Leading global golf course designers have hailed the success of a major conference which discussed how to build on the legacy of Scotland’s pioneering course designers.
Key topics in the international event included innovative course developments at Inverness and on two remote Scottish islands.
‘Design Masters: The Scottish International Golf Course Architects Conference’ has been held this week in Inverness during the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.
The event was opened by Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, and debated the work of great course architects such as Old Tom Morris, James Braid, Donald Ross, Willie Park Jr and Alister MacKenzie and their enduring effect on modern day design and internationally known courses including Royal Dornoch and Castle Stuart Golf Links.
At a time when golf is discussing new rules and ways to increase participation in the game, speeding up play and making it more enjoyable, the conference debated issues such as historic and modern design techniques, sustainable approaches to course architecture, agronomy, green speeds, wider fairways and use of bunkers.
Organised by the Golf Tourism Development Group, the conference was chaired by Adam Lawrence, editor of Golf Course Architecture magazine.
Speakers on the first day were Dr Paul Miller, a highly experienced educator in the field of golf course management; Bradley S. Klein, architecture editor of Golfweek magazine and the founding editor of Superintendent News; Martin Ebert, whose company Mackenzie & Ebert has advised seven of the nine Open venues; leading clubhouse designer Mungo Park; Gordon Irvine, who has helped restore the ‘lost’ Old Tom Morris course at Askernish in South Uist; and Stuart McColm, general manager of Castle Stuart Golf Links which has hosted four Scottish Opens.
Day two’s talks came from Tom Mackenzie, from designers Mackenzie and Ebert and president of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects; Thad Layton, senior golf course architect at the Arnold Palmer Design Company, which is involved in plans to build a second championship course at Castle Stuart, near Inverness; Richard Windows, Official Agronomist to the R&A Championship Committee; Sam Thomas, manager of golf development at the Golf Environment Organization, and Bob Harrison, one of Australia’s foremost golf architects, who is creating a spectacular 18-hole course of the Ardfin Estate on the Argyll island of Jura.
Adam Lawrence said: “It was a fantastic event. I learned something new from every single presentation. In my 12 years in the golf industry, I feel it was the most informative conference I have ever attended.
“I love the history of golf and golf design, so I particularly enjoyed the presentations by Paul Miller and Mungo Park, but it was also fantastic to hear from Bob Harrison and Thad Layton about the new courses currently being built in Scotland.
“I don’t believe there has ever been a conference of this kind, aimed at a general golf business audience before. It’s fitting that Scotland, the home of golf, should be a pioneer in this regard too.”
Gordon Todd, from the Golf Tourism Development Group, said: “This was a conference of its time with a lot of discussion ongoing at the moment about how to attract more people into golf.
“It was a privilege to host such a distinguished line-up of speakers who provided educational and inspiring talks which could influence thinking for years to come.”
Florida-based Thad Layton also voted the conference a success. He said: “As an architect, it’s encouraging to see my fellow practitioners doing great work in new markets around the world. As a golfer, I can’t wait to play these new courses.”
“It’s been refreshing and enlightening to talk with not just golf architects, but also professionals in the turf grass industry and the GEO, who have gathered to discuss what we can do collectively to grow the game, make it fun, more sustainable and get the message out that golf courses can be of benefit to the environment if executed properly.”
Among the delegates this week were 2nd year BA(Hons) Golf Management students who are studying Golf Course Maintenance & Design at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) campus in Dornoch, next to the world renowned Royal Dornoch Golf Club.
Alan Fleming, Programme Leader – Golf Curriculum and PGA Professional at the North Highland College UHI, said: “The conference provided a unique and invaluable experience for our students.
“They found the discussions on contemporary golf course design and architecture practices inspirational and a great insight into that exciting and fundamental aspect of the golf industry.
“The topics ranged from where golf began to where the industry may be going. This is the type of event we hope to engage in and hope to be involved in any future conferences in this area.”
The conference ended on Friday with site visits to Castle Stuart, Royal Dornoch, which last year marked 400 years of the game being played in the town’s links, and Fortrose and Rosemarkie Golf Club.
The conference presentations can be found here – http://www.scottishdesignmasters.com/speaker-presentations/