Golf Course Architecture - Issue 58 October 2019

77 did not interact with the sea in any meaningful way. When the club hired Danish architect Philip Christian Spogárd to upgrade the Castle course, the architect, on walking the site, naturally concluded that the sea needed to play a much larger role in the strategy and ambience of the golf course. “The existing course did not optimise the close relation to the sea, with more or less no holes feeling closely connected with the shoreline,” says Spogárd. “The new layout will push the golf holes right onto the shore, with several holes giving the golfer the chance to bite of as much of the sea as he or she dares.” The new course is radically different from the old, though it mostly uses existing hole corridors, at least in part to reduce the cost of grassing. Several of the corridors have been reversed, while other turf areas have been cleverly incorporated into new holes. It is a really smart piece of work, that will result in members getting an almost entirely new experience without the cost of regrading the entire property. The first and most dramatic interaction with the sea comes at the new par three ninth. Spogárd recalls clambering through dense vegetation and realising Architect Philip Spogárd wanted the sea to play a much larger role in the strategy and ambience of the course Photo: Ålands Golfklubb The Ålands site is spectacular to look at, but under the surface was a challenge for the construction team. This project was the exact opposite to working on a sandy site; aside from a very small layer of soil, it was all rock. Previous drainage solutions were very rudimentary in places, and therefore not particularly effective. Added to that were the logistics challenges you would expect of working on an island of just 27,000 people, particularly when it comes to sourcing machinery. But the client was wonderful – they live with this reality all the time and already had more equipment on hand than most clubs. Avoiding blasting to maintain a reasonable budget, we had to be careful with the placement of catch basins so that drainage wasn’t needed in areas of bedrock. Thankfully, a close working partnership with architect Philip Spogárd gave us some flexibility – he would give us clear guidance on how he wanted the greens, and how the holes would play, but gave us the freedom to develop a technical solution so the golf course would drain effectively. One of the most pleasing aspects of the project was that the local authorities permitted us to create a kilometre of new coastline – where the ninth, tenth, sixteenth and seventeenth holes meet the sea. Previously the coastline had quite an engineered appearance, a relic from its farming past, but now we have been able to give it a much more natural look. We had to be conscious of tidal movement and allow for the variance in water level at the shore, but by cutting inland the golf plays on the naturally higher ground away from the original coastline and as a result is now much less susceptible to flooding. The end result is very special and thanks must go to the outstanding team of three shapers and fifteen construction workers we had on the project. Ålands now has a very high calibre golf course and it is encouraging to see the club’s approach to its new asset, such as the hiring of bentgrass expert Per Gundtoft – who has previously worked for Himmerland and Valderamma – as a grow-in consultant consultant. Ålands is now in a prime position to regain the interest of the large numbers of Scandinavian golfers who previously enjoyed short breaks there, but over recent years had been drawn to newer facilities. On the rocks Kai Hulkkonen, director of construction firm Nelson & Vecchio, reflects on the Ålands build