Kyle Phillips Heads up Design Team

Bunkered Magazine
By Brian Donald

Member of the American Society for golf architects and creator of the impressive Kingsbarns Golf Links near St. Andrews. Kyle Phillips is delighted to continue his working relationship with Scotland and Linkslands.

The already golf-rich coastline of Ayrshire is about to be enhanced even further with the addition of a magnificent new complex at Southern Gailes, just north of Troon.

Bounded by Glasgow Gailes to the north, Kilmarnock Barrassie to the south and with Western Gailes between it and the sea, Southern Gailes – which incorporates the site of the former Dundonald Golf Course – is probably the last piece of developable linksland left in the United Kingdom, and, with design work under way at the moment, construction work will soon start to convert it into a golfer’s haven, with completion scheduled for summer 2002.

The site has been taken over and will be developed by Castle 2000, a Hamilton-based consortium headed up by Yaqub Ali, the millionaire businessman behind the highly successful Castle cash-and-carry businesses. The consortium has already gained outline planning permission from North Ayrshire council for the site to contain a championship golf course and clubhouse, plus a further nine-hole course, practice and training facilities, a luxury hotel development, a sports complex, and forty luxury, timeshare-type houses adjacent to the golf course itself.

Work has already begun on the initial plans for the complex, and Castle 2000 managing director Alan Daly explained the rationale behind the development to Bunkered magazine.

“The decision was taken from the very outset of this project that everything about Southern Gailes would be in keeping with the true traditions and values with which golf, in general, and golf in Ayrshire, in particular, has been associated over a long number of years. The complex will certainly provide the finest facilities of the highest quality, but we wish it also to have the feeling from the very start of being an established part of the golfing infrastructure of what is one of the finest stretches of golfing real estate in the world.”

“Having received permission for the complex, the first major decision which we had to make was that of course architect, and I am absolutely delighted that Kyle Phillips has agreed to head up our excellent design team.”

“Kyle is a member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects and has more than 19 years of design experience all over the world. During that time Kyle has developed an appreciation of classical styles of architecture and has earned a reputation for solving difficult environmental and planning problems.

“He will bring exactly the right approach to the development of the entire Southern Gailes complex, not just the golf courses, in keeping with the development team’s ideals of traditional values.”

Phillips is president of Kyle Phillips Golf Course Design, located in Granite Bay, California, and Southern Gailes will be his second links-course design in Scotland.

His first creation – Kingsbarns Golf Links, near St. Andrews – will open in July this year and is already attracting rave reviews, including an unprecedented endorsement from the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews.

“Phillips is delighted to have the opportunity to continue his work in Scotland, but is quick to stress that, even though they are both links courses and will both be of the highest quality, Kingsbarns and Southern Gailes have entirely different design criteria.”

“Other architects have their own distinctive style when designing a course and, regardless of whether the course is at the sea or in the mountains, you know exactly what type of course you are going to get from them,” explains Phillips.”

“Now, I am not saying that that type of approach is altogether wrong but what I try to do, in contrast, is to vary the design of the course stylistically in keeping with the personality of the site.”

“Rather than simply saying, “I am Kyle Phillips and this is the style I do,’ each design has to be looked at as a unique piece of art in its own right.”

“For example, Southern Gailes will be a totally different course from the one I am designing in Kitzbuhl in Austria at the moment. That one is a mountain course and the climate is going to be wet, and it will be more of an aerial game which has to be played.”

“And, even though they are both links courses, Southern Gailes has a totally different look and feel from the site we have at Kingsbarns,” Phillips explains, “and therefore it will be a totally different golf course, in exactly the same way that the Old Course, for example, is totally different from Turnberry.”

“The terrain is again totally different at Muirfield, whereas Prestwick … Well, Prestwick is its own lady there! So you have many different styles of links architecture within the context of links golf. Unfortunately, particularly in America, links golf has been redefined. If you go to Las Vegas, for example, they talk about links golf courses, but of course they cannot be true links.”

