A world of difference | The golf business

The Hacienda Alcaidesa Links Golf Resort in Spain has redesigned its Links course with the aim of making the site one of the premier facilities in southern Europe. Here we speak with course designer, Kurtis Bowman, about the project.

How did you come to golf course architecture?

I always loved golf when I was young and knew I wanted it to be a big part of my life. I tried to figure out how I could work in the industry and what career paths were available to me.

After enrolling at Ohio State University, I asked my turf teacher where we could do our internships and his response was “whoever will hire you”. As a golfer, the place I was most interested in was, of course, the Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters. After being extremely persistent, I managed to get an interview with Marsh Benson, who oversaw golf course maintenance at Augusta National for nearly 30 years. It was there that I got the biggest break of my career at one of the most iconic golf courses in the world, becoming the first student from Ohio State to get a job there. Not only because it was great to have him on my resume, but more importantly it gave me a lot of belief – I thought if I can do this, I can do anything.

After college, I worked briefly as an assistant golf course superintendent at the Atlanta Country Club, which at the time hosted a PGA Tour event called the BellSouth Classic. The architect of course in Atlanta worked for Jack Nicklaus Design and I managed to beg him long enough for a job he called Nicklaus in 1996 and got me through the door. The great thing about this company was that there were so many talented architects to learn from. Jim Lipe, who was the senior architect, involved in some of Nicklaus’ top courses, especially in North America and Mexico, really took me under his wing. I’ve worked on highly rated courses in the United States and Mexico, including Mayacama in California and May River Golf Club in South Carolina, as well as Cabo del Sol, which is consistently ranked in the top two in Mexico. I have worked on almost 50 golf courses during my time at Nicklaus Design.

In 2016 I started my own business with my first project being the Santo Domingo Country Club in the capital of the Dominican Republic.

How would you describe your style as a course designer? What are the general trends?

My time in Augusta had a big influence on me and how I ultimately designed golf courses. The way the golf course is played, with enough space off the tee for golfers to find their ball and hit the green, and the strength of the greens are two elements that feature in all of my projects.

I like to give golfers space and build a strategic layout for scratch or lower handicap golfers where they have to think and plot their course, although it is equally important to me to make my courses golfer friendly. less experienced or with a higher handicap.

Variety is the spice of life – and that is certainly true on a golf course. With the greens, I like to include a variety of contours and sizing of the greens. I love that par threes all play differently – I don’t want golfers hitting the same iron in every hole, I want them to use a different club, trajectory and stroke shape. Along with par fours and fives, I also like to incorporate holes where golfers don’t have to use a driver. They can if they wish, but they can opt for a long iron instead. All of these elements together provide a diverse and memorable experience.

You will tend to see an “easier” opening hole in my designs to make the course easier for golfers. Donald Ross once said that the first hole should be like “a warm handshake to start the round” and I totally agree. The green on the first hole at Alcaidesa Links is one of the most subtle and it is a par five that gives golfers the opportunity for a birdie or even an eagle.

There are still a few elements of my design that might be considered a bit controversial, with things like a false front on some greens pushing the ball away. I love it when people sit around having a drink after the game and debating whether a certain feature is amazing or unfair. I think it’s a good thing to get golfers talking about the layout. Obviously, I don’t want golfers to criticize many design elements on the course, but a few that play with their minds add to the experience. It’s okay for golfers to worry about something on the course the next time they play it, I don’t mind. Trying to mentally overcome something they are not comfortable with is part of the game with good course design.

Was the goal to make it a very good “resort course” or a challenge for low handicap golfers?

With the space and land available, it was never going to be a long golf course. We didn’t set out to create a golf course that could accommodate a major men’s or European Tour event. The brief and goal was to create a golf course that resort guests would love to play, enjoy and return to again and again.

I designed a resort golf course that can host tournaments, rather than a tournament course that resort guests could play. This was a guideline agreed by the property.
It was important to me to give golfers space, especially on a resort course. Keep golf moving, give them space off the tee, and build most greens to allow any level of golfer to roll the ball.

