Environment


When it comes to environmental issues, actions speak louder than words. It is easy to write statements of intent but they mean little unless they are applied.

Here is a summary of what we feel are our important environmental landmarks:

Work OnOpen Championship Courses
Most of the Open Championship courses are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and alterations to these great links require considerable attention to detail and negotiation with the conservation bodies. We deliver tournament standard work on some of the most sensitive sites in Europe.

The Vineyard Golf Club, Martha's Vineyard, USA
(Designed when with Donald Steel & Company)
From early in the planning negotiations, the owners volunteered that they would run the course along entirely organic lines and the design work was done with that in mind. A huge amount was learnt about the impact of shade and poor air circulation on greens. Links Magazine voted the course “Most Environmentally Friendly Course In The USA" in 2009. This is one of the most important courses for research into organic golf course management techniques while also aiming to provide the manicured conditions expected by many American golfers.

Askernish Golf Club, South Uist, Scotland
Golf has been played here since the days of Old Tom Morris but the original course laid out by the great man was lost before World War Two. Working as part of a team of volunteers, we have restored the links by walking the land and then mowing out the greens and fairways as would have been done a century ago. The result is a course that sits comfortably on the land retaining the natural flora which is still grazed by animals at certain times of the year. The course is already becoming recognised internationally, bringing valuable revenue to an island that has suffered economically in recent decades.

Heythrop Park, Oxfordshire, England
Heythrop Park is one of the most important parks in the history of the English Landscape Design School but its trees had been dying off rapidly as they were nearly 300 years old. A golf course was planned as a way to fund the restoration of the park and was approved so long as 95% of the original trees had to be planted. The design had to: work around the original design even though most of it had disappeared. involve minimal earth movement to preserve the character of the park. It also had to be of championship standard. It has now been built and European Tour events are being planned??. The irrigation system is fed from a winter storage reservoir that is topped up using water that is harvested from fairways in that area of the estate. The remainder of the water is taken from a stream under licence between the end of November and the end of March.

Heathland Regeneration At Established Clubs
At great old heathland courses like Liphook, New Zealand and Hindhead, we have been intimately involved in encouraging clubs to remove trees and restore precious heathland areas a diminishing resource in the UK, offering wonderful habitat for reptiles and insects. Tree removal has the dual effect of reducing the incidence of turf diseases which may otherwise need to be treated with fungicides.

Mount Hartman Resort, Grenada, West Indies
This is a project which contains areas designated as National Parks to protect the habitat of the indigenous Grenadan Dove. The difficulty was that the doves decided not to live in the designated areas. The masterplanning process for this project involved working closely with the world expert in these birds who took up residence on site to map exactly where the birds were living. To date, 17 different versions of the plan have been produced, but a plan has been found with which all interested parties are content and the National Park boundaries have been re-designated and approved by parliament. This illustrates what can be achieved when the design process is driven by informed and detailed environmental information. The project has stalled because of the economic downturn.

St Helena, South Atlantic
We successfully gained planning approval for a new project on the Island of St Helena in the South Atlantic. The site is home to endemic and endangered ground-nesting birds called Wirebirds and the design for the course had to demonstrate to the planning authority that we could enhance the bird numbers while also creating the golf. The proposals also involve an extensive non-native predator control plan and removal of invasive non-native plants which are to be replaced with endangered endemic species.

Kovenhavns Golfklub
Kovenhavns Golfklub has been on its present site in the Danish Royal Family's deer park, the Dyrhaven, just outside the city of Copenhagen since the late 1920s. The course sits in one corner of the 1000 hectares of park and occupies something like 65 hectares. The Park Authority has strict rules on how the course and club can be run and as a result this is a remarkable place to play golf. The tall rough is completely protected and cannot be cut. It can only be grazed by the herds of deer in the park. We have worked closely with the Club on a renovation programme for the course while working within the existing maintained areas and in a way that kept the character of the park intact.