“Links is the ground between the land and the sea – it links them both together, and it has characteristics of gorse and heather and sand and breezes.”

“Many Americans, I think, come to Scotland with the idea that there is only one style of links golf. But, when they start to play the various courses, they realise how different and interesting and intriguing all the different landforms are, and how the wind moves the ball and they way you have to play different types of shots.”

“Phillips will take the fact that their has already been a golf course on the site of Southern Gailes, and the natural, links-type, sandy soil of the site, into account in his design of the championship layout.”

“I like to design courses that are in keeping with the natural terrain, the natural topography, and I want to take advantage of all the natural features that are already on the site,” he explains.”

“Southern Gailes is true linksland, and we are still researching and gathering up as much information as we can about the routing of the former Dundonald course which was on the site before so we can understand the bits of gorse that still exist, and the little intricate landforms that are still there which were bunkers or greens at one time.”

“If those features can be incorporated into the design, then I would really like that. On top of that, some of those existing landforms can be replicated when we come to construct the course, and to have such great links soil to work with is a bonus. Also, because of the type of soil available, we shall be able to create the finest of links greens, in keeping with the great golf courses that surround the site.”

“The whole area, not just locally but for miles around is very rich in culture and heritage, and the design criteria will ensure there will be a traditional feel and flavour to Southern Gailes in a very understated, elegant way.”

Being a traditionalist, Phillips is excited by the prospect of being further involved in the game in Scotland. He admits to being more than a little influenced throughout his career by the home of golf and some of its more famous sons.

“The first time I came here, it was tantamount to making a pilgrimage to golf’s mecca. You know you are travelling back to the very roots of the game – where it all started. You go around with your eyes wide open, trying to take everything in.”

“Golfers in America have a great appreciation for Scotland and what it has given to the United States. Scots, like the great Donald Ross, have carried out a huge amount of our best golf course architecture. Ross is the father of the American Society of Golf Course Architects and, every year, all the members dress up in the Ross plaid to attend the Ross Dinner in memory of the great man.”

“Even though we are striving to progress all the time, we must always come back to the fact that the originals of the game are in Scotland and, no matter where golf courses are designed – in Europe or the Far East or America, we must still look over our shoulder at all times at the great pieces of art that have been conceived all over the world by Scottish architects.

“I have fond affection for their creations, particularly those designed during the twenties and thirties in America. So to come over here to where it all started to create something myself is a very, very special feeling for me. Believe me, I shall be striving as hard as I can to ensure that, at the end of the day, I have created something which does justice to its rich Scottish heritage.

“I think there is something magical about links golf, and to have the opportunity to work near the sea – to have all the sights and sounds and smells to arouse your senses – is very special. I think that what is created at Southern Gailes in terms of the uniqueness of the holes and overall layout will stand the test of time.

“It will be something which I know I shall ultimately be very proud of, whether on the opening day when the first ball is struck, or looking back at the end of my career.”

“Of course, I’m not going to be the person who is ultimately going to judge Southern Gailes as a golf course. The golfers who come to play the course will make their own judgements about it. But I have no doubts it will be a winner.”

The Castle 2000 development team envisages the complex as a pay-as-you-play facility, a decision which managing director Alan Daly sees as completely in keeping with its ideals.

“Southern Gailes will be a place where the connoisseurs of golf can come from all over the world and feel that they are in a private club environment, and yet it will be accessible to everyone. Home-based Scots who didn’t have the opportunity to play private courses of the highest quality can come here and have a very rich experience in a new facility that will feel timeless, but which will completely stand the test of time.

“We also feel that the quality of all aspects of the development, together with its excellent location and road links to all parts of the country, will ultimately put the complex in line to host major events, whether it be a European tour event or something larger, like the Ryder Cup, which could well be returning to Scotland in 2009.

“And, who knows, once the reputation of the course and Kyle Phillips is fully broadcast, then maybe another new name could be added to the list of Open championship venues north of the border.

“I have no doubt in my own mind that the Southern Gailes complex will be worthy of such an accolade.”


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