The Inspiration Club

The Inspiration

Tony Menai Davi’s and his family have created a remarkable group of facilities around the north and west of London. The basis of their golf courses are built around imported material, which can still cause judders of concern from those who have seen and suffered from ill thought out schemes designed to enrichen ‘muck shifters’ and unscrupulous operators. 

The Menai Davis group of courses are a cut above - all thoroughly well built, without corners cut. Quality operations, underpinned by a profitable soil importation operation and then courses built to a very high standard and then operated ongoingly by the family. It is also important to remember that inert waste material has to go somewhere, so what better way to dispose of it than turning it into excellent, sculpted courses in a variety of differing styles.

The inspiration has been superbly styled as an inland links by the renowned architectural practice Mackenzie and Ebert. It was great to catch up with Tom Mackenzie recently and you can read his views below.

In the future golf courses should be built in this manner, utilising waste materials and imagination - the Menai Davis family should take a bow.

London’s newest golf course has opened to critical acclaim this weekend, as the first golfers took to the fairways of this modern links in the city.

Inspired by some of the greatest links golf courses and co-designed by world renowned links specialists Mackenzie & Ebert, the Inspiration club was bathed in true links weather for its opening weekend. From wind, rain and biblical cloud formations on Friday, through bright sunshine and blue skies across the weekend, the Inspiration club showed its first visitors every side of this unique new experience.

“We’ve been very careful not to call this a links course, but the shape of the fairways, the green complexes and the bunkering, certainly take inspiration from links.” said owner Tony Menai-Davis after an eventful opening weekend. “We’ve had every type of weather over the past few says, but the feedback has been consistently positive, particularly for the greens. Rick Shiels was the first person to play a round and he said in his podcast that they were some of the best greens he’s ever played on. I’ll take that from someone who has played Augusta!”

Located in Northolt, North West London, the Inspiration Club is a ten year project taken on by the Menai-Davis family, owners of the Shire, London. Following their successful partnership when creating the Shire, Seve Ballesteros agreed to take on the design of the Inspiration, before his untimely death in 2011. Tony then took on the project, shaping the land and laying out the course, before bringing in links specialist Tom Mackenzie and investing over £700,000 on 65 bunkers with bunkering experts EcoBunker. 

“It’s been a long project with many hurdles along the way, but what we’ve achieved here is something very special,” concludes Tony. “This was sloping farmland when we took it on. Every hump, hollow and run off has been created by the team. Through blood, sweat and some tears we’ve created an incredible golf course, and I’m delighted that our Inspiration is going to inspire golfers to play a style of golf that they won’t find anywhere without driving to the coast.”

Memberships for the Inspiration Club sold out two months prior to the opening, but the Inspiration welcomes visitors 7 days a week. With tee times ranging from £70 to £90 and a special opening offer of a 4 ball for £250 (conditions apply) golf of this quality and style has never been more affordable. 


Golf Features caught up with Inspiration architect Tom Mackenzie

Golf Features: How did you manage to produce such links-like features from this former farmland?

Tom Mackenzie: The new landscape had been created by Tony Menai-Davis and his shaper / project manager, Nigel Ely, over the decade before we were asked to look at the project. The shape of the land immediately appealed to our Senior Design Associate, Mike Howard, and I because it had a natural flow to it which was well suited to Tony’s links inspired concept. 

Golf Features: How much involvement did you have the layout? 

Tom Mackenzie: Most of the layout was already fixed when we were appointed, but we made a suggestion to alter the routing to create the new 12th and 13th holes as we felt that this gave the course better balance. We also altered the position of the 7th green to create more room for the 5th tees so that we could create more routes on this fun hole. The final two holes were reshuffled as well. The 18th was going to be a long par four with the 17th a par 5. We opted to reverse this to give more people the chance of finishing on a high. 

Golf Features: Tell us about how you went about the design process to deliver the links inspired brief. 

Tom Mackenzie: We loved the idea of trying to match some of the best links greens to the green sites that we are waiting to be designed. Our Senior Design Associate, Mike Howard and I spent days drawing up possible options on a spreadsheet, before gradually refining our thinking. None of the greens are exact copies but some bear quite close resemblance to the originals, while others are mirrored or more heavily adapted. Many of the greens used as inspiration have severe putting surfaces and, with the likely fast green speeds of the bentgrass greens, we were careful not to make the greens too tough. They are challenging but playable, we hope. 

Greens that provided inspiration were from St Andrews, Saunton, Royal Porthcawl, Royal Cinque Ports, Royal Dornoch, North Berwick, Princes, Royal St. George’s and Rye. Four greens were created from scratch. People have asked which green was which, but that is for people to work out. Some are easier than others.

Golf Features: What are your thoughts about the bunkers? 

Tom Mackenzie: A key to the links inspired approach was the bunkering and with the nature of the ground as it was, it made sense to use the synthetic eco-bunker faces and we think that these have contributed greatly to the impact of the course. Tony was keen that they should be a dominant feature of the course and they are unapologetically tough. It is not a long course by modern standards and the bunkers are to be avoided. To use Bernard Darwin’s expression, they are “places of penance”. 

Golf Features: What are the challenges in dealing with a course made from inert importation?

Tom Mackenzie: Inert landfill poses considerable challenges for the construction and maintenance teams, but it also limited how much we could go down, because we do not know what we will find. Simply excavating a trench or a bunker can become a mammoth task if big lumps of material are found. 

Golf Features: How do you think the course will hold up over the next few years?

Tom Mackenzie:  The tees, greens and green surrounds have been built to a high standard and these will withstand high traffic well. The raised land already drains surprisingly well, but, as the course is used more and more, ongoing improvement of drainage and surfaces is inevitably going to be needed, as it is on virtually every new course. 

Golf Features: How do you think the course will be received? 

Tom Mackenzie: Our hope when working on the project was that people would be intrigued by the course. It is a one-off and if we have done our job well then people will come off and say “I am going to bring some pals up here because it’s fun and not what I was expecting.” Time will tell whether that has been achieved, but I think that, collectively, everyone who has been involved has created something unique and enjoyable. 

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