It was in 2009 that the first Golf Study Tour (Mackenzie Tour) was undertaken by members of the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA), the European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA) and the Society of Australian Golf Course Architects (SAGCA).
It was held in Australia, with 86 golf architects from around the world visiting Sydney and Melbourne. The architects decided to continue the Study Tour every three years. In 2012, the United States was the destination with the United Kingdom following in 2015.
This year, the Study Tour returned to Australian shores with the five-day gathering in Adelaide incorporating visits to Kooyonga GC, Adelaide Oval, Grange GC, Seppeltsfield Winery (conference venue), Glenelg GC and Royal Adelaide GC where the final dinner was held.
The tour was named ‘Cargie Rymill’s Four Reds Golf Architecture Tour’ in honour of Herbert Rymill (nicknamed Cargie, the local golf architect who influenced much of the original design in Adelaide), the four golf courses all which are built on red sand areas with red sand bunkers and, finally, the Study Tour sponsor Toro, an Executive Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation, famous for its red machinery.
Accommodation for the tour was at Glenelg Beach which was central to all amenities and golf courses. Overlooking the beach was the welcoming function where architects met new friends and renewed old acquaintances.
The tour teed-off early morning at Kooyonga Golf Club (established in 1923). The golf course has an abundance of natural timber defining the narrow undulating fairways culminating in well protected greens. In the afternoon/evening the tour visited Adelaide Oval, home of South Australian cricket and football where Toro arranged a feast at the ‘Hill of Grace’ restaurant overlooking the ground.
Another early start on day two saw participants head to The Grange Golf Club (established 1910) where a more open but equally challenging golf course was laid out over the natural sands. In the afternoon the tour witnessed the inaugural ‘World Sand Golf Design Competition’ which involved teams of six drawn from each association, creating a golf-themed sand sculpture in a 4-metre x 2-metre space on the beach in front of the hotel.
Using only materials naturally found on the beach, the two-hour challenge was hotly contested with all three teams developing a single-hole concept – the SAGCA and EIGCA teams opting for a par-three and the ASGCA team going for a short par-four.
After hearing explanations on their concepts from each of the team captains, the judging panel of John Gransbury (Director of event sponsors HydroPlan), Toro’s Richard Walne and Australian Golf Digest’s Tony Webeck (Australian Golf Digest) awarded victory to the American Society of Golf Course Architect team.
The tour then headed to Seppeltsfield Winery in the Barossa Valley just north of Adelaide for the major conference on ‘The Future of Golf’ which saw presentations from golf architects from the three associations as well as a presentation on Cargie Rymill by Australian golf architect and historian Neil Crafter.
The ASGCA had presentations by Jeff Blume (President), Andy Staples and Forrest Richardson, all of whom had significant statistical insights into issues surrounding the future of golf from the American perspective.
The EIGCA had presentations by Christoph Staedler (Vice President), Achim Reinmuth and Matt Schiffler, all highlighting how issues were being dealt with throughout Europe. SAGCA presentations were carried out by Scott Champion, Paul Reeves and Brett Mogg and summarised concerns from all industry participants whilst looking far into the future to indicate what current ‘futurists’ had predicted.
Late afternoon involved a wine tasting and inspection of the old winery.
From there it was onto Glenelg Golf Course (established 1927). With its smaller area, links style and rivetted bunkers, it proved quite a challenge.
The final day saw a trip to Royal Adelaide Golf Club (established 1906) at which Dr Alister Mackenzie visited in 1926 with accompanying modifications made. Very much a links course it has hosted nine Australian Opens and is a true test of golf, especially that day as the wind was at its strongest of the week.
At all golf courses during the tour, the home superintendent gave an insight into the golf course, how it was developed and any specific issues they were facing.
At the farewell dinner, Walne and Toro representatives from Australia, the US and Europe presented all golf architects with a commemorative antique hickory shafted golf club.
Meanwhile, the SAGCA team of Australians finally won back the Mackenzie Trophy (best golf of the week) which had spent the past nine years overseas.
“To have the opportunity of discussing life, international issues and, above all, sustainable golf with fellow golf architects from around the world over five days is priceless. We all eagerly await the next gathering in three years’ time,” said the tour’s international organiser Phil Ryan.