Our Student Study Tour so generously sponsored by EIGCA Gold Partner Toro travelled south this time to Princes Golf Club, Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club and Royal St. Georges Golf Club to visit three of the UK’s most iconic clubs that have all hosted the Open Championship (and many other National and International events).
EIGCA Students and Associate members Neil White, David Minogue, Gareth Williams and Jakub Cervenka joined Alan Walker, Chairman, EIGCA Education Board, Niall Glen EIGCA Education Board member and our hosts Andy Brown, Senior Sales Manager, Toro and Bruce Jamieson of Bruce Jamieson, golf agronomist to the European Tour at Princes Golf Club in Sandwich Kent.
Our full itinerary included visits to all three clubs to see how they are both managing their clubs both physically and commercially to meet the needs of the modern day golfer. This topic was selected by the Education Board for the students to present to the membership at the AGM in Bruges.
On day one we played golf at Princes and in particular looked at the course changes to the Himalayas nine undertaken by EIGCA Past President Tom Mackenzie and partner Martin Ebert. During the afternoon Rob McGuirk, GM of Princes GC outlined the clubs vision for the future and the reasoning behind the decision to completely renovate the Himalayas nine together with a re-bunkering program of the other two nines. The group found Rob’s insight into the business side of the club fascinating and how Princes, working with St. Georges and Deal have forged a unique opportunity together to attract more golfers to the Kent coast.
The week prior to the event there was talk of severe weather conditions for our stay and the ‘beast from the east’ made itself known from the first day. Incredible sub zero winds greeted us at Princes but we battled on albeit looking more like a trip to the North Pole than a golf course architectural visit.
The Lodge at Princes was our base and we were looked after superbly.
When we were greeted by overnight snow we decided to foreshorten our trip as the both conditions and the impending forecast was of concern for everyone considering travel arrangements etc.
We did decided to visit Royal Cinque Ports where James Bledge, Course Manager of the club, greeted us and he offered an overview of the clubs aspiration for the future and highlighted a number of changes that were in the process of being undertaken under the guidance of golf course architect Martin Ebert.
The Club’s historian joined us on a course walk where both James and he showed us the new bunker placements and new tees that bring the course length up to a healthy 7,245 yards. Old bunker ramparts had been discovered and reintroduced and James demonstrated the meticulous detail he and his team go to protect the authenticity and heritage of the golf club – even down to the hand painted tee markers in club colours!
A welcome hot drink and a further chat with James Bledge allowed our students to fully question his approach to the development of the golf course and how the improvements are filtering through to the success for the golf club business at Deal.
As already mentioned the ‘beast’ weather did win over in the end but all we missed was our trip to Royal St. Georges. All of the clubs we visited were so pleased to see us as golf course architects and to also discuss their plans for the future. In every case we were made very welcome and also invited back to visit whenever we wished; such is the respect that EIGCA members are held in.
Alan Walker, Chairman of the EIGCA Education Board said, ‘Despite the weather we had a super trip and I would like to thank Andy Brown and everyone at Toro for their continued support to both the EIGCA and our Education Program’.
He continued, ‘What is so encouraging is that club owners and course managers were so helpful to us and viewed the EIGCA visiting their clubs a real honour. I look forward to seeing the presentation from David, Gareth, Jacub and Neil at our AGM in April’.
Click here for more information about the EIGCA's Education Programme.