Seventy of the world’s leading golf course architects are set to gather in South-East England next week for their 2015 Study Tour.
Organised by the European Institute of Golf Course Architects and supported by the Toro Company, the ‘To Heath & Links’ tour will take in four of England’s greatest links and heathland golf courses. Those taking part include members of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects, the Society of Australian Golf Course Architects and the American Society of Golf Course Architects. The 2015 Study Tour follows the hugely successful tours arranged by the Australian and American societies in 2009 and 2012 respectively.
The week will begin at Sunningdale Golf Club with a tour of Harry Colt’s “Lost Holes” which were lost following major reconstruction in 1934. Because of the more strenuous walk required to play them, the holes were unpopular with the members and were replaced by Tom Simpson, whose own work was subsequently revised by Harry Colt’s partner, John Morrison. The New Course certainly provides a great insight into the tensions and rivalries between two highly respected design practices and a tour of these lost holes provides a fantastic opportunity to step back in time.
Golf starts in earnest the following day on the New Course, undoubtedly one of Harry Colt’s best courses and is perhaps unfairly overshadowed sometimes by the Old Course. Many believe the green complexes on the New to be greatly superior to those on its sister course and the stretch of holes between 2 and 14 are difficult to match anywhere. Its dramatically rolling, open heathland landscape makes it perhaps the prime example of this type of course.
From Sunningdale, the tour moves just down the road to experience the work of the great eccentric golf course architect Herbert Fowler and The Red Course at The Berkshire. The Berkshire was the last work by Fowler and remains one of his least altered creations.
The final two days are devoted to seaside golf on the Kent Coast playing two of England’s best links courses, both of which have hosted The Open – Royal St George’s and Royal Cinque Ports. Courses with finer and more challenging green complexes would be hard to find.
Royal St George’s hosted its first of 14 Open Championships in 1894 and its most recent in 2011 when Darren Clarke unexpectedly triumphed. Originally laid out by Laidlaw Purves, the course has evolved gradually to become a favourite for many links enthusiasts.
Royal Cinque Ports, in the town of Deal in Kent, hosted The Open twice in the early 20th century and was set to do so again in 1949 until the course was flooded by the sea. Although sea defence work caused significant disturbance it remains a top class links that still hosts major amateur events. As well as playing golf there will be the opportunity to learn about the history of all the courses as well as the environmental and ecological importance of their landscapes.
Speaking on behalf of the EIGCA, the Institute’s President, Tom Mackenzie, said: “We are confident that we have organised an event that will more than live up to the standards already set by the previous study tours organised by the SAGCA and the ASGCA. The itinerary we have arranged represents a wonderful opportunity for us to enjoy the very best of English golf.
“I would like to thank all four golf clubs for their tremendous enthusiasm and assistance in helping the EIGCA organise this study tour, and I particularly want to acknowledge the generous support of the TORO Company which has done so much to make this event possible.”
Approximately thirty golf course architects each from Europe and North America and a further ten from Australia will be taking part in the study tour which ends with a banquet at the historic Leeds Castle in Kent.