Tag Archives: Kyle Phillips

How Kyle Phillips created a world-class course from land deemed ‘unsuitable for golf’

By Kelsey Lee

Sunset over South Cape Owner's Club [image: Joann Dost]

Sunset over South Cape Owner’s Club [image: Joann Dost]

Namhae, South Korea – South Cape Owners Club is the innovation of business mogul JB Chung. Even when others said it was impossible, Chung remained optimistic – he had visionary Golf Course Architect Kyle Phillips in his square. “It seems other designers felt the land was too challenging to achieve a top quality golf experience,” says Kyle. “Mr. Chung believed the property was so stunningly beautiful, he was willing to take on this challenge.”

Kyle Phillips designs world-class golf courses maintaining the natural elements of the existing property, as if a golfer happened upon a piece of land that is perfectly fit for a round of golf. With South Cape Owner’s Club, “the original conception of the course involved considerable earth moving” Kyle recounts. “When I came in the picture, I was able to reduce the earth moving by roughly 40% from what the prior plans had called for—which not only saved a significant amount of money, but also allowed me to save more of the natural vegetation.” In areas where earthmoving occurred, thousands of trees were transplanted allowing this world-class course to fit naturally on its landscape.

The transformation of Holes 12 and 13

When I asked Kyle how he felt so confident in this new direction for the land, he laughed and said, “It’s just what I do. It is hard to explain. I knew the course would turn out well and this would be a good golf course, but the challenge was always to make it great – the best. To get it there, I just worked with the topography and thought out of the box.”

With South Cape Owner’s Club already being recognized as Korea’s #1 course and ranking in the world’s Top 100 Courses, it is safe to say Kyle was successful.

Kyle humbly credits his success at South Cape Owner’s Club to playing to the land’s strengths, and maintaining the natural features of the landscape while turning down the volume. “Not only is the design of each hole important, but when you finish a hole you want it to have a nice connection to the next tee”, says Phillips. “We worked hard to create transitions throughout the course that would allow the players to get lost in the game and the beauty of their surroundings.” A feat Kyle Phillips makes sound all too easy.

 

Perhaps, Fergal O’Leary, a panelist for Golf Magazine and Golf digest (as well as the youngest person to play the World’s Top 100 Ranked courses), most elegantly remarked on South Cape when he said:

“I never thought I’d find a golf course more stunning that Cypress Point or Cape Kidnappers. I never thought I’d play a golf course more impressive than Oakmont or Royal Melbourne (West). I never thought I’d experience a feeling of privilege more than Muirfield or Shinnecock Hills. I never thought I’d play a piece of property more remarkable than Augusta National or St. Andrews. What Kyle Phillips created at South Cape makes a lot of old classics shiver in their boots. The world needs to brace itself as this whole experience takes you to unimaginable levels of euphoria.”

Quite remarkable words, for land once given up on for golf. However, after Kingsbarns in St. Andrews, Yas Links in Abu Dhabi, Cal Club in San Francisco and now South Cape in South Korea, it seems not much is impossible for Kyle Phillips.

South Cape Owner's Club Hole 6 [image: Joann Dost]

South Cape Owner’s Club Hole 6 [image: Joann Dost]

Golf in the Kingdom and Beyond

Kyle Phillips

ALTHOUGH HIS OFFICE IS LOCATED in Granite Bay, California (a suburb of Sacramento), course architect Kyle Phillips has worked extensively around the world. His designs can be found in Austria, Sweden, South Korea, Scotland, and Morocco, among other countries. Troon Golf & Travel spoke with him in England, where he was visiting his 18-hole creation at The Grove in Hertfordshire.

The Grove, your first English design, opened in 2003. What can you tell us about it?

People who come to The Grove for the day never feel that they have been slighted. The condition of the golf course is always superb, as is the service from the moment people arrive to the moment they leave. For me, it was gratifying to work with the owners and it was a seamless transition when we handed the course over to the operations side of things. In this case, we have had a real consistency of ownership and philosophy, which is always a real benefit to how the final product is received. I have great memories of designing and building this course and it is great fun to carry on working with a lot of the same faces who were here when we opened over 10 years ago.

You’ve said you replicated different types of landforms at The Grove to make it reminiscent of classic English courses. Explain.

This was a classic English parkland site. When you look across the landscape here with the longer horizon lines and you walk through the holes, you start to recognize some interesting landforms, some more dramatic than others. These begin to affect how you think about strategy on a particular hole. So, at a macro scale, the course looks rather sympathetic, but at a micro scale, it really takes on an interesting personality. And part of creating this was remaining responsive to the integrity of the historic landscape that was around it and, at the same time, achieving a great golf experience.

Do you think The Grove model, whereby a premier service and product is offered on the basis of pay and play, should be used more elsewhere?

This model is really unique. As nongolfers, the owners come at it from a different angle and this tends to be where a lot of the good ideas come from; people who are not so deeply connected into golf that they don’t just see the forest but the individual trees. They saw a gap in the marketplace and appreciated the business side. Not having members allowed them to accommodate hotel guests and the corporate market whenever they want to play. Of course, if you have members, they want to play on a Saturday morning and at all of the prime tee times. The Grove model eliminates this conflict by creating a club experience in terms of quality and conditioning, but available to everyone.

