Number of Jack Nicklaus courses in Portugal to double

Monte Rei’s second course will “have many similar features to the first, great trees, wonderful topography, beautiful vistas, and has the potential to be another sensational course”, says its designer Jack Nicklaus.

The North course at the Algarve venue – also by Nicklaus Design – is regarded by many as the leading course in Portugal and work is expected to begin in June of this year on the South.

“We are excited Monte Rei has asked us to design their second course,” said Nicklaus.

Jack Nicklaus courses in Portugal

“We are fortunate the North course has received tremendous acclaim. Our mission will be to maximise the existing terrain and natural features, so we can create a golf experience that has its own distinct personality, with the same commitment to excellence that golfers expect when they visit Monte Rei.”

Like the North, its sister will be a Nicklaus signature, which is a coup for the Portuguese club because it is increasingly rare scenario for the 18-time major champion to be so involved in a new project.

‘Strensall’ look to golden age

“The course now looks like a ‘Golden Era’ design – in keeping with modern principles, but with styling that could be said to be a little bit Colt, Simpson, Fowler and MacKenzie. Taylor’s blueprint remains as is, but we consider we’ve refined his design for the modern era.”

That is architect Jonathan Gaunt’s verdict on his work at York Golf Club – widely known as Strensall – that has turned what was a pleasant course of considerable pedigree into one of the north of England’s stellar venues.

Strensall is strong evidence of two things: that involving an architect in a renovation is thoroughly worthwhile; and that upgrading a course does not need to mean a root-and-branch overhaul of its overall routing and individual holes.

Gaunt has brought both direction and enthusiasm, as well as an objective mind, to the project, and while the renovation has not been as deep-rooted as, say, that which took place at Moortown in Gaunt’s native Leeds, it has patently paid huge dividends.

I first played Strensall five years ago so could remember plenty about it when I returned there to meet Gaunt and other club office holders to have a look at work.

So when Gaunt tells NCG that “the golf course has a new lease of life, hopefully for another 100 years”, he is quite correct.

There is a dramatic increase in the ‘freshness’ to its look as a result of the bunker renovation and an equally notable rise in the strategy of individual holes.

Strensall is now a contender for our next English Top 100 (2020), and is an illustration that astute investment by historic courses has more merit than ever.

I sat down with Gaunt to ask him a few quick questions…

What us your history with Strensall?

I first played the course in 1981 – I was playing in the 1st team for the Bradford & District Union of Golf Clubs against the York Union – we thrashed them – but regarding the design work I first got involved in 2013, when I prepared a masterplan. Our first project was on the 17th, in Autumn 2013, where we remodelled the bunkers.

What was the overall remit?

To improve tees, green surrounds, drainage, bunkers, heathland regeneration, woodland management and overall improvement of the strategy of the golf course, in keeping with the design of JH Taylor.

To improve the course layout, in order to maintain and present a golf course of the highest quality for members and visitors, and in keeping with the demands of modern golf clubs and equipment.

Did it change over time?

The brief became more focussed, really – we identified after the first few phases of the bunker remodelling project that the members and visitors were really on board with these improvements, so the bunkers were focused upon, with the heathland regeneration coming in second, then tees.

Can you summarise the changes made?

We have significantly improved the strategic nature of the design – we’ve emphasised dog-leg points, removed penal hazards or remodelled them as grassy hollows, and increased challenge for golfers hitting their drives between 240 and 275 yards.

We have also opened up landing areas for the less able golfers and improved the aesthetics of every hole on the course.

Has the project lived up to your expectations?

The project has far exceeded my expectations, thanks to a great greens committee and their persuasiveness [with the members] – but we’re only part way there, as we’ll continue to improve tees, drainage, woodland management and heathland regeneration.

The greenkeeping team are amazingly enthusiastic and really skilled – working with them has been great fun and we’ve all learnt important things as part of the process, together with the contractor – Lakeland/Fineturf and Adi Butt, the shaper, who is brilliant and very imaginative – a craftsman on the excavator.

EGD’s Johnston starts second Dubai project

Last month we brought you the first play of Dubai Hills, the latest course in the emirate that was designed by Gary Johnston of European Golf Design.

Now the Scotsman has started work on a second course in Dubai, Emaar South, close to the new Al Maktoum airport.

“The site was an untouched desert with an endless expanse of rolling sand dunes,” says Johnston.

“Our intention is to try and retain the feel of the existing landscape character within the finished course. There will be large expanses of desert waste bunkers and an emphasis on the use of native desert style plants that will have low requirements for irrigation.

“Interestingly the waste bunkers have been designed to serve a dual purpose as they will also act as holding areas for stormwater on the occasions that it does rain in the desert.”

Renaissance Club to add new lodges

Renaissance Club

East Lothian’s Renaissance Club will open new luxury accommodation – the ‘Villas at Renaissance’ – in May.

They will sleep up to 28 people across 14 bedrooms located overlooking the Tom Doak-designed course’s 14th tee, the Firth of Forth and neighbouring Muirfield.

The lodges will boast world-class facilities, including log burning fires, rare drams, access to hidden beaches and sumptuous dining, and exceptional business facilities.