Donald Steel, a former England international, accomplished golf writer and course architect, has taken office as President of the English Golf Union for 2006. He took over at the Union’s Annual Meeting at Woodhall Spa this week and succeeds Fred Caröe.
“I am really looking forward to the year,” he says. “I’m particularly looking forward to going back to what I used to do and that is watching golf, but this time I won’t have to write a daily report. I’m also looking forward to meeting a lot of old friends and perhaps some old rivals from my playing days.”
Steel knows he is going to witness many future stars as he tours the country with the various EGU championships. “The standard of amateur golf has never been higher, you only have to look at the scoring to see that,” he adds. “The running of the EGU has changed tremendously over the last 20 or 30 years, not least in coaching and there is nothing more worthy than encouraging youngsters at club, county or international level.”
Not that the presidency role will strike fears into him. In recent times he has filled similar positions with the Association of Golf Writers, the British Institute of Golf Course Architects, and the Public Schools Golfing Society.
Born in Hillingdon, Middlesex, Steel’s education was at Fettes College in Edinburgh and at Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he was a member of the golf team for three years. He has been a member of Denham Golf Club for over 50 years, of the R&A since 1962, and he is also a member of West Sussex and Royal Worlington. County-wise, he represented BB&O from 1958 to 1972 and recalls beating Howard Clark, then playing for Yorkshire, at the 20th, in the deciding match of the County Championship at Woodhall Spa in 1972.
During his time in Fleet Street, he reported on all the major championships and Ryder Cups until, in 1990, he turned full time to course design work. His company has been active at many sites at home and abroad, not least in the reshaping of the Royal Liverpool course at Hoylake, which will host this year’s Open Championship.
Steel, 68, has designed around 70 courses in 20 countries since 1987 including the Bracken Course at EGU headquarters at Woodhall Spa.
He was capped by England for the 1970 Home Internationals, a team that has now produced four EGU Presidents, Sir Michael Bonallack (1982), Dr David Marsh (1988), Geoff Marks (1995), and now Steel. “That might be some sort of record,” he adds.