What I have found most impressive about the courses I have reviewed during 2021 is the determination of club boards and owners to try and meet the ever-growing expectations of their members when it comes to the condition of the courses, the upgrades to those courses and enhancements of the club facilities in general.
When I heard that CDP Golf had won the contract to make my home course, Sunningdale Heath the best short course in the world, I knew I had to try and find out more. I reached out to Mike Clayton who I had come across when I was a rules official on the European Tour back in the early ’90s. Mike informed me that he was still in Australia due to Covid restrictions but Ed Cartwright, the Chairman of CDP, would help me with any information I required.
We agreed to meet at The Berkshire, where Ed is a member, for breakfast on a Sunday morning along with Bill Longmuir who roomed with Clayts on tour and is now his eyes on the ground in the UK and will be looking after the Sunningdale Heath project until Mike gets back to the UK from Australia.
The three principals Mike Clayton, Mike Devries and Frank Pont have been friends for many years and share a deep appreciation of each other’s work. Between them, they have over 80 years of experience in the industry, boast an unparalleled range of talents and have a collective body of work that covers all facets of golf course architecture, receiving many plaudits along the way.
With three practices operating on three continents, coordination is key. Clayton, DeVries & Pont’s day-to-day operations are managed from their headquarters in London’s West End by Ed, The Chairman. Their office on Duke Street is almost exactly equidistant between Fowler & Simpson’s former offices on Bruton Street and Half Moon Street respectively a lovely throwback to a couple of greats of the past.
Ed & Bill showed their passion for the traditions of the game and highlighted the principles of the business which came together in 2019 over the course of a few days and a couple of phone calls. It seemed like it was just meant to be.
CDP Golf has a number of underlining principles some of which are as follows:
Research. The team have immense knowledge of the great architects of the classic era, best defined as the period between c.1895 and 1940. Because of their deep appreciation and love of Colt, Mackenzie and Simpson’s work and their peers, the team have dedicated many hours over many years to learn as much about them, their work and their design principles as they can.
Some of the research Ed showed me is incredible finding old photographs that show original greens and bunkers of more than 70 years ago allowing the team to develop a strategy for a redesign
I saw first-hand when I reviewed The Addington that research is a fundamental first step on the way to delivering a successful project. The design principles which the architects of this era helped invent continue to define the best courses. There are no shortcuts. Some of the work I have seen in presentations CDP golf have prepared I believe to be second to none.
Experience. Over 80 years of cumulative experience renovating or restoring the works of MacKenzie, Hunter, Maxwell, Ross, Colt, Morrison, Alison, Fowler, Simpson, Park Jr, Pennink, von Limburger, Arana, Emmet, Raynor, Travis and Tillinghast amongst others. and worked on links, sandbelt, heathland and parkland.
The diverse set of backgrounds are also incredibly useful. A professional golfer with over 30 years experience on tour, a trained civil engineer and a hands-on designer whose skilled use of a bulldozer and Sand Pro proves incredibly useful.
Implementation. When it comes to implementation, the team understand all facets of modern golf construction. The key is the execution of the agreed plan, delivering a final product that meets all parties’ expectations. At least one of the principals is on-site throughout the construction phase.
I know from the owner of The Addington, Ryan Noades that this was a huge plus for his project and one of the many reasons for him employing CDP Golf. That particular project saw teamwork with contractors, shapers, agronomists and woodland management experts and they are able to do this across three continents.
My meeting with Ed and Bill lasted nearly four hours and it seemed like 20 minutes was my interest in the projects they have completed and are currently involved with. Ed explained that in some cases they will be involved in the redesign of a course for up to seven years and that is after they have spent the time on winning the initial tendering process.
They also design and deliver new builds with a number in the pipeline. One of which in Australia is Seven Mile beach which I believe Mike has said It’s one of the best pieces of Australian land in any architect has worked since Alister MacKenzie struck gold at Royal Melbourne.
I am working on a trip to Australia now that we can travel and hope to go in February to see some of Mike’s work. In addition as a member of Sunningdale Heath, I am now thrilled and excited to see what the team does with my home course. Having seen the extent they go to finding the history and the design principles I know the members will be in for a treat and will be worth the wait whilst the foundations are put into place.
The brief from the owners has been to make Sunningdale Heath the best short course in the world. No small task but leaving The Berkshire after our meeting I know we are in good hands and I for one believe CDP Golf will do their utmost to deliver.
Until next time