Pont plans Swinkelsche 'jam session'


Pont plans Swinkelsche 'jam session'
Sean Dudley

Dutch architect Frank Pont has begun construction on a new 27 hole golf complex in the south of the Netherlands.

De Swinkelsche, located around 25km from Eindhoven, the country’s fifth-largest city, is being built on pure sandy soil, essentially a former heath that has been converted to farmland over the past century. The Swinkels family, the site’s owners, have moved out of the farming business and made the property available to develop a golf course, while also looking to sell a quantity of sand excavated during the course construction.

Bulk earthworks should be completed by the end of the year. Pont’s plan is to use the abundant native sand to recreate the heath environment on the site, which has been almost entirely flattened by farming, but which is surrounded on three sides by mature forest which shows the original contours of the land. In a relatively unusual development for the Netherlands, permission has been granted for several holes to be constructed within these forest areas.

Pont told GCA: “The challenge of building a great golf course here really falls in two very distinct parts: building five holes in the woods with existing natural undulations, where the theme should be minimalism. Here we have chosen the green sites based on the topography of the land, determined the number of bunkers and their positions whilst working in the field and left all as much as possible undisturbed. The other 13 holes are almost the reverse: here everything has to change, since we are restoring a flat pastureland back to the rolling heath  it was before the last century. That means everything, from the run of the little creek to the positions of hills, humps and hillocks, ponds and wetlands will be created. The key will be to create a credible wild and natural landscape from scratch, a task that is as daunting as it is stimulating.”

The project incorporates a main eighteen hole course, plus a shorter nine hole loop. Green construction on the nine hole course is now underway, and Pont has hired shaper Conor Walsh to lead the fine work. Walsh, who worked with David Kidd’s team on the Castle course at St Andrews, Machrihanish Dunes and the forthcoming gWest project, will be on site in the next two weeks. “When I first visited the Castle course, it wasn’t the greens or the scenery that caught my eye. Instead I was immediately impressed with the exquisite detailing of the landscape surrounding and blending into the golf course,” said Pont. “This to a large extent is a challenge similar to what we will be facing at Swinkelsche; how to create a real credible natural heathland landscape from scratch.”

Walsh said: “I first saw a pic of Swinkelsche on the back cover of GCA. It was hole nine, and that made me contact Frank. It has the potential to be an amazing course: 400,000 cubic meters of sand, 280 acres to shape, trees, heather and a designer with a great vision. What more can you ask for?”

Among the holes in the forest areas includes a short par four modelled on Harry Colt’s tenth at De Pan in the Netherlands. Pont, who has been consulting at the Utrecht course for several years, plans to use the abundant sand to create hills blocking most of the view of the green, as Colt did at De Pan. Another hole ends in the woods, and has nice natural undulation in the approach to the green, but will start in a flat field, formerly used as a runway by model aeroplane enthusiasts. “I’ve told Conor that’s where he’ll need to show his expertise,” said the architect.

Pont, who has long been interested in collaborative design processes, is also involving Canadian architect Jeff Mingay, who will pay a visit to the site in November. “I’ve always wanted to sort of do the equivalent of a jam session in building a golf course,” said Pont. “Being joined by Jeff and Conor at Swinkelsche comes very close that idea.”

Construction of the course should be complete next year, with an opening planned for 2012.