Golf course architect David Williams has started work on a masterplan for the long-term development of Spain’s oldest club, Real Club de Golf de Las Palmas on the island of Gran Canaria.
Williams, who has just returned from a three-day visit to review the course, said: “It is a great privilege to be appointed to assist RCG Las Palmas, one of Spain’s best and historic clubs, as well as one of the small number of Royal (Real) courses in the country. I look forward to the challenge of producing the masterplan, and working in very close collaboration with the club members and officials.”
While the club itself was founded in 1891, the club relocated to its present site of Bandama in 1953, adjacent to a large but extinct volcano – the crater of which is visible from the clubhouse. The current course was designed by Philip Mackenzie Ross and opened in 1957.
The club has shared Mackenzie Ross’s original plans for the course and all 18 greens with Williams, who will use them to inform his own work. “Mackenzie Ross did a magnificent job in routing the course on a small but undulating site, and the fact that the course continues to be such an excellent test of golf is testament to his original design work.”
During his site visit, Williams made numerous tours of the course, and had meetings with club members of varying ages and skill levels to get their feedback on the course. This included watching how the club president Salvador Cuyás Morales and captain Mark Hammond, both low single-digit handicap golfers, tackled the challenges presented by the course.
GCA asked Williams about his initial impressions. “While relatively short, the course is quite difficult,” he explained. “Like most golf courses, it is clear that RCG Las Palmas has seen a lot of smaller changes from a lot of different people over the years. And in the 1980s the greens were rebuilt to something approaching a USGA spec, at which time many of the original designs appear to have been lost. The greens are also now considerably smaller, averaging approximately 350 sq m rather than the 650 sq m designs originally created by Mackenzie Ross.
“Originally, the course was fairly open,” continued Williams. “But the planting of thousands of trees in the intervening years has totally changed the appearance, character and challenge of the course.”
Williams noted that many holes have bunkers behind the greens and he feels that, as well as not being visible, these tend to punish the poorer golfer, whose distance control is not as precise and who is more likely to be playing into greens with running shots using longer irons or woods. “And with greens that slope from back to front, even putting from the back of the green is tricky. A recovery shot from bunkers behind the greens is a very severe punishment from those who overhit.”
He also felt that the sixth and twelfth holes, which had been extended relatively recently, are now among the weaker holes – with blind shots to greens that are behind horizon lines.
Williams has worked extensively in Spain, including on the design of PGA Catalunya, one of the country’s highest rated courses.
For more about RCG Las Palmas, read Alejandro Nagy’s article from the April 2018 issue of Golf Course Architecture.