Philip Spogárd of Spogárd & VanderVaart says the Castle course at Ålands Golf Club, which he is currently renovating, could become one of Europe’s best.
“To me it will be an iconic project and a top 25 course in Europe when fully completed,” said Spogárd. “I cannot name a single course in Europe which has as much going for it as this one has.”
The club, located on Finland’s Ålands islands, has two 18-hole courses – Slottsbanan and Kungsbanan (Castle and Kings), both originally designed by Jan Sederholm – as well as a six-hole Prinsessan (Princess) layout.
“The project is a complete redo of the Castle course, where only a majority of the fairways remain intact,” said Spogárd.
Master planning for the project, dubbed Slottsbanan 2.0, started in 2016 and construction began in August 2018. Spogárd is redesigning and rerouting holes to capitalise on the unique scenery.
“It has a wonderful location right on the sea, with majestic old trees, rolling terrain, Viking graves, dramatic rocky outcrops and spectacular views of the neighbouring Kastelholm Castle, which dates back 700 years,” said Spogárd.
“The existing course did not optimise the close relation to the sea, with more or less no holes feeling closely connected with the shoreline. 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.
“Very notable holes are nine, ten, sixteen, and seventeen where the sea is really in play. At the same time, much effort has been put into providing safer and more alternative routes into the greens. Once you get to know the layout, there are many places where you can gain a ‘member’s bounce’ onto the greens if you want to play it safer.”
Watch: A slideshow of the renovation work on the Castle course at Ålands Golf Club.
The club’s project team is led by Joakim Isaksson and head greenkeeper Johan Englund, with Nelson & Vecchio as the contractor.
All greens – including the practice area and aprons – are being renovated to USGA standards, and all bunkers will have edging from Durabunker. New tees have been added, and a new Rain Bird irrigation system has been installed.
Read more: a report on the Slottsbanan 2.0 project from GCA Green Pages 2019.
“We want to give the golfer the feeling of success – and we try to achieve this by putting them in front of some incredible looking holes, which are actually very playable when you discover how to unlock their secrets,” said Spogárd. “We have tried to optimise the incredible views. This has resulted in the brand-new fifteenth hole, which is on new land, where you can see the amazing historic castle from both tee and green.
“A true ‘Castle course’ experience. I can honestly say I have never seen a site that offers so many distinct and amazing features, which we are now trying to unearth and present to the visitors.
“The design is trying to look authentic so that the course fits into its historic setting. Great attention is put into creating small settlements in the ground, so it looks ‘shaped by nature’. I think it will look like a course that has been there for a century once opened.”
Work is expected to be complete in summer 2019, and the course is scheduled to open in May 2020.