All the latest news and stories from the world of golf, Ernie Els Design, Ernie Els Wines and across Ernie’s various philanthropic interests.
1. Ernie set to play 100th career Major Championship in 2017
Ernie made his Major Championship debut as an amateur in the 1989 Open at Royal Troon and this summer will tee it up in his 100th career Major at the PGA Championship. Even more impressive than this significant milestone is the fact that Ernie has a 36 per cent strike rate for top-10 finishes (including four wins) in his 97 Majors to date.
1994 (T8th), 2000 (2nd), 2001 (T6th), 2002 (T5th), 2003 (T6th), 2004 (2nd)
1993 (T7th), 1994 (Won), 1996 (T5th), 1997 (Won), 2000 (T2nd), 2004 (T9th) 2005 (T5th), 2010 (3rd), 2012 (9th), 2013 (T4th)
1992 (T5th), 1993 (T6th), 1996 (T2nd), 1997 (T10th), 2000 (T2nd), 2003 (T3rd), 2002 (Won), 2004 (2nd), 2006 (3rd), 2007 (T4th), 2008 (T7th), 2009 (T8th), 2012 (Won)
1995 (T3rd), 2003 (T5th), 2004 (T4th), 2007 (3rd), 2009 (T6th), 2014 (T7th)
2. Wentworth’s West Course basks in sunshine and praise
Ernie Els expressed pride and pleasure in the new-look West Course after the layout received high praise throughout the 2017 BMW PGA Championship. Indeed, for Ernie there is a real sense of professional and personal fulfilment in bringing to a close the renovation of an historic course that has long held a special place in his heart. “It looks incredible,” said the four-time major champion. “This was our original design intent from the very beginning and we’re so pleased it has finally come to fruition. Big thanks to Jeremy Slessor at European Golf Design, who collaborated with us on this latest phase of works, and also to our partners at the European Tour. We’re extremely happy and proud to see the course looking the way it does here this week and to hear the positive feedback from the players and the Club’s members. That really means a lot to us.”
Ernie went on to say: “Obviously a key focus of the renovation was improving the putting surfaces and the recent significant investment by the Club’s owners, Reignwood Group, has allowed us to create arguably the purest, most consistent putting surfaces in the country. In addition, we undertook a further review of the bunkers on the golf course. As a result, all bunkers have been redesigned and reconstructed, with 29 bunkers removed from play. We believe this helps more closely realign the course with Harry Colt’s original vision and, in fact, many of the bunkers are very much in the Colt style now.”
In summary, the key features of this Ernie Els Design renovation include:
- All 18 greens re-built and re-seeded with 007 creeping bentgrass, which was chosen after trialling 10 blends over a 12-month period at the Club.
- The course is the first in England to benefit from sub-air technology.
- A total of 29 bunkers taken out of play to reintroduce some of the original playing strategies and all the remaining bunkers redesigned.
Additional changes include:
- Greens at the 8th, 11th, 14th and 16th completely remodelled.
- Greens at the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 12th and 15th partially remodelled.
- New tees built on the 3rd, 4th and 18th.
- An upgraded irrigation system installed.
- Additional drainage added on the fairways.
- All pathways resurfaced.
- Landscaping enhanced throughout to give the course a more natural aesthetic.
Ernie Els Design’s senior design associate, Greg Letsche, is one of the most respected golf course architects in the business, having previously worked with Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus. Greg has been involved from day one on this extensive West Course renovation project and he, too, couldn’t disguise his delight at the finished product. “For Ernie and myself, the intention all along was to make sure the course was a fair and strategically sound test of golf, focused on shot values, where well-executed shots would be rewarded. We believe that is absolutely the case here now.”
Speaking also about the newly constructed greens, Greg added: “The new sub-air system is hugely significant as it allows us to monitor and control the various parameters that give a putting surface the optimum playing characteristics. Everything from the smoothness and pureness of the roll, to the moisture content and bounce levels, can be matched across all 18 greens so you can achieve extremely high levels of quality and consistency.”
Stephen Gibson, Chief Executive of Wentworth Club, was full of praise, too: “This is my tenth year at Wentworth and I have never seen the course looking so magnificent,” said Stephen. “The improvements made by Ernie and his team have transformed the course and I’m sure the European Tour players and our members will agree that the West Course is back to where it belongs as one of the world’s great golf courses.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Chanchai Ruayrungruang, Chairman of Reignwood Group, said: “We are determined to make Wentworth the leading venue for Championship golf in Europe and the unveiling of the newly renovated West Course, which we believe to be one of the best golf courses in the world, is integral to this.”