The Carnegie Links at Skibo Castle, Dornoch, Scotland
(Designed when with Donald Steel & Company, with major upgrading carried out by Mackenzie & Ebert)
Sections of the course sit within a Site of Special Scientific Interest and all of the course lies in the Dornoch Firth National Scenic Area. Such designations made planning approval unlikely, but it was achieved and the course has now established itself as a fine example of cooperation between golf and conservation organisations. It won “Best New Course” from Golf World” when it opened and a national environmental award in the same year. This all required a close working relationship with Scottish Natural Heritage the government body in charge of nature and landscape conservation in Scotland.

Carnegie Abbey, Rhode Island, USA
(Designed when with Donald Steel & Company)
This land at Carnegie Abbey was criss-crossed with wetland systems and was also the site of the Battle of Rhode Island. It is owned by Portsmouth Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery and the first step was to convince the monks that the course could be built in a way that was sympathetic to the landscape. Prolonged planning negotiations were successful and the project has gone on to be a success. It was awarded a conservation award by the Rhode Island Government for the work on the historic battleground.

The Abaco Club On Winding Bay
(Designed when with Donald Steel & Company)
This seaside site was being invaded by non-native Australian Pines (Casuarina australis) and a beach plant called Scaevola taccada. These are listed as highly invasive by the government and the first stage of the construction involved removing thousands of these trees and bushes. It is now virtually free of them over an area of about 180 hectares. A well-field was built about 4 kilometres from the site which uses a brackish water supply. There was a lens of water below the site, but it was felt that this was likely to become depleted, so the alternative supply was used. Seashore Paspalum was planted because of its salt tolerance and ability to survive sea spray from tropical storms and hurricanes.

Goodwood Golf Course, Ontario, Canada
(Detailed design when with Donald Steel & Company, all construction inspections by Mackenzie & Ebert)
Goodwood sits on the long ridge of glacial moraine near Toronto. It is lovely terrain for golf and the construction of the course involved minimal earth movement. Existing vegetation was retained in many carries although some of the site was in agriculture. One main valley was developed as an area to retain drainage water from the site, turning it into what is becoming a rich and diverse wetland system.

Primland Resort, Virginia, USA
(Designed when with Donald Steel & Company, final construction inspections by Mackenzie & Ebert)
All golf course architects are faced with the dilemma of whether to tell their client that their land is unsuitable for golf. There were 5000 hectares in the Blue Ridge Mountains to choose from and after a day of searching, things looked impossible, until a small area of flatter ground on top of a mountain was found. The course was built there and involved a remarkably small amount of earth movement through careful design that maintains the character of the ground.

Victoria Golf Club, Sri Lanka
(Designed when with Donald Steel & Company)
Set overlooking the Victoria Reservoir in the mountains above Kandy, Victoria Golf Club is a course that was built almost entirely by hand using local labour. Local villagers work there maintaining the course and working as caddies and they are also given the opportunity to play the game. Native grasses we retained and used in the final course in the rough and the fairways are not irrigated, being allowed to change colour with the seasons.

We are constantly improving our design work to deliver courses that not only provide significant environmental benefits but also offer world class golf for our clients. This is not an easy balance to find and we feel that our track record on both fronts offers clients comfort that they can have the best golf while also avoiding damage to the environment and enhancing it wherever possible. This work involves working alongside specialists and we enjoy this interaction.

It is all too easy to talk about "sustainability" but this is a complex subject and our preference is to involve bodies such as the Golf Environment Organisation (GEO) to advise on this. Tom Mackenzie, through his involvement with the European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA) has been working closely with GEO since 2008 and led the EIGCA Continuing Professional Development programme specifically about Sustainable Golf Course Design. Tom is also on the GEO Working Group advising on their Voluntary Standards For Sustainable Golf Developments. There are costs associated with achieving certified status and so a client has to be genuinely committed to prove that a project is sustainable but more and more projects now recognise that formal certification from an independent environmental body is a worthwhile exercise.

We believe that good environmental design is best achieved by negotiation and working with planning authorities and the various statutory bodies from the earliest stage. This helps to illustrate our commitment to the best overall golfing and environmental solution and allows us to take account of any requirements raised during the planning stages.