Scotland's Royal Dornoch is probably the world's most northerly great links, but that might not be the case in a few years' time. Faldo Design is starting work on a course on the south-west coast of Iceland, and, although the site's most obvious distinguishing feature might be its black volcanic sand, the company reckons the golf will comfortably outshine the sand.
"It's a truly stunning site – in fact, it reminds me quite forcefully of Dornoch," said Faldo Design MD Nick Edmund. "It's right next to a pristine beach, and we will be able to lay the holes out right between the dunes. The black sand, which is of volcanic origin, will make for a very dramatic contrast with the dunes and the marram grass, but that won't be the course's real selling point." Nick Faldo himself recently paid his first visit to the Icelandic site – which is being developed by a consortium of Icelandic golfers supported by institutional funds – and Edmund says his response was immediate."Nick was approached at Bay Hill by one of the guys who owns the site.
He showed him photos, and we were immediately interested.While he was up there, I sent Nick a text to say 'I bet you're rather cold at the moment', and he replied immediately 'It's minus ten but the site is plus ten'," he said.
Contracts for the design of Black Sand GC were signed in October, and Faldo Design has already produced a preliminary routing.More design work will be done over the winter, and the hope is to begin construction in 2006, although Edmund concedes that 2007 is more likely, given that final planning consent has not yet been given. "The season there is obviously quite short, although mid-April to October is possible, so it will probably be 2009 before the course is ready to open," he says. "But the site is pure sand, so construction should be relatively simple and not too expensive. I should think that we will only need a very basic irrigation system, for example."
This article first appeared in issue 3 of Golf Course Architecture, published in January 2006.