Scottish Golf Courses

Design conference is a huge 'hit'

Inverness-based golf course architecture event is hailed as the ‘most informative’ of its kind

By Chris Johnston

Some of the world’s leading 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.

‘Design Masters: The Scottish International Golf Course Architects Conference’ took place recently in Inverness, coinciding with Scotland’s ‘Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology’.

Opened by Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, the conference debated the work of great course architects, such as Old Tom Morris, James Braid, Donald Ross, Willie Park Jr and AlisterMacKenzie, and analysed their enduring effect on modern day design and internationally known courses, including Royal Dornoch and Castle Stuart Golf Links.

The event, organised by the Golf Tourism Development Group and chaired by Adam Lawrence, editor of Golf Course Architecture magazine, also debated issues such as historic and modern design techniques, sustainable approaches to course architecture, agronomy, green speeds, wider fairways and use of bunkers.

“It was a fantastic event,” said Lawrence. “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 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.”


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 ten 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 four-time Scottish Open host venue Castle Stuart Golf Links.

Tom Mackenzie, of designers Mackenzie and Ebert and president of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects, was one of the speakers on day two, along with: 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 Organisation; and Bob Harrison, one of Australia’s foremost golf architects, who is creating a spectacular 18-hole course of the Ardfin Estate on the isle of Jura.


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 Layton added: “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 courses can be of benefit to the environment if executed properly.”

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