A high-profile “signature” designer, Ernie Els started his design venture working with IMG, before moving to the Nicklaus Design group and working within that larger organization.
Pleasingly, in more recent years Ernie Els has set up his own design company, wholly independent of any other ‘signature’ firm. Based in both Florida and Els’s home country of South Africa, Ernie Els Design employs respected course designer Greg Letsche, as its senior design associate. The company has worked on a number of improving projects, including the impressive Els Club course on Langkawi Island in Malaysia (Teluk Datai). The most notable course created prior to the establishment of a separate design operation was probably Oubaai near George, in South Africa. We understand Oubaai was designed with the Nicklaus team, and that Els was fairly hands-on during construction. The earlier Ernie Els course at Mission Hills in China was mostly designed and built by Schmidt Curley, and is of only moderate interest compared to Els more recent work.
Perhaps the most interesting Els project to date, was the multi-million dollar renovation of Harry Colt's beloved West Course at Wentworth in London. Rather than restore lost Colt features and width, Els instead redesigned the layout in his own style, its unveiling at the 2010 European PGA causing a stir among the professional playing group. Many openly criticized the changes, which upset Els who said 'there is going to be criticism with any new design but I really wasn't expecting the backlash I got. I don't think anybody deserved it.' He added, "if they had criticisms they could've handled it differently. That's the sad part of the week – a lot of the guys I've known for a long time came out and basically put the knife in. I don't really appreciate that."
Whilst we haven’t reviewed the new Wentworth holes, subsequent changes to holes like the 18th appear to have settled in well and feedback has been more positive in recent years.
Given Ernie Els is a global brand and a much-loved figure in the game, there is no doubt that his company makes sense from a marketing perspective as a signature design option. Ideally, any signature designer would receive strong direction from the client on the type of course required.
Developers looking to create genuine top quality golf courses should contact Global Golf Group for advice on how best to achieve their goals and for general information on all the available course design options.