Golf: Faldo switched on to new and old course: Tim Glover reports from Sunningdale

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The Independent Online
NICK FALDO rejoined the European Tour yesterday and went straight into a hard sell, not for the GA European Open which starts here today but for a new golf club in Kent. Chart Hills, which is scheduled to open next year, is the first course he has designed in Europe.

'Dear Fellow Golfer,' said the blurb. 'Hi, it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to one of the finest new courses in Europe. For over 15 years I have been playing professional golf at the most challenging clubs around the world. It is from these experiences that I have drawn the inspiration for this course. Simply stated, Chart Hills is an amalgam of my international experience.'

A consortium of international investors bought the 200-acre site at Biddenden for pounds 2m from a farmer, John Body. Much of it was fallow. Now its Faldo. He has formed a partnership with the American course architect, Steve Smyers. 'I am the eyes,' Faldo said. 'It had to be challenging and something quite special.' The American developers were asked what the project cost. 'Sixteen to 18 million,' came the reply. Is that pounds or dollars? 'I'm not sure.'

A press release said that Faldo has 'spent many tireless hours on site personally attending to the most minute details.' Since construction started at the end of 1991, Faldo has spent six days on site. He is, of course, paid for his services and has no money invested in the project. Full membership involves a pounds 5,000 joining fee plus an annual sub of pounds 1,500.

Faldo has had a three-week break since finishing joint second to Nick Price in the US PGA Championship in St Louis. The remainder of his schedule this year includes visits to Japan, Hawaii, South Africa and Jamaica. Faldo, the course record holder here with a 62 in 1986, said the Old course was in perfect condition. 'It's playing the best it can play,' he said. 'I'm ready to switch on. I like to think I can go straight out there and get on with it.' The Open champion's priority is to finish the season top of the Order of Merit, an achievement he has managed only once before, in 1983. Starting with the European Masters last week to the German Open in August 1993, the calendar is full of tournaments that count towards Ryder Cup selection for The Belfry next September. Last year Faldo did not qualify on merit and was one of Bernard Gallacher's choices.

The bookmakers believe Faldo can be switched on this week, making him the 4-1 clear favourite. Seve Ballesteros is 25-1. Yesterday Ballesteros, whose wife gave birth to a son last week, shot 66 in the pro-am and that represents one of his better scores of an increasingly desolate season. Ballesteros has been second four times in this championship, on two of those occasions at Sunningdale. 'My game,' he said, 'will come back. Definitely. It's getting better. It's not that far from being all right. I'm worth a bet.'

Last night Spain played England a few miles from Ballesteros's home in Santander. 'I don't like to watch friendly matches,' he said. 'You don't know if they're really trying.' Football's equivalent, perhaps, of the pro-am.

----------------------------------------------------------------- CARD OF THE COURSE ----------------------------------------------------------------- Hole Yards Par Hole Yards Par 1st 494 5 10 473 4 2nd 471 4 11 325 4 3rd 323 4 12 451 4 4th 161 3 13 185 3 5th 410 4 14 509 5 6th 415 4 15 226 3 7th 409 4 16 443 4 8th 182 3 17 421 4 9th 280 4 18 429 4 Out: 3,145 35 In: 3,462 35 Total: 6,607 70 -----------------------------------------------------------------

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