People have been talking about controlling equipment for a long time now. Do you think we’re any closer to this and, as an architect, do you think this would benefit the game?

I would love to see some controls because I really believe the game should be more about shot-making. But you can read books that are 100 years old and you’ll see discussions about the ball and how far it was going and how equipment was affecting the game. Even in my short time, I remember Jack Nicklaus hitting it 267 yards from the tee and everyone was aghast at how long he was hitting it. You look at that today and that kind of driving distance is laughable, but that’s simply due to the benefits of technology. As an architect, I have my own views, but my job is to respond to technology on the design side. I have seen an increase in what is considered to be a championship course from the back tees, but people playing from the forward tees expect the same length course as we had 30 years ago. This makes it more difficult to create a course that is playable and enjoyable for the full spectrum of abilities. But this is something that we, as architects, have got to rise to and get better at in order to respond to trends.

Can you, as a golf course architect, do anything to counter slow play?

I think there are things we could do. There is an issue with people trying to learn the game who go to championship- level courses without the required experience. I equate it to skiing. If you take someone who has never skied and send them down a black diamond run, it won’t take long to realize they are not going to be successful. They need the bunny slopes, as do we in golf. We need shorter courses.

Can golf architecture help to enhance player retention?

Every time there is a shift in the economy, people feel like they need to be at work more, so the drop in golfers is just a natural result of the economy, as much as anything else. As the economy stabilizes, people are coming back to playing golf. Nowadays there is also so much distraction from other sports, and there is also the whole world of technology that people can live in and not think about playing sport. Time is precious, so we have to ask, what can golf do to attract people to the game? We have looked inside the industry for those solutions; we’ve heard a lot discussed about shorter courses and par-3 courses within existing golf operations, for example. However, I tend to think that the solution may come from the outside with a different form of golf that becomes the gateway. We are seeing that with screen golf and video golf in some of the Asian countries and in the UK, and those are ways for people to spend a couple of hours with a golf club in their hands and perhaps get excited about golf, and we need that.

Source:  Troon Golf Magazine

Italy: The Latest Home to Links Golf

An American golf course architect designing a seaside links in Scotland, just down the coast from St. Andrews, is akin to an English chef cooking coq au vin at Le Cordon Bleu. But that’s just what California-based Kyle Phillips managed to do a decade ago at Kingsbarns Golf Links. In his latest overseas venture, Phillips has laid out two spectacularly scenic yet understated 18-hole courses at Verdura Golf & Spa Resort, the new Rocco Forte Collection resort on the southern coast of Sicily.

The five-star resort–just over an hour from the international airport in Palermo and near the historic city of Agrigento, with its Valley of the Temples–has much to speak for itself, as Luxist noted in reporting the opening of the property. Not the least of Verdura’s attributes are suites and villas appointed with assorted mosaics, ceramics and artifacts culled from this primordial island by the interior designer Olga Polizzi, Sir Rocco Forte’s sister. The amenities also include four restaurants, among them a Sicilian trattoria, and a gelateria.
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Abu Dhabi Goes Old School

Yas Links is a nod to tradition in a stunning location

When it comes to Abu Dhabi’s grand masterplan, Yas Links Golf Club is something of an anomaly. You only have to look at the neighboring structures of Ferrari World, the Yas Marina Circuit and the chameleonic Yas Hotel to appreciate the emirate’s taste for the futuristic. And yet Yas Links is a tribute to an era where golfers played in plus fours, smoked pipes and answered to names like Old Tom Morris. Let’s face it, that’s not where Abu Dhabi’s at.

The most amazing thing about the course is, simply, that it works. In this hot, desert climate, the concept of emulating a seaside Scottish links appear absurd at first, but Yas Links is remarkably authentic, from the wispy fescue grass to the crumpled dunes and the hickory flagsticks. Yas has traded the bling factor so pronounced in other new golf courses here with a minimalist approach that is both welcome and refreshing.
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A Swanky Italian Job

Given the effect that volcano’s have had on travel plans recently,Tim Smith was somewhat relieved that Scicily’s best-known landmark – Mount Etna – did not disrupt his trip to visit Sir Rocco Fortes latest development, Verdura.

The eighty-minute drive from Palermo airport to the Verdura Golf and Spa Resort provides a glimpse of just how beautiful and seemingly unspoilt Sicily is. Quiet roads took me through a largely rural landscape of citrus groves, olive trees and vineyards which, added to the sublime coastline, explained Sir Rocco Forte’s delight in securing oceanfront property upon which he instructed noted architect Kyle Phillips (Kingsbarns, The Grove) to create a golfing experience worthy of its location.

Having scoured the area, Sir Rocco eventually settled on a flat piece of agricultural land near the ancient town of Sciacca, on the south coast of Sicily, which he particularly liked for its “away from it all” seclusion. A keen golfer himself, he explained to me at a brief meeting in London, prior to my visit, that he liked and shared Phillips’ philosophy on course design, feeling that it mirrored his own approach to hotels. ‘What he wanted was an original idea – one that would provide something unique for this part of the world.

