Stephen Ridgway

Date: Sun 25 Mar 2018

10 Questions for … Stephen Ridgway AEIGCA

Stephen Ridgeway

1. Why did you want to be a golf course architect?

I have played golf since I was about 10 and often doodled ideas for golf holes on paper during school but never really considered that someone actually designed them. It was only when I went to University that I realised that golf course design could unite my love of science, art and golf in one neat package and that I could make a career out of it.

2. Which golf course architects do you admire and why?

I guess I’m supposed to say one of the ‘Golden Age’ architects but given the number and variety of constraints we have as architects these days and the new technology we need to understand, the profession of golf course architecture in the 21st century is arguably as challenging as it has ever been. Yet despite this, some of the courses that are being produced now are simply breath taking and I have great admiration for all these designers.

3. What is your proudest design achievement.

To be honest, most of my designs haven’t been built out yet but of the ones that have, my favourite is the 17th hole at Boundary Lakes GC, Ageas Bowl, Southampton. A short, downhill, dog-leg par 5, played out of the trees with splendid views over the Hampshire countryside. The green is tucked away within a copse of silver birch and bracken and looks great first thing in the morning.

4. What are your favourite three golf courses in the World from a design perspective, and why?

  • Sunningdale GC (New Course) – a purist’s dream with generous fairways, strategic bunker placements and small greens to test the ground game all set within the beautiful Surrey heathland.
  • St. Enodoc GC (Church Course) – a fantastic links which uses the natural undulations to great effect and is always challenging even when the wind isn’t blowing.
  • North Berwick GC – a quirky links course with many memorable holes and a fantastic back drop.

5. What are the greatest challenges you face as a golf course architect?

Although there appears to have been a slight upturn in the number of new golf courses being built in the last couple of years there is still a lot of competition for these jobs and as a ‘relatively’ young designer with a new company it has been challenging to secure enough work to make a living.

6. What environmental or sustainable initiatives have you incorporated into your designs?

Amongst others, I try and include water harvesting and water quality improvement methods into all my designs as well as promoting the use of renewables and habitat enhancement initiatives. Where possible I try to reduce the quantity of earthworks required too to reduce fuel consumption and build time.

7. How do you see the golf course design industry changing in the next 20 years?

The golf industry is going through a period of upheaval and needs to adapt swiftly to changes in people’s lifestyle, advancements in technology and environmental and climatic pressures. Whilst there will always be a place for the traditional golf club, adaptations and innovations should be embraced to bring golf to as many people as possible in what ever form suits them with golf course architects being at the forefront of this.

8. What makes a golf course great rather than just good?

Although I can appreciate a good layout or design, for me, a little bit of history is required. That sense of nostalgia, knowing that you’re walking in the footsteps of your golfing heroes provides great memories whether you’re playing well or not.

9. What advice would you give to an aspiring golf course architect?

Most current golf course architects are busy and don’t have time to train someone up so if you want to have a chance of joining a design practice make sure you get/have some relevant experience such as course maintenance, construction or landscape architecture as well as a reasonable working knowledge of CAD. This makes you much more appealing to a prospective employer and gives you the opportunity of enrolling into the EIGCA’s education program.

10. What do you enjoy about being a golf course architect?

Variety. One week you could be travelling half way around the world to oversee the construction of a new golf resort and the next you could be tucked away at your desk redesigning a bunker. There’s always something different to do and new experiences to be had with no day ever the same.

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