Global Edition

Iraq’s First Course Is Designed By Cynthia Dye

10.24am 17th September 2021 - Growing the Game

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Cynthia Dye has been travelling the world, explains Dye Designs, including many trips and site visits, since the mid 1980s to bring her brand of golf course architecture to some odd but interesting locations. We are always interested in stretching our horizons while experiencing new cultures, cuisine, art, etc.

“Grow the Game” takes on a whole new meaning when you are going to build a country’s first golf course. When our client first contacted us regarding the prospect of building a course in the Kurdish Zone of Northern Iraq, we were intrigued to say the least.

We trusted this client (who is an ethnic Kurd) and he trusted Cynthia who had designed for him the first course in Azerbaijan. Dreamland, located in Baku, has been a great success. He had a vision to repeat the same, a western style golf course community, in the Kurdish capital of Erbil.

Erbil Golf Course

It’s true that we thought we may not have to go to Erbil until sometime in the distant future. At that time ISIS had just been defeated in Mosel, 50 miles to the west of our site. Within weeks of starting the preliminary design, the client scheduled a Team design meeting – on site! Without hesitation she booked the flights. We are wondering if ‘Veni-Vidi-Vici’ might be a good motto for Cynthia?

Even today there are still issues and concerns, but Cynthia always enjoys an adventure. She loves the local people, the food and the historic atmosphere. 

Known for her “hands on” brand of architecture, Cynthia is happiest when she’s “in the dirt”. Designing a golf course from afar, as she’s had to do during the travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic, is not her preferred M.O. Yes – her construction plans are very detailed and easy to follow but the finished product in the ground may lack her personality if she’s not making her normal 25-30 site visits. 

In the case of the Erbil Golf Club, Cynthia was lucky to have a lead shaper she had worked with before. Jake MacTavish shaped her resort course in New Caledonia, another out of the way first. So, during the pandemic and in between site visits, she was able to FaceTime live with the shaper as he walked her through his most recent shaping. This occurs several times a week for hours at a time. Not her preference, but who’d have thought we might someday be building courses using nothing but drones and social media outlets?

The course is almost finished, and we are looking forward to its opening in 2022. And for sure, Cynthia and the Dye Designs family will be attending the Grand Opening.

The Erbil story would not be complete, however, without recording the contribution made by John Holmes of Atlas Turf based in Georgia USA. He’s one of Cynthia’s primary ‘go-to’ turf grass guys. He sends his patented hybrids to her all around the world. Re has recently established a turf nursery with GolfSaudi in Saudi Arabia to supply live grass stolons to the many new courses being planned there, including Cynthia’s latest assignment down on the shores of the Red Sea.

The nursery being grown in at Erbil is an Atlas Bermuda Hybrid that will stay green throughout the year in a cool season climate. It’s called Latitude 36. Check your globe for that latitude. For years that parallel defined the limits of the ‘no fly’ zone in Iraq.

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