Swan Golf Designs is putting on a bit of Holywood glamour as it approaches the completion of the latest development stage of Rory McIlroy’s historic home course in Northern Ireland.
Howard Swan, from the family-owned, Suffolk-based architectural practice, first went to Holywood some 15 years ago when the four-time Major winner was still a wide-eyed but wonderfully talented junior, practising endlessly at the course and honing his skills.
The renovation of the delightful parkland golf course – which sits on the North Down escarpment of Belfast Lough and offers the most stunning views of the city and beyond to the north and west into the mountains and County Antrim loughside conurbations – began all those years ago and has steadily built momentum to result in the quite excellent course of today.
The club has prospered in recent years because of a much greater visitor interest heightened by McIlroy’s rise to prominence, and, consequently, it now boasts a museum and exhibition about him.
There has been a significant increase in the number of green fees with many Americans adding Holywood to their itineraries and this has meant the course’s improvement programme has sustained, allowing the Swans to return regularly to continue their redesign work.
Swan said: “The course is laid out over only about 100 acres, which is small in modern-day terms, and the holes are tightly contained on the lower and higher plateaux of the land.
“One of our major challenges has been to ensure golf can be played there safely and we have been making modifications to the layout in order to improve this aspect of its design. The club has been very vigilant about the historical importance, and the sensitivity, of the 1904 design – it seems likely that James Braid was there at some time – in terms of ensuring that dangers of escaping balls were kept to a minimum, as there is housing and a busy public road bordering the course.
“So we have carried out a series of risk assessments which has led to a safety masterplan, and those elements of redesign and rerouting which were necessitated.”
McIlroy’s legacy has allowed the Swans to continue their work at Holywood: a new sixth hole has been provided this year, with work ongoing on the re-bunkering and reorientation of the seventh and eighth.
All of which is helping the club push on with its long-term improvement programme and also to sustain its reputation as one of the country’s most progressive and successful clubs.
SGD is an independent and professional golf course architecture firm with a track record of providing clients with successful design solutions on golf course projects for more than 50 years.
Swan Golf Designs www.swangolfdesigns.com
Holywood Golf Club http://www.holywoodgolfclub.co.uk/