“We don’t know what the next six months to a year looks like”

  • Harrison
    Bob Harrison
Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Continuing our series of discussions about the impact of coronavirus on golf projects, we spoke with Australian golf course architect Bob Harrison.

“The virus hasn’t stopped us from any necessary site visits,” said Harrison, who has recently completed a new nine-hole project at Brighton Lakes and a renovation at Castle Hill, both located in Sydney.

“On the other hand, we have two long-term projects with existing golf clubs which are at the stage where the members need to vote at extraordinary general meetings to confirm – or otherwise – arrangements with developers for extensive work on the courses, in parallel with planned commercial developments. These meetings can’t take place yet because of the restrictions imposed by the virus, so we are in limbo for the time being.

“This is particularly frustrating because with both Newcastle and Muirfield as we have reached the point where the design could continue at speed through an approval process with the authorities. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Most Australian clubs were able to operate throughout the pandemic, and Harrison takes a view shared by many others in the industry that there could be a resurgence in golf.

“Many clubs ran competitions almost every day, and they were so well-subscribed that it was difficult for members to get a game,” he said. “Golf was very popular and was seen to be so by the broader community because it was one of the few sporting activities that continued and fulfilled a lot of objectives for so many people. Even elderly people were able to get out and onto the course. It provided exercise and a certain amount of social interaction in an outdoor setting.

“My guess is that the perception of golf amongst authorities and politicians who are not golfers themselves will be greatly enhanced – and that this might lead to a more helpful and positive support for golf projects in the future.

“It’s hard to tell what will happen here in the short term. The rules have been softened over the last couple of weeks, and, while the virus numbers in Australia are very low, it’s still there so there could very well be a second wave.

“So, we don’t know what the next six months to a year looks like,” continued Harrison. “We are currently working on a master planning exercise at Castlecove Golf Club in Sydney, but by and large everything else is on hold, with the prospect that that might change fairly soon if we don’t get a big second wave.”

Harrison is also preparing text for a book about his design of Ardfin golf course on the Isle of Jura, Scotland.

“I am hoping that Ardfin will want to continue with the production of their book for which I have written about 50 pages of words so far,” said Harrison. “Now would be a fantastic time at our end to continue with the page design and the final production. This book will be different to many others written about particular golf courses because the ambition – both with the clients and myself – is to tell the story of how the course was developed, as well as showcasing the glamour and strategic interest of the holes. Also, to include and refer to the construction people who were vital to the outcome.”