Date: Wed 16 Dec 2009

Australian Study Tour 2009 "In Search of MacKenzie"

A trip of a lifetime!
By David Krause, EIGCA President

In Search of MacKenzie Tour group

In Search of MacKenzie Tour group

Some 31 members of the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) along with 21 from the European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA) had the very good fortune to participate in a study tour to the land of Oz. Organized by the very capable and very likeable Phil Ryan and his colleagues from the Society of Australian Golf Course Architects (SAGCA), the 6 day tour visited the beautiful cities of Sydney and Melbourne. Our study tour was supported very graciously by our friends from the Toro Company and they took the time to participate with us through the journey.

Phil must have had some military background as he was able to co-ordinate the movement of some 60 usually creative and always disorganized golf course architects and everything went beautifully except for an unscheduled bus change due to the loss of a transmission. Phil, however, nearly convinced us that it was also planned in order for us to 'bond'.

Upon our arrival in Sydney and transfer to the magnificent Bondi Beach, the journey began with a walk on the seaside and a welcome reception at our beachfront hotel. The following morning, we travelled by coach to the New South Wales Golf Club. Being the first official stop, we were greeted by Phil on behalf of the SAGCA and treated to a description of the nine weeks that Dr. Alister MacKenzie spent in Australia at the end of 1926 by Neil Crafter.

The Clubhouse at the New South Wales Golf Club

The Clubhouse at the New South Wales Golf Club

The NSW golf club was in good condition and a delight to play! We were asked to play from the front edge of the forward tees as the club was to host the Australian Open in December. Although some felt that improvement of strategy could be made for the tee shots, the golf course was set into one of the most impressive landscapes (à la Pebble Beach) that I have ever seen.

Clubhouse at the Royal Sydney Golf Club

Clubhouse at the Royal Sydney Golf Club

Day two was a game at the Royal Sydney Golf Club. Prior to play, we were given a talk on the history of the golf club by John Odell. This urban layout was an interesting experience as the links had, due to an extensive tree planting program, become a parkland course over the years. Despite the fact that the city had grown to the borders of the golf course, the sounds that remain in my mind were that of the very vocal bird life that lived on the course. It was most entertaining at times!

The Royal Sydney Golf Club is very successful and boasts one of the most impressive clubhouses I have ever seen. An improvement program is under way to make it become even more impressive in the future!

Day 3 was a travel day and we managed to get the group to Melbourne without incident. A number of people who are regular visitors to Golf Club Atlas met in a beachfront restaurant to take the opportunity to get to know each other 'face to face'. Some had been in contact for years via the web so it was a nice opportunity to discuss their views in a very friendly surrounds.

The Clubhouse at the Metropolitan

The Clubhouse at the Metropolitan

Day 4 was a real highlight of the trip for me as we were invited to play at what is known as the best maintained golf course in the country, the Metropolitan Golf Club. Following an introduction by Captain Russell Fynmore we were indeed treated to an outstanding golf course in outstanding condition. One particular feature was truly unique – the presentation of 'collarless' greens, where the green surface simply extended beyond the putting area right out to the edges of bunkers or down the slope of the green. This feature made any shot to the green, no matter how short, an exciting event! Even a ball barely creeping towards a bunker was cause for concern as there was nothing other than gravity to eventually stop it before it went into the bunker….. and they were massive and very deep! It really was a delight to play on this magnificent golf course and this thought was shared by the entire group.

The final day of golf was at the renowned Royal Melbourne Golf Club. Prior to our play, SAGCA held their AGM and many of their members joined us for the day and gala dinner that evening. Peter Thompson very kindly spoke prior to our game and it was a privilege to meet the great man and discuss his views on the current state of the game.

The golf course was not in the best of condition as the club was planning to do a complete renovation of the grass surfaces just after our visit. The project is in very capable hands however, as Richard Forsyth, formerly of the Metropolitan Golf Club, is leading the improvement program and I would very much like to see the golf course in a couple of years as it will be one of the best in the world! An outstanding design, laid out on a great piece of property. Golf holes playing left and right, up and down, long and short, and those ever challenging approach shots to the firm and fast putting surfaces of the sand belt links - pure fun for those who love the game!

