Tag Archives: Kyle Phillips

“Star treatment” – Hillcrest Country Club

from Golf Course Architecture Magazine – Issue 58 – October 2019

Star treatment

Behind an inconspicuous gateway across the street from Fox Studios, a Hollywood star has been under the knife. Toby Ingleton discovers more

The drivable par 4 11th at Hillcrest

 

Groucho Marx made an exception to his own rule – “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member” – for Hillcrest Country Club. Established in 1920 with eighteen holes laid out by Willie Watson, Hillcrest has long been counted alongside the courses at Riviera, LACC and Bel-Air as one of Los Angeles’ finest, and is home club to many of the city’s leading lights.

Occupying 141 acres just south of Beverly Hills, the club’s original front nine sat in a valley that runs east of a hill on which most of the back nine played. This combination of terrain afforded Watson nice elevation changes, as well as long views towards Los Angeles and the surrounding oil wells.

Like most top-end US clubs, Hillcrest prides itself on pristine playing surfaces, and there is an expectation that agronomic improvements will be undertaken on a periodic basis. In the mid-2010s the club was faced with a number of deferred maintenance needs, including a new irrigation system, and they were also on the hunt for a new architect. Considerable research was conducted by the greens committee at this time, and a strong proposal was received to re-work the greens and bunkers by an architect who had recently done excellent work at a nearby country club. However, before approving the greens committee recommendations, the club’s board asked general manager Miles Tucker and director of golf John McMullen to help provide alternatives to the proposal on-hand. “We knew that water management strategies needed to be central to any significant investment into the course, and also that we had opportunities to improve both our practice facilities and overall golf experience,” says Tucker. “So we worked to identify the delta between what was being proposed in terms of maintaining the existing facility, and what we really wanted, which was a facility that would differentiate us from the other clubs in LA and help us to continue to enhance our reputation as one of the best family-oriented clubs on the West coast.”

The par 3 14th and par 4 16th

 

The club invited several architects to pitch for the work and ultimately selected California-based Kyle Phillips. “We felt that the customised design approach Kyle takes on each property he is given would create something uniquely appropriate for our site,” says McMullen. “We were also really impressed with his commitment to his design philosophies. It can be all too easy to bow to some of the many voices that have an opinion on what should be done, but Kyle showed a clear belief in what he felt would prepare us best for the next 100 years.”

Phillips’ proposal involved combining the valley and hill experiences into each nine and a mix of original, familiar and new holes. “Six holes remain in their original location but are substantially improved. Another six use existing hole corridors. And there are six completely new holes,” says Phillips.

The key to the new routing lies within the integration of two areas that had historically been used as turf nurseries. “These areas had been hidden from the course for decades by large shrubs, so many members did not even know the land existed,” says Phillips’ senior design associate Mark Thawley.

Both areas now occupy prime locations on the course, including the new par three fourth hole, which enjoys a panoramic view of the Los Angeles skyline and the Hollywood Hills.

The par 3 4th with the Hollywood Hills as a backdrop

 

By bringing these areas into play and being more efficient with the routing in general, Phillips was able to convert the land previously occupied by the old netted range, the par-four tenth and a portion of the par-five eleventh into the world-class practice facilities that the club desired. In turn that freed up the site of the old driving range tees – in prime view from the dining area – for the new eighteenth green. Alongside that are tees for a completely new first hole, which runs parallel to the eighteenth.

“The new range is still convenient to the clubhouse and first tee,” says Phillips. “Occupying nearly six acres, members can now hit shots over 300 yards without the need for safety netting. A five-hole par-three course – ‘The Five’ – has been laid out adjacent to the range and is focused on family play and fun.” Between the range and short course is a new teaching centre designed by Hawkins & Marshall, who also created a new halfway house.

Tucker says that while members will coo over the new practice facilities and guests will rave over the halfway house, real golf aficionados will be “stunned” by the new course. “The memorability of the new course is defined by the par threes, which are all iconic,” says Tucker. From the new 155-yard second, with its sunken green, to the massive Biarritz green at the twelfth, which plays 260 yards from the back tees, Tucker says all the par threes are great fun to play.

The redesigned course provides a varied test. “Par fours range from 290 to 495 yards, so – like Riviera – will test every club in the bag,” says Tucker. “Three of the par fives are wonderfully strategic; challenging to reach in two. The eighteenth can go to 600 yards if required, culminating in one of the most stunning green complexes on the course.”

The par 5 13th

 

Even though the total number of trees is the same, Phillips has opened up interior views, with many fairways now interconnected, separated by bunkers and stands of trees. “We put a lot of time and effort into tree management,” says Tucker. “Undesired species have been removed, beautiful specimens have been relocated and new trees have been planted on the perimeter for increased set-backs and privacy. The course has a much more open feeling.”

“Walking was also a priority for the membership, so the green-to-tee relationship has been improved and grass walk-offs added,” says Phillips. This relationship is particularly evident at the start of each nine, with the back tees for both the first and tenth connected to the practice putting greens.

With the project complete and reopening scheduled for October, Tucker highlights the “incredible partners” that he, golf director John McMullen and the club’s chairman of the project committee Arnold Rosenstein have worked with. In addition to Thawley, Phillips’ team included on-site design representative and shaping specialist Dave Smith. “In addition to shaping a stunning golf course and practice area, Dave was quick to bring any opportunities or concerns to the team’s attention, rapidly proving himself to be an integral part of the broader project team.” says Tucker.

Not to be confused with Dave, David Smith from Golf Projects International played a key role in managing the project from initial permitting to completion. Landscapes Unlimited was the general contractor, Brent Harvey designed the irrigation system, and planting design was by Ken Alperstein of Pinnacle Design Company.

The project wasn’t without its challenges – not least that rainfall was double the historic averages during the year-long project – but Tucker is delighted with the end result. “We had very high expectations, but they have been far exceeded. Our members are absolutely blown away by the changes, and Hillcrest’s golf brand is set to really grow.”

 

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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