Martin Ebert coming to the Links Forum

22 November 2018 Feature Article

Golf course architect Martin Ebert has been announced as the latest speaker added to the line-up at Continue to Learn, taking pace at BTME 2019.

Martin, who counts Open venues such as Turnberry and Royal Portrush among his portfolio, will speak in the Links Forum sponsored by Sherriff Amenity, taking place on Wednesday 23 January.

Martin recently talked to the Golf Club Managers Association about how despite worldwide acclaim, club golf is where his heart really lies. The feature is replicated in abridged form below and you can read the original by heading to the GCMA website.

 

Who is Martin Ebert?

Inspired as a teenager reading the World Atlas of Golf and designing imaginary courses, Martin Ebert graduated from Cambridge University, where he studied engineering. Having organised the university golf club's tour of America in 1989, the experience made him determined to work in golf and he was soon offered a position to assist Donald Steel in 1990. A member of The R&A, Ebert professes to being inspired by the work of Harry Colt, Alister MacKenzie and Seth Raynor, among others.

Your reputation has been forged on delivering spectacular changes to Open venues. How big a role do club courses play in your day-to-day work?

Turnberry and Portrush have been such big projects so the last two years have been extraordinary in that respect. We do new courses as well, although they are few and far between. I'd say 15% of our work is the Open venues, 10 to 15% is on new course projects and 70% is spent on wider clubs.

So I'm at a club that's looking at embarking on a redesign or modernisation. Explain to me how you could go about tackling that?

It depends very much on the nature of the club. At a club that has got a great history, our first recommendation to them is that we should really try to understand how the course has evolved from the early days. Our means of doing that is to search for historical aerial photographs, look at the club website and find any history books we can look at. We look at any old photographs and ground photographs the club might have in their possession. 

You can build up a little picture of how it has evolved and what features the course may have had through its history. Sometimes, it doesn't throw up that much that will affect the proposals but, more often that not, it actually does - bunker shapes or even different routing for holes. These can provide inspirations for proposals. You don't necessarily implement the way the hole was back in 1882 or 1923 though, because the game has moved on. 

Why have some of these layouts changed so much?

So much has been lost at some of our great courses throughout the years. Well-meaning committees, greenkeepers and captains have produced change - sometimes for the better and sometimes not. There are so many opportunities to go in the wrong direction. This is an opportunity to rewind as well as restore and that can help shape our proposals. We can show the membership - people often object to change - and we can make the case to them. 

Why is having a masterplan so vital to what you do?

There is a lot in it, but we think it is such an important part of a club's planning. While it may be implemented over five to 10 years, hopefully that course will be set up for 30 or 40 years. It's a wise investment. 

They also give members a chance to catch a glimpse of what's going on...

Whether it is a proprietary or a members' club, members' approval brings them along. That's why we have developed in the way we have in terms of procuring visuals as good as we can.

The counter point to that is if we are not confident the visuals are going to represent what we are proposing, it is then difficult to make it as good as it needs to be. Sometimes, it is difficult if you are trying to remove trees. That can be awkward.

What's the key thing when working with a club?

You come across different attitudes. Some are a bit resistant and there are others who love the creative exercise and don't feel you are making any negative comments about what they have done on the course. We are helping them make their course, and their members' course, as good as it can be. Diplomacy is very important. It might have been a greens chairman's pet project that doesn't quite work and you are edging them away from that. You've got to get the right results for them and they are as anxious as we are to make it as good as it can be.

To book your spot at the Links Forum and to find out more about Continue to Learn at BTME 2019, head to the BTME website. 

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BIGGA
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