Changes coming at Vasatorps


Changes coming at Vasatorps
Sean Dudley

The Old course at the Vasatorps club in Helsingborg, in the south-west of Sweden, is to undergo a large renovation at the hands of American architect Steve Forrest.

Forrest, principal of Hills & Forrest, designed the club’s new Tournament course a few years ago. The Old course hosted the European’s Tour’s Scandivanian Enterprise Open for several years in the 1970s and 1980s, with winners over the course including Seve Ballesteros and Sandy Lyle.

Forrest says the club’s members have embraced the plans with open arms. “We were amazed by their openness to the changes we suggested, which some could fairly describe as quite radical,” he said. “No matter how good the plans, no matter how badly the course may need renovation, usually there’s some guy in the back yelling, ‘We shouldn’t change a thing!’ Our firm had obviously built up a lot of trust with the membership through development of the Tournament course at Vasatorps. Still, such enthusiastic approval was a wonderful surprise.”

Hills & Forrest will break ground on the renovation of the Old course on 13 June. A reopening has been scheduled for spring 2013. “The Old course at Vasatorps has a wonderful history, but it had clearly become the ‘members’ course since the opening of our Tournament course,” Forrest said. “The members have seen all these new courses in Sweden — they’ve seen one at their own club! They understand better than anyone perhaps that the Old course was lacking in several respects. Naturally they wanted to restore it to a position of prominence and respect.”

Several holes will be repositioned or rerouted, and virtually every green will be moved. The layout’s bunkering scheme will be totally reimagined (Forrest foresees a style that is flat-bottomed, grass-faced and rough-hewn around the edges). Plans also call for a major increase in the size, impact and visibility of layout’s water hazards. 

“Nearly every green on the Old Course will be brand new and has been re-sited,” said Forrest. “If we’re going to renovate, we may as well put the greens and bunkers where they should be, to maximise strategy, challenge, aesthetic interest, safety and playability.”

Many design improvements stem from the effort to improve drainage: the course occupies a very flat piece of terrain that always drained poorly. “When you expand water features, it generates dirt – dirt you can employ to raise up and better contour fairways,” Forrest explained. “We’ve done this strategically on the Old course, so fairways surface-drain more efficiently into the ponds. And, of course, when you replace soggy land with ponds, you don’t have to drain that land. What’s more, by expanding water features, we create more visible hazards that can be deployed more strategically.”

He cites the mid-length par four third as one example. The dogleg left hole is so flat that a small water hazard on the left is invisible from the tee. Forrest will expand the pond’s footprint fivefold and use the fill to recontour the fairway, then move the tees forward to improve safety relationships and create a driveable par four with water guarding the entire left side. 

The new routing also swaps the opening two holes on each nine, thereby solving traffic issues and creating a more forgiving opening hole (and a more testing tenth).