The year 2020 will certainly stay in our minds forever. Spending three months mostly inside our homes has given us a lot of time to think. During those days I have been reflecting on my 30-year career dedicated to designing and building golf courses and always fighting against public opinion to defend our work.
Every new project is a test to repeat, once more, how good and healthy a golf course is for the environment, landscape, views, human health, relaxation, for creating greenbelts, and a million other reasons. However, every new project is like the first one, we have to battle to prove that a golf course is slightly different from a nuclear power station and slightly less contaminating than a petroleum factory.
Joking aside, it is so frustrating that after doing our best to create a pure and natural environment, we do not explain our work properly to the public. Golf is a great place to be and an even better place to live.
During the coronavirus pandemic, at least in Spain, my clients and I decided to keep going with construction. We have proceeded with a new nine-hole loop for Altaona Golf in Murcia, Spain. The builder implemented procedures to guarantee the safety of all workers (face masks, hydrogel, a maximum of one worker per car, and acquiring more accommodation so there are only one or two workers per house).
During those two months, I had to drive two or three 1,200-kilometre round trips a month because there was no place to stay. On some of those trips, I had to spend the night in a sleeping bag inside my car. Great stories to live in your twenties and incredible to re-live when you are almost in your sixties!
During my site visits, I had time to walk through the first nine holes, which opened a few months ago, and I realised what a great place Altaona Golf (pictured) will be to live. And most importantly, how well it combines the housing and golf.
Altaona could be a real model for new and future residential development. We have planned a golf community with safety corridors of 110 to 120 metres between the course and the properties. Along the golf course, we decided to include a jogging path, as well as allowing people to cycle or even skate. Sometimes, you find a couple of British or Swedish residents walking with a dog. What a great place to be during the restricted times of Covid-19.
In some large areas between holes, we have created workout areas for joggers to stop and do some push ups or stretching. The golf course is 100 per cent safe with the housing totally away from golf balls and, at the same time, we have opened the golf areas to more than just golfers. Let the public get closer to golf, while walking through a beautiful, manicured landscape.
My firm has designed more than 30 courses, and 28 of them combine golf with residential – maybe an average of 1,200 housing units per 18 holes. In all the designs, we first consider the complete safety of residents. That is the only rule for a good golf course with residences around and on both sides.
Our next step is to open golf courses to more users, to create the perfect place to be, walk, exercise, and even to isolate during these difficult times.
Marco Martin is a principal architect at Stirling & Martin Golf Course Architects
This article first appeared in the July 2020 issue of Golf Course Architecture. For a printed subscription or free digital edition, please visit our subscriptions page.