English architect Jeremy Pern, along with Belgian consultant engineering firm Antea, has started work on the Hof ter Hille golf course project at Koksijde, one of Belgium’s premier coastal resorts.
Pern and Antea, then called Belconsulting, won the design competition for the new course way back in summer 2000. The eleven year delay has been occupied by the struggle to acquire construction permits. “I am amazed by two things,” said Pern. “Firstly that a municipal golf course project could actually take so long to get approval, given that there is no real estate on the 90 ha site of totally flat intensive agricultural land, and secondly that we actually managed to get the permits at all!”
“From a permit acquisition point of view this was the most administratively challenging golf course project I have been involved in,” he added. “It is interesting to see how well meaning educated individuals can be so easily influenced by interest groups whose understanding of basic science seems to have been put on hold. A sensible exchange of views on matters of environmental science is sometimes difficult with people whose convictions lead them to believe that golf courses are dangerous objects that threaten existing life forms above and below ground level. The resulting construction constraints imposed by the Belgian planning authorities were certainly the most embracing and complex that I have ever had to deal with.”
Pern’s design concept aims to recreate earlier polder-type wetlands and historic Flemish landscapes. Isolating the golf course from the underlying water table using impermeable membranes has been a significant part of the construction process. About two thirds of the earthworks have been used specifically for environmental protection measures.
The project consists of a 6,360m eighteen hole course, plus a nine hole, par 31 academy course of just under 2,000m ,with a thirty bay driving range, chipping zone, putting green and full size croquet lawn.
Earthworks started in June, while the driving range will be seeded in time for play next summer. Construction completion is scheduled for late 2012 and the course is expected to open for play in 2013. The golf project is being funded by the municipality and is part of a long term tourism and resort development strategy being implemented by the dynamic mayor, Marc Vanden Bussche.
A consortium comprising Belgian civil engineering firm Aclagro and Dutch golf construction specialist Aha de Man is carrying out the build. Pern said: “It has been a very a long time since a full size 18 hole golf course was built in Belgium, and I hope this landmark project may breath new life into golf course development here.”