Cirera Clotet, who has worked with Semillas Fito developing grass seed portfolios for golf courses and sport pitches around Southern Europe, the Middle East and Africa since 1992, talked about turfgrass selections for Southern Europe, comparing cool season against warm season grasses (taking into account factors such as climate, soil, salt and heat tolerance) so the merits and demerits of fescues, poa, bents, ryegrass, Bermuda, paspalum, Zoysia and various hybrids were all discussed at length.

Rounding off the formal business of the conference, Andy Campbell from Better Billy Bunker, who rebuilt the sand traps at the Duke’s course in St Andrews along with Tim Liddy, articulated his company’s position in relation to conventional bunkers, fabric-lined bunkers and sand hazards that have been constructed using the Better Billy Bunker method in more than 650 projects worldwide.

In the evening, at the end of the President’s Dinner, Ross McMurray was introduced as the new President of the EIGCA, taking over from Tom Mackenzie, with Christoph Stadler appointed Vice President. Ross joined IMG Design in 1990, the company becoming European Golf Design two years later, and he’s been there ever since.

He’s designed a number of highly-ranked courses, including The Marquess at Woburn, the Twenty Ten at Celtic Manor and the Dutch in the Netherlands. He’s also been involved in major redevelopments at St Pierre’s Old course and Dalmahoy’s East course and he’s just completed a new project in St Petersburg called Mill Creek.

In his inaugural speech to members, Ross addressed the political uncertainty across Europe: “ I want to assure members and partners that after seventeen years as a pan-European representative body, EIGCA remains committed to acting in the best interests of members and partners, wherever they are based, for the good of the profession and wider industry.”

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