Jeremy Slessor of European Golf Design spoke with GCA about the impact that the coronavirus pandemic is having on the firm’s operations this year.
“It’s been a bit of a mixed bag at the moment,” said Slessor, in relation to the status of projects. “All construction has stopped, but we’ve got two projects, one in Turkey and one in Switzerland, which look like they’ll get going next month, unless things go rapidly downhill in either country.”
The project in Switzerland is an ongoing renovation, with EGD entering the tenth phase of work.
“Our project in Turkey is a renovation job,” said Slessor. “The club has 27 holes and they now have more land, so we’re adding a new nine and renovating the existing 27. That project wasn’t going to start until the end of the year, but they’ve decided, because no one is travelling at the moment, that they may as well get on and do it. They’ve brought it forward six months with a view of having the course ready for the autumn/winter this coming year as the summer isn’t a big market for them golf-wise. That’s been a positive.”
The project will proceed with social distancing, and is possible because local labour is being used.
“All the workers are Turkish, so we won’t need to move people around,” said Slessor. “At the moment, Turkey is not having too many issues yet. The workers will have safety equipment and follow the government guidelines.”
For EGD, and every other golf design firm operating in Italy, all golf course projects are on hold. Despite the halt in operations in Italy, EGD has projects advancing in other countries.
“We’ve got plenty of design work, a couple of renovation projects in Spain, one detailed design package out by this week, and a concept design package out by next week,” said Slessor. “We’ve got a project in Italy where we’ve got to get a concept design package out by the end of the month, a couple of things in the UK and one in France. Work-wise, we’re busy!”
Slessor and the design team haven’t travelled since their trips to Rome and Albania three weeks ago.
“Both parent companies [European Tour and IMG] have imposed travel restrictions and right now, we don’t have any need to travel because there isn’t any construction work,” said Slessor. “Trying to coordinate everything where everyone is remote is harder than what Microsoft would have you believe. I can’t say we’re working at 100 per cent productively, but we’re getting stuff done and spending a lot of time video conferencing. Construction will be slow for a while.
“From March till May, we are busy design-wise, hopefully by the end of the May there’ll be a little more freedom in terms of moving around and getting some construction going again. I’m not sure anybody knows what the impact is going to be. Tourism has taken a massive hit and, given that most, if not all, of our clients are tourism-driven, who knows what’s going to happen. It’s going to be fluid for a while.”