What the players said…
“The greens are rolling nicely…they’ve done a terrific job getting the greens in this great shape.” – Henrik Stenson, 2016 Open Champion
“Here you now have a chance to set-up the course the way you want; if you want high rough or if you want softer greens, harder greens, whatever you want, and I think that’s fantastic in a golf course. I’ve played it three different ways now and I’ve always enjoyed it. What I wanted to do is play better against a better field and better, tougher courses and I view this as a very difficult course against a very tough field. So then this is very close to a Major in my mind.” – Alex Noren, 2017 BMW PGA Champion
“It’s nice to play a course where you have to use your brain. I think it’s hurting golf constantly going to courses that are 7,600 yards, where the caddies just send the players to the tee with a driver and then walk forwards. You don’t have to think about it too much and that’s a shame.” – Lee Westwood, all-time leading money winner on European Tour
“I think the changes have been very well received and the greens are as good a set of greens as I’ve seen for a newly laid surface. They are really rolling well and receiving a shot really well, too.” – Justin Rose, US Open & Olympic Champion
“I think the course is the best it’s even been. It’s in great condition; it’s a lot better aesthetically. It’s just playing really well.” – Ross Fisher, Ryder Cup player & former junior member at Wentworth Club
“The greens are absolutely perfect; every putt is so true.” – Chris Wood, 2016 BMW PGA Champion
For more information, please contact the Ernie Els Design offices in Florida +1 561-625-8676 or visit the website: www.ernieels.com/design.
3. Latest news from The Els for Autism Foundation
April was global Autism Awareness Month. As in previous years, the world of golf joined forces with Els for Autism on a variety of fundraising campaigns and activities, including the RBC Heritage’s traditional ‘Blue Out’ day, to promote greater awareness of the condition, which now affects a staggering 1 in 68 children, and 1 in 42 boys.
As in previous years, the PGA TOUR’s RBC Heritage at Hilton Head held a ‘Blue Out’ day. Players, fans, media and tournament officials wore blue to signify their support for autism awareness month and blue-and-white pin ribbons to support Els for Autism. “RBC have been loyal supporters of The Els for Autism Foundation over the years,” said Ernie. “Thanks to their help, and our other partners such as the Heritage Foundation, Boeing, SAP, and all my other sponsors, we continue to use golf as a platform to promote awareness of autism and also the importance of early detection. The earlier we can diagnose these kids and secure the help that they need, the better chance they have of leading positive, productive and rewarding lives.”
Ernie went on to say, “Liezl and I want to personally thank everyone who supported us throughout Autism Awareness Month and got involved in our various fundraising campaigns at Els for Autism. In particular, a big thank you to my sponsor RBC for supporting the #4Miles4Autism campaign, which raised $32,845, thanks also to the participation of some of my fellow Tour pros and members of the public.”
Now, as we move into the summer months, we see the start of this year’s Els for Autism Golf Challenge, supported by presenting sponsor SAP and organizing sponsors TaylorMade Golf, RBC and Wine Spectator. It remains the largest international charity-driven amateur golf tournament in history.
This series of regional events right across North America is now in its eighth year and features events at some of golf’s most iconic venues. Click here for details: http://e4agolf.com. Since its inaugural 2011 series, the Els for Autism Golf Challenge has grown year on year and has raised a total of over $15.5 million, thanks to over 11,477 rounds of golf and over 37,000 donors pledging funds. All money raised is being used wholly and directly to positively impact the lives of individuals on the autism spectrum and, by extension, their families, too.
Meanwhile, in South Africa the ‘Drive to SA Open’ series is in full swing. This series of tournaments is all about raising funds for Els for Autism, playing some of South Africa’s great courses, and competing for a place in the grand finale at the Ernie Els-designed Highland Gate. The winning pair at Highland Gate will then tee it up in next year’s SA Open Pro Am. The 2016 series was a great success, but 2017 is even bigger and better, with more than 100 people playing in each of the first six tournaments on this year’s schedule.
4. The Big Easy Winebar & Grill in Miami receives glowing reviews
The Big Easy Winebar & Grill in Miami opened in February this year to great acclaim. We bring together here a collection of comments and reviews from the many media outlets that have visited and enjoyed The Els Group’s latest award-winning steakhouse.
