Marketing golf course architecture was the theme of the annual conference of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA), held in Portmarnock, Ireland. With the profile of course architecture higher than it has ever been, partly because of the decision of Tiger Woods to set up his own design practice, EIGCA members were keen to learn how best to promote their services and to strengthen the reputation of qualified golf course architects.
The newly elected vice-president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA), Bruce Charlton, gave an American perspective to the conference. Charlton, president and chief design officer of Robert Trent Jones II, told members that design firms, whether large or small, need to develop the value of their brand, so that a course with their name on it becomes recognised as providing a superior golf experience – and that the industry as a whole needs to educate developers, so people building golf courses understand that employing architects who are properly qualified and accredited delivers a superior product at a lower cost.
Adam Lawrence, editor of Golf Course Architecture, emphasised this view. “A signature is a brand name, no more and no less,” he said. “The challenge for any design firm is to use whatever marketing method is available to enhance its own image. Why should a Tiger Woods course be any better than one designed by another architect?”
Lawrence told members that top quality course photography is crucial in promoting the image of their work, and his comments were echoed by another speaker, German golf photographer Stefan von Stengel, who showed a selection of his work.
Incoming EIGCA president Ken Moodie echoed the importance of creating strong brands for golf architecture, and highlighted the role the Institute itself should play.
“As members of the EIGCA, we are part of an organisation that runs the industry’s leading training programme for prospective golf course designers, as well as representing Europe’s best-qualified golf architects. The EIGCA also runs continuing professional development seminars to keep us up to speed on new legislation and construction techniques which may affect our working practices,” he said. “We need to raise awareness amongst developers and golf clubs looking to renovate their courses that they will get the best advice and standard of design by employing a qualified golf course architect who has EIGCA after his or her name.”