Sky Sports: How do you prepare the course for a tournament like this?
Ben Lovett: We have been working with the European Tour for almost a year, discussing ideal playing conditions and making the relevant changes. The changes to the course have been fairly minimal; designed in collaboration with European Golf Design, who are under the European Tour umbrella, many of the key characteristics for tournament golf were already considered in the layout. Having said that we have made the following light adjustments:
* Changed the 3rd green to enlarge the back tier, giving us the option of two devilish pin positions.
* Softened mounding on the 9th and 12th fairways, moving the fairway closer to a water hazard on 9 and closer to the trees on 12.
* Moved a waste area closer to the 10th green to make this drivable par 4 a little bit more of a risk-reward hole.
* Changed the approach to the 1st green, moving a bunker closer to the green to make it more interesting if the players attempt to reach the par 5 in two shots.
* Added 20 metres to the 15th hole, making the hole play with a slight dog-leg.
Sky Sports: What's the difference of this week's set-up compared to normal conditions? Greens faster? Rough thicker or higher? Are there any changes on the layout?
BL: During the tournament we will aim to have very quick firm greens and a deeper than usual rough. We have narrowed several of the fairways and brought water hazards into play. The course is still relatively new, set in a pine forest on a pure sand ridge and looks far more mature than its youth suggests. The design is very much based on one of Monty's favourite courses, Pine Valley, and features waste areas which the players must strategically plot their way around. Even though the layout is not especially long, it boasts expansive green complexes with some decent internal movement that we are aiming to get hard and fast for the event to test each and every player. You can be sure we will have an interesting variety of challenging pin positions during the week.
Sky Sports: Is it right that the courses in Belek have different types of grass during winter and summer? Could you give us a short explanation?
BL: We change grasses twice a year. In September we overseed our summer grass (Bermuda) with Rye grass a winter grass. Our main grass, Bermuda, which thrives during the summer goes dormant and yellow in the winter. The rye grass is green during the winter but is not able to handle the extreme heat of the summer and dies out during the summer, returning the course to Bermuda.
Sky Sports: What does it feel like when Tiger and all the other stars will play on "your" course?
BL: At the start I was nervous but, to be honest, I have been too busy to think about it. It is daunting to think so many great players are going to be competing on our golf course in such a high stakes golf tournament, but I am extremely confident our entire team will shine under the spotlight and deliver a course in pristine condition, showcasing the quality of golf on offer in the Belek region.
Sky Sports: How intense is the collaboration with the European Tour regarding course conditions?
BL: The course was generally in good shape and all that was required were a few alterations which we carried out during the summer months. We have worked closely with the European Tour agronomist to ensure the course is presented in the best possible condition and in a standard befitting of the stature of event we are staging.
Sky Sports: In what shape is a course after a tournament like this?
BL: I think it will take us about a week to get the course cleaned up and then we can take a look at any extra work that needs to be done. We are extremely proud of the reputation we have for delivering a course in the very best condition right through the year, and I don't see the event having that much of an impact.
Sky Sports: Is the majority of your work done when the tournament starts? Or is there plenty still to do during the four days of competition?
BL: We have been working towards this tournament all year and the finishing touches will be taking place right up to the first day. Weather depending I am hoping the hard work has been done and my team can enjoy the tournament atmosphere during the week. Of course they will still be up at the crack of dawn every day, ensuring the course is presented exactly as the European Tour requires.
Sky Sports: Is Monty still involved in any questions regarding the course?
BL: Monty visited last year for a two-week holiday in one of our Maxx Royal villas and played a couple of rounds and made several suggestions to make the course more enjoyable for our guests and play better for the tournament. His knowledge on the game is second to none and we all look forward to seeing him compete at the tournament and revel in the surroundings of his work.
Sky Sports: In terms of quality, what was the most impressive golf course you've ever played or visited?
BL: I am a big fan of links courses and one of my most memorable golf trips was chartering a plane from Melbourne and visiting Barnbougle Dunnes in Tasmania with my brother and father. The courses in Australia are, for me, set up perfectly for golf, with firm, fast conditions and well-maintained native areas. I would recommend any golfer to visit the Melbourne sand belt region and play the likes of Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath, Metropolitan and Victoria. I was also fortunate to spend a year's internship at East Lake, the home of the Tour Championship, during my agronomy degree at Penn State University.