'My dream is to work as a golf course architect'

News & Tour

Golf course design is an area dominated by men. But one determined Italian hopes to start changing that. LG meets trainee architect Giulia Ferroni...

By Chris Bertram

You won’t be surprised to learn that when the European Institute of Golf Course Architects holds its annual meeting, the crowd that assembles is very much dominated by men.

Two ladies of the EIGCA – executive officer Julia Green and librarian Sue Stranger – impressively co-ordinate the AGM, but
at the conferences, the dinners and the drinks receptions that they organise, they are thoroughly outnumbered.

Last year in Belfast, though, there was a notable exception, because one of the five students undertaking the EIGCA’s Vocational Qualification in Golf Course Design is Giulia Ferroni.

The 28-year-old hails from the north-east of Italy. Camacchio, to be precise, known as Little Venice, in Emilia Romagna.

She reflects the EIGCA’s desire to encourage diversity among the course architects of tomorrow, with the quintet of students hailing from five countries and three different continents.

Lady Golfer was naturally most interested in Ferroni, as she takes her first strides on the way to becoming the next Tom Doak, Kyle Phillips… or even Cynthia Dye.

She isn’t the very first female to come through the EIGCA system, but her pioneering story nevertheless makes for fascinating reading…

When did you first show an interest in golf?

At university when I was studying architecture in Ferrara, Italy. I followed some of the university sports and golf was one of that some friends of mine participated in; I was fascinated by the game and its unique relationship between sport, landscape and nature.

In 2012 I completed my MSc degree in Architecture and I was working mainly as an interior and building architect, with a passion in landscaping and golf design.

In Italy, golf course architecture is not very popular but I had the opportunity to move to the UK in October 2014 and so I was able to follow my dream to work as golf course architect.

When did your passion for golf course architecture emerge?

I joined the Hawtree firm two years ago and I quickly realised this was really the profession I was looking for. I was a beginner with very little background in golf course architecture but I was willing to learn and to prove myself. As I enjoyed the profession, I became really passionate about the great history of the Hawtree family and their work.

So I started to study old projects, learning from the past, reading books and researching in the large office library. I become aware of the EIGCA and its interesting course in golf course architecture. So I decided to attend it in order to complete and improve the education path started in my firm.

The EIGCA is one of the most recognised organisations of golf course architecture on an international level and the study plan is well structured, allowing students to follow the course despite having a full-time job.

What has your course done to help your architectural ambitions?

It covers different subjects: from history of golf course architecture to layout design, from construction methods to detail design, from technologies to strategy.

There are lessons via Powerpoint presentations and reading lists and there are a series of assignments we have to complete during the year. Two meetings a year are scheduled where we have discussions and present our work to teachers and other students. The workshops are very stimulating and always present interesting points of discussion.

Not many women have taken the course – do you feel like a pioneer?

I don’t feel exactly a pioneer even if in my classroom there are not any other female students, but there have been others some years ago. I know this seems unbalanced but women are being more and more present in the golf scene in the last decade.

The number of good players, good journalists and good club managers is definitely growing, why should we not expect the same trend in golf course architecture?

Is the practical work with Dr Hawtree every bit as useful than the course itself? I started to work with Martin Hawtree two years ago and I learned a lot from his input and from support received by the colleagues within the firm.

I have literally built my profession starting from zero as my background was mainly building and interior design, so working for Martin is for sure a great start and I couldn’t have appreciated the course in the same way without a solid base.

The EIGCA course just started in April but I know it will be really useful and effective for my personal and professional development once it will be completed in 2018.

Was it inspirational to mix with other architects at the EIGCA Conference?

Yes, I definitely believe the EIGCA conference in Belfast was inspirational and really useful. I enjoyed the meeting with the other members and senior members and I would encourage even more opportunities like that.

For students it is especially important to exchange experience with senior and experienced colleagues. I believe sharing ideas, good practices, new technologies, case studies and learning a lot from each other’s experience is essential.

Are you already at the stage where you are taking inspiration from architects from the past?

I always look at the past in my work experience and as a student I am keen to research the history of golf courses and learn the different styles of the renowned architects. Masters like Harry Colt, Tom Simpson and Willie Park Jr are true sources of inspiration, real pioneers of early golf course architecture and construction techniques.

Their experiences seem even more impressive if you think of the construction phase of 120 years ago with no digital survey tools, excavators or dumper trucks.

What do you hope to be doing in 10 years’ time?

I hope to be an expert and recognised golf course architect who is con dent even in the construction phase. I expect to be a professional that can lead a team, working in complex and interesting projects around the world.

I am a curious person and I always like learning new things, so I know for sure that I won’t stop study and researching. I am expecting also to have a good golf handicap and to play golf more regularly.

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