David Dale, Tripp Davis, Line Mortensen, Phil Ryan, David Krause, John Lawrence

David Dale, Tripp Davis, Line Mortensen, Phil Ryan, David Krause, John Lawrence

That evening we had our final dinner altogether as a group. We said thank you to Phil Ryan who had organised the Australian trip and the Toro Company who had supported us along the way. Phil is a Harley-Davidson fanatic so we organised a Harley-Davidson leather jacket from the United States and presented that to him. We also honoured all of the Toro representatives, who as usual did an outstanding job of making every one of us feel very welcome during the entire journey.

It was a great evening. We can double-check the numbers but I think there were about 30 from the United States, the EIGCA group was about 20 and there were 30 Australians, so there were 80 or more golf course architects all together at Royal Melbourne. Our group had shared an exceptional experience together and there was really a special feeling that evening as a result, you could sense the significance of what was happening!

We spent our final day watching great golfers play another great course, the Australian Masters at Kingston Heath. A very successful sold out event as the great man himself, Tiger Woods, not only was present but won in fine form. But for those of us that prefer to see a golf course from inside the ropes, it was the 5 days prior that will remain clearly in my mind and indeed influence my designs in the years to come.

Thank you Phil Ryan and everyone involved who helped to make this event truly a trip of a lifetime!

Phil Ryan

Phil Ryan

    Phil Ryan comments, "As Organizer of the MacKenzie tour I could not have asked for a better group of people, they had come to have fun and interact with other like-minded Golf Architects, study and play some of the best golf courses in the country, and also see a bit of Australia. It was the people who came that really made the tour successful and I am sure they went away with new and renewed friendships along with memories that will last a lifetime.

    "It did not hurt that we had perfect weather, the golf clubs were great hosts and we had tremendous support from sponsors. A lot of work went into the tour from the administration of EIGCA, ASGCA and SAGCA and the investment certainly paid off with the next tour now eagerly anticipated."

    Ken Moodie

    Ken Moodie

    Another EIGCA member of the party was Ken Moodie, Immediate Past President, who said: "It was a very well organised trip and it was a great opportunity to meet our colleagues in the American and Australian Societies, to visit and play some wonderful golf courses, and to discuss design ideas and global issues affecting the golf industry. The SAGCA and the Toro Company were great hosts for the event and we were treated to many wonderful dinners and very memorable evenings.

    "All the attendees were presented with a hickory golf club during the gala dinner at the end of the week by Toro to symbolise the equipment being used when the great historic courses we visited were first built. I am very much looking forward to meeting up with many of the new friends I made in Australia at the World Forum in St Andrews next spring and trying out the hickory club during the 9-hole hickory tournament at Kingarrock."

    Andy Brown

    Andy Brown

    Andy Brown of Toro said: "From Toro’s perspective it was a unique opportunity to spend a significant amount of time with more than 60 of the leading golf course architects from around the world.

    "It was a great honour to be involved and from a personal point of view it was wonderful to have the opportunity to see some of the spectacular golf courses that Australia is famous for. It was a particular privilege to do this in the company of architects who have been involved in the development of some of the best new golf courses built anywhere in the world.

    "Toro has always tried to build strong relationships with golf course architects but this was the first time that we have been together with architects from America, Europe and Australia all at the same time. I think that it was the largest gathering of golf course architects that's ever been achieved. It certainly gave everyone an opportunity to share some wonderful ideas and experiences which hopefully will benefit them and the industry going forward.

    "Phil Ryan from the Society of Australian Golf Course Architects was responsible for the organisation, along with some of his colleagues and I think that it is fair to say that without his leadership the event would not have taken place.