‘Offering a taste of authentic South African cuisine, the restaurant is now open at the shiny and new Brickell City Centre. One look at the menu and I could not wait to dig in. I didn’t know where to start; too many options, too little time. Every category (Tid Bits, Starters, For the Table, Salads, The Grill, Sauces, Sides, Chef’s Butter, Ernie’s Favorites, From the Sea, Chef’s Selections, and of course, Desserts) listed something interesting or that I just had to try. Luckily I’ve visited twice and have been able to try a good portion of the menu. Set against a rich earth-toned palette, the restaurant’s effortless and rustic chic decor honors Western Cape: imported furniture, leather banquettes and chairs, rustic wood finishes, carved wood accents, and framed black and white photographs (of Els’ career and travels). The hostess, wait-staff, and manager all provided knowledgeable service with a genuine smile both visits. The staff worked nonstop, scurrying here and there without much down time. Napkins were often refolded multiple times when patrons momentarily left the table (a nice touch not often seen at casual restaurants). I also noticed a waiter meticulously rearrange all the placemats on a table until they lined up perfectly centered with each chair. I love attention to such details.’ – TheWhetPalette.com
‘From the moment I walked into Big Easy Winebar & Grill inside the new Brickell City Centre, I knew it was going to be a very different kind of Miami experience. Unlike the city’s usual, overdone glitz, the restaurant’s earthy, South African-inspired accents give the space a sultry, masculine feel. The space is furnished with rich dark leather seating, marble stone, hardwood tables and industrial-like chandeliers. I felt like I was eating in my friend’s living room. And after all the good meat, seafood and wine, I only wanted to be on a living room couch or in bed. The (wine and) food coma is real.’ – DigestMiami.com
‘Enter to find the Afrikaans word ‘gesellig’, meaning a social gathering like a braai with close friends and family, spelled vertically opposite the hostess stand. That’s just what is encouraged here in the relaxed but classy space designed to make it seem like you are in golfer Ernie Els’ living room.’ – Miami Herald
‘South African pro golfer Ernie Els is easy to love, hence his nickname ‘The Big Easy’. So when the former world number one-turned-winemaker-turned-restaurateur launched his first wine bar and grill, The Big Easy was a natural moniker choice, especially given that it, too, is easy to love. The dining room is at once casual and cosmopolitan, reflecting The Big Easy’s worldly menu. And…what is there to dislike about pork belly popsicles doused in South African mango braai sauce and jalapeño jam, cowboy candy, fried green tomatoes crowned with tomato chutney and fried morsels of more pork belly and bacon jam, or a four-hour-braised lamb shank served in a bread bowl?’ – Ocean Drive Magazine
‘The sprawling space at Brickell City Centre evokes the textures and colors of South Africa with cushy leather chairs, reclaimed wood floors marbled stone, earth-toned fabrics and clay pottery. They all combine to make the space feel like dining in cozy home of a wealthy winemaker. The “Ernie’s Favorites” section of the menu comprises an Angry Duck Curry made with duck breast, red Madras curry and basmati rice and a Durban Bunny Chow. Desserts are as rich as the setting with a Nutella bread pudding and a traditional malva pudding cake, consisting of a spongy caramelized cake topped by a cream sauce. Bottom line: Miami’s first upscale South African-influenced restaurant also happens to be a great spot for cocktails and hearty grilled meats.’ – miami.com
‘With a few successful restaurants already situated in Cape Town, Ernie Els took the opportunity to introduce South Africa to Miami through means of food by opening his restaurant Big Easy Winebar & Grill. With Executive Chef, Maryna Frederiksen at the forefront of this restaurant, her knowledge of food and SA heritage (born and raised on a farm in South Africa) makes her the perfect person to feed the crowds of Miami!’ – TeeOffSouthAfrica.com
‘As if Downtown Miami’s dazzling Brickell City Centre wasn’t exciting enough already, now, it has a new restaurant that Miami’s finest have been eager to try. Miami’s only option for haute, authentic South African cuisine. What would a place named after The Big Easy be without some hearty comfort food and good wine? Eat like the Hall of Famer himself with a part of the menu called Ernie’s Favorites, featuring plates like Angry Duck Curry or Durban Bunny Chow with slow-roasted lamb shank. For the cherry on top of your lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch, pair it all with South African wines and vintages from Ernie Els’ own vineyards, handpicked by Louis Strydom, an esteemed winemaker with immeasurable knowledge of South African wines.’ – DiningOut.com
For more media coverage on the Big Easy Winebar & Grill in Miami, visit: http://www.ernieelshospitality.com/media_01.html.
Meanwhile, the Big Easy Winebar & Grill in Durban has been nominated in the category of Best Steakhouse in South Africa. For more details: goo.gl/nPyIks.
5. Lido Lakes CGI flyover gives taste of what’s to come
Work at Lido Lakes in Indonesia, a course acquired by MNC Group in July 2013 and now subject to an extensive renovation by Ernie Els Design, is progressing well with both Els and his senior design associate Greg Letsche having visited the site. To view a CGI flyover, visit: https://harriskalinka.wistia.com/medias/hdlhxxlpyz.
Els first paid a visit to oversee final shaping on the front nine and approve key design elements for the back nine. “Ever since we first met with the developers I’ve been impressed with their vision and also really excited about what we can achieve here,” comments Els. “This is our first design project in Indonesia and we’re blessed to have a great piece of land. Working with our client, MNC Group, and IMG Golf Services, we’re creating a unique and world-class product for the Indonesian and Asian golf and resort market. It’s going to be a really superb golf experience, one that offers tremendous views over the surrounding mountains and valleys.”
The renovation of Lido Lakes, located a two-hour drive from Jakarta and in the shadow of two volcanos, will see the creation of five completely new holes, while at the same time utilising some of the layout’s original hole routings.
Greg Letsche, who previously worked for Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus before joining Ernie Els Design, reports that “everything is right on track” and anticipates an official opening in the second half of 2017 or early 2018. In addition to the 18-hole course, clubhouse and residential component, the MNC Group has plans to build hotels, villas, a theme park and other supporting infrastructure as part of the master development plan at Lido Lakes over the coming years.
Please click here for more information on the Ernie Els Design portfolio of courses open for play, under construction, or in planning.