European golf architects gather for Spanish lessons

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    EIGCA members and partner organisations gathered in Spain to learn more about the golf industry in the region

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    The group visited two recently renovated courses, including RCG Sotogrande, where Roger Rulewich oversaw work…

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    …and RCG Las Brisas, which has been overhauled by American golf course architect Kyle Phillips

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    Work by EIGCA member Marc Westenborg at another local course, La Zagaleta, includes a new green for the sixth hole

Toby Ingleton
By Toby Ingleton

The European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA) held its 2017 annual meeting in Puerto Banus, Spain, last week, with a focus on golf in southern Europe.

EIGCA members from around the continent gathered to experience golf in southern Spain and learn more about the development of golf in the region, as well as to officially appoint its new president, Ross McMurray of European Golf Design.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the architects visited two Robert Trent Jones, Sr. courses that have been recently renovated, Real Club de Golf de Sotogrande and Real Club de Golf Las Brisas. The renovation of Sotogrande was completed last year by Jones’s long-time right-hand man Roger Rulewich and his partner Dave Fleury, and aimed to recover lost shapes and playing surfaces of Jones’s original 1964 greens.

Las Brisas, originally laid out by Jones in 1968, was renovated by Kyle Phillips – also previously a designer for Jones – in 2015. Tees, greens and bunkers were overhauled and some changes to the routing were made.

On Friday morning, the EIGCA members learned more about these renovations from representatives of both clubs plus Phillips, as well as hearing from Jacobo Cestino, managing director of Zagaleta, about the golf courses at Zagaleta and recently-acquired Valderrama, where a new course is currently being planned. Alejandro Nagy of Spanish golf industry website also delivered an overview of the industry in Spain.

Friday afternoon conference sessions covered water management, turfgrass for southern Europe and bunker lining.

McMurray takes over from Tom Mackenzie of Ebert & Mackenzie as president of EIGCA, and told GCA that he intends to build on the strong foundations laid by Mackenzie for continual improvement of professionalism of the industry, in particular its education programme.

“I am looking forward to further developing the expertise of our members through the implementation of a structured Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme,” said McMurray. “CPD will become an important benchmark for EIGCA and will provide an opportunity for members to demonstrate a commitment to updating their skills and knowledge in order to remain professionally competent.”

GCA also took the opportunity to visit La Zagaleta, whose original 1993 golf course designed by Bradford Benz has recently been updated by EIGCA member Marc Westenborg. In 2016 the club made the decision to switch from bent to Bermuda grasses, and Westenborg suggested that the club take the opportunity to improve the course’s bunkering.

The work – covered in more detail in our previous article on the project – has now been completed and represents a considerable improvement for this extremely high-end residential development, with a reduced number of bunkers now more visible and aesthetically improved, and a repositioned new sixth green offering dramatic undulations and more pin positions.