Phillips duly obliged, carving out two courses that closely intertwine as they play through the Sicilian landscape. In keeping with design principles that emphasize the use of contours to create strategy’, Verdura features gently undulating fairways and has a pleasing linksy feel. The strength of both layouts rests with a series of holes running hard by the sea – given a half-decent wind you might even feel the sea-spray on your face standing on the green at the par-four 8th on the West Course.
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The Real Deal

Yas Links is like nothing you have ever seen in the UAE.  It’s a nod to tradition in a wonderful setting.

When it comes to Abu Dhabi’s grand masterplan, Yas Links Golf Club is something of an anomaly. You only have to look at the neighbouring structures of Ferrari World, the Yas Marina Circuit and the chameleonic Yas Hotel to appreciate the emirate’s taste for the futuristic. And yet Yas Links is a tribute to an era where golfers played in plus fours, smoked pipes and answered to names like Old Tom Morris: An era about as far removed from modern Abu Dhabi as you can get. The most amazing thing about the course is, simply, that it works. In this hot, desert climate, the concept of emulating a seaside Scottish links appears absurd at first, but Yas Links is remarkably authentic, from the wispy fescue grass to the crumpled dunes and the hickory flagsticks. Yas has forgone the extravagance so pronounced in other new golf courses here with a minimalist approach that is both welcome and refreshing.

Credit must go to the developers, Aldar, for having the willingness to attempt such an audacious project, but American designer Kyle Phillips is the star, bringing his vision of a modern links course to life in dramatic fashion on the gently curved shoreline of Yas Island.

“What makes the course so intriguing is how traditional it is, because  nothing like that has ever been attempted before in the UAE,” says Phillips (who is the designer behind acclaimed modern Scottish classics Kingsbarns and Dundonald).
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Three courses to be built at resort in South Korea

This year a trio of U.S. architects will make a little personal history at a resort in the capital of Gangwon Province in northern South Korea.

Each of the architects — Arthur Hills, Kyle Phillips and Tom Weiskopf — will be working in South Korea for the first time. Their courses are to serve as drawing cards for the Sanyosoo resort outside Chuncheon, a city of about 265,000 that’s roughly 50 miles northeast of Seoul.

Besides the golf courses, Sanyosoo will feature some houses, a large hotel and a shopping area. The developer is AM Engineering, a Seoul-based golf construction company led by Moon-Hwan “Dawson” Ahn. AM has built dozens of courses since it was founded in the mid 1990s, including Club at Nine Bridges on Jeju Island and Sky 72 Golf Club in Incheon.

Sanyosoo is AM’s first development venture. The company broke ground on the resort’s 7,400-yard Yosoo course earlier this year and expects to open it in 2011. The course was designed in house, but Steve Forrest, a principal of Hills’ Toledo, Ohio-based firm, is acting as the design consultant.

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On Site: Verdura Golf Resort

Italy, as this magazine has not been shy to point out, has almost everything in place to be one of the world’s greatest golf destinations. It just needs more golf. So those of us who love both golf and Italy were cheered when the new Verdura resort, developed by British hotelier Sir Rocco Forte, and featuring two eighteen hole courses (plus a nine hole par three track) designed by Kyle Phillips, opened, quietly, late last summer.

Verdura closed for the winter, partly as a result of the well-publicised financial difficulties of its parent company, partly in order to allow the team to work on the golf courses, and partly because the Sicilian climate, though delightful from early spring through to late autumn, is not that conducive to attracting tourists in the dead of winter. The Forte company having secured its future with a new financing package, the resort has opened for its first full season with a sense of optimism about the place.

First the good bits: Sicily is a beautiful island, with mountains, beaches and culture all in plentiful supply. Verdura sits on a really special piece of property, all 270 hectares (550 acres) of it; hemmed in by hills, it spills gently down to the water’s edge, creating sea views from most parts of the site, plus a sense of seclusion from the outside world.

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“Golf Boom” in Sicily

That’s what Kyle Phillips called it — “a golf boom.” For someone in the golf and travel industry I like the paring of those two words but I’m naturally skeptical.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Phillips, who designed Kingsbarns in Scotland. Phillips was in New York to promote his latest 36 holes in Sicily at the Verdura Golf & Spa Resort (pictured above). That makes four new courses in Sicily, which gives the island off the coast of Italy a total of six courses to choose from. Yes, I’d say that qualifies as a boom.

The Verdura resort is owned by Sir Rocco Forte of the Rocco Forte Collection (13 high-end hotels or resorts all over the world). Forte told me he’s an avid golfer who loved the look of Kingsbarns, which is why he hired Phillips for his first dip into the pool of golf.
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Cal Club Moves Up in Top 100

For anyone who thinks that great golf course architecture is found only at old, stuffy private clubs, the 2010 Golfweek’s Best lists should be an eye-opener… Link to rest of article.


Golf Week’s Best Classic Courses Before 1960
54. California Golf Club 7.25
(60, p) South San Francisco, Calif.
1926, Vernon Macan; Alister MacKenzie (1928); Kyle Philips (2007)

Golf Week
March 2010
Brad Klein

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