What are the main characteristics of the course and what are the different challenges that golfers will face? What are the significant changes from the original price?
We have built new tees, greens and bunkers to create a whole new strategy for golfers playing the course. A handful of completely reinvented holes, especially on the home stretch returning to the clubhouse. Partly to make way for some of the new developments such as the five star hotel, but also because some of them needed to be upgraded considerably.

I wanted to connect golf to the ocean. There were holes that were close and you couldn’t even see the sea before the redesign. The tees were further apart and the plants were up to five meters high blocking the view. Now we really have a golf course that is set by the ocean and there is nothing else like it in Spain.

How important is the issue of sustainability to you when building a golf course?

It is absolutely essential. One of the worst things that can happen to a golf course architect is to build a golf course that is not durable or cannot be maintained. We obviously want the course to last and be enjoyed in the future.

As for turf types, we have used warm season turf, mostly Bermuda grass, on the greens and fairways which will allow for less herbicide use and will still perform well in the summer. We used tall fescue around the bunkers which gives it good contrast, color and texture, but it is also one of the cool season varieties that can be used in this area.

We’ve also used a native fescue mix in the remote areas of the game. We don’t mind if it turns brown in the summer, that’s actually what we want to give the real ‘bonds’ feel. There aren’t a lot of chemical inputs of fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides in the native areas – we want them to stay authentic and rustic.

We built the tees so they don’t have to be maintained with walking mowers. Rather than sending out three or four greenkeepers to mow the tees, these can be done with triplex or even fairway mowers, which is much less insensitive to the job.

As for the greens, they have been designed with contours which, as we have seen before, do not need to be the fastest. If you build subtle flat greens, they tend not to be exciting or interesting unless they are kept at a very high speed. Contouring will still make it one of the most interesting in the country, even if not the fastest.

Other major projects around the world:

Costa Navarino opens a 36-hole development

The world’s first International Olympic Academy golf course and neighboring Hills course, as well as the new Hills Clubhouse, debuted at the start of the 2022 golf season. They perfectly complement the iconic golf courses of the destination, The Dunes Course and The Bay Course, and allow players of all levels to take on the challenge of four iconic golf courses, located at a maximum distance of 13 km, in Greece.

Designed by two-time Masters champion José María Olazábal and set in 125 hectares overlooking the historic Bay of Navarino and the Ionian Sea, the new developments are set in a unique location with views of the sea, mountains and valleys. Measuring 6,366m, the International Olympic Academy golf course received widespread acclaim when it was played for the first time at the fifth Messinia Pro-Am in November. The Hills course is slightly shorter at 6,280m in length, with both courses featuring an average green size of 669m², a 60-stand driving range and a short game area of ​​15,000m².

Olazábal said: “Over the past five years, we have worked hard to shape two courses that not only respect the beautiful surroundings, but blend as naturally as possible into the terrain.”

Vattanac Golf Resort unveils world-class golf academy

Vattanac Golf Resort, the luxury golf course managed by Troon, has opened a world-class golf academy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

DJ Flanders, Senior Vice President of Troon International, said: “The completion of a new academy at Vattanac is an extremely important step in the overall evolution of the resort. This 40,000 square foot facility will enhance our overall asset and the experience we can provide to our customers. The priority of the owners of Vattanac Golf Resort is to continue to increase the quality and production of our company, and to further engage all the components that Troon has to offer.

Modry Las Golf Resort continues its developments

Modry Las Golf Resort is moving forward with a series of developments including new accommodation options, the introduction of a luxurious spa in the clubhouse and the launch of a multipurpose jetty for water sports around the fabulous Polish lakes.

Modry Las Golf

“We used 2021 to push forward a number of important projects at the resort, including the start of work on six new garden suites and the completion of our fabulous clubhouse which now offers guest facilities such as changing rooms, lockers and club storage,” explained Arthur Gromadzki, chairman of Modry Las. “The changes, which include work both on and off the course designed by Gary Player, are a further illustration of our commitment to continually improving what we do at Modry Las.”