    "Richard Walne and his team from the Toro Australian office played a significant support role, and having them there with us during the trip certainly made sure that everything went very smoothly as we moved from one venue to another.

    "With regard to the courses themselves, every club made us incredibly welcome. The Presidents, Chairmen, General Managers and the Superintendents really made sure that everyone had a tremendous time and also understood about the history of the club and the operation as it has evolved over time."

Fifteen of us carried on to New Zealand. One member of the party was from the American Society but the rest of us were from the EIGCA. Kristine Kerr, a SAGCA member, had arranged for us to play four very different golf courses in New Zealand.

We went first to Auckland and from there traveled to see Tom Doak’s course at Cape Kidnappers. The setting is incredible, with 300 ft drops to the ocean and the landscape is outstanding.

The second course was Wairaikei Golf Club near Lake Taupo which is 600 sq. km. set in the crater of an old volcano. Can you imagine the noise when that erupted? This is a design by Peter Thomson that was built in the '70s and has been recently renovated. A very beautiful parkland layout.

Then we went to a Nicklaus course, Kinloch Golf Club, which is an awesome golf course, definitely the best Nicklaus course that I have ever played: beautiful rolling hills (small mountains really) and then this golf course with its very ragged bunkers. Although there was a lot of earthmoving, the course fits perfectly into the landscape and created some thrilling golf shots.

Finally we went to Paraparumu Beach Golf Club where they have held the New Zealand Open 12 times. Steve Williams, the caddy to Tiger Woods, is from this golf club. His photograph is on display from when Tiger Woods played in a New Zealand Open here and won.

It is a links course where the greenkeeper/manager Leo Barber is carrying out some renovations but despite its location close to Wellington, the Club seems short of members. There’s no reason that I could see why it should not be popular but it’s not.

Going on to New Zealand, since we were already in Australia, was a good idea but with only 15 of us the trip was on a much smaller scale – it was very pleasant, more like a family outing.

Dr. Alister MacKenzie is held in high esteem by modern golf course architects. Within Europe he was active only in the UK but when you think of a golf course in Australia it’s probably Royal Melbourne that springs to mind. His courses in the United States, Cypress Point and Augusta are among them, prove that he was very good at what he was doing. If you consider the list of courses that MacKenzie has been associated with, it was a very good theme for our trip to Australia.

Looking ahead to St Andrews we hope to have a reunion of many of the people that were along on the Australian Study Tour. I was beating the drum about the Forum while I was there. At Royal Melbourne I was given an opportunity to describe our plans and several of them said that they would be coming over, indeed that they would be participating, so I look forward to seeing them again.

Picture Gallery

In Search of MacKenzie Tour group
Teeing off at the Metropolitan Golf Club
Collarless bunker at the Metropolitan Golf Club
The Clubhouse at the Metropolitan
The Clubhouse at the New South Wales Golf Club
5th hole at the New South Wales Golf Club
Opening remarks at the New South Wales Golf Club
Bunker at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club
Fairway at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club
Gala dinner at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club
Kenne James and Tripp Davis at the Gala dinner at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club
Doug Carrick and David Krause at the Gala dinner
David Dale, Tripp Davis, Line Mortensen, Phil Ryan, David Krause, John Lawrence
Clubhouse at the Royal Sydney Golf Club
Par 3 at the Royal Sydney Golf Club
Andy Brown
Ken Moodie
Phil Ryan
David Krause in full swing at the Royal Sydney
The EIGCA group
In Search of MacKenzie Tour group
Peter Thomson receiving his hickory club from Richard Walne with Graham Papworth looking on
Royal Sydney GC
Bunkers at the Royal Sydney Golf Club
Royal Sydney Golf Club
Phil Ryan sporting his Harley-Davidson jacket
Richard Walne of Toro speaking at the Gala Dinner
Group listening to a speaker
Group listening to Peter Thomson
Doug Carrick, Richard Walne, Graham Papworth, Peter Thomson, Andy Brown, David Krause
Golf Course Design
Reasons to join