Althaus and Nelson combine for more alterations at German island club

Althaus and Nelson combine for more alterations at German island club
Sean Dudley
By Adam Lawrence

Architect Christian Althaus and construction firm Greemakers by Nelson&Vecchio have begun work on a programme of alterations to Golf Club Föhr, located on the island of the same off the northern coast of Germany.

Althaus built nine extra holes at Föhr – which opened in 2009 – while working for Christoph Städler’s practice, making the club a 27-hole complex. Now, he has returned to reorganise the golf course, with a plan to create three returning nines of roughly equal quality.

Föhr’s first nine holes were built in the 1920s by Bernhard von Limburger, but the course was lost after the war. Frank Pennink recreated the nine hole course in the 1960s, while Don Harradine added a second nine in 1990. After Althaus’s 2009 alterations, his holes, plus the Pennink nine, served as the club’s main course, while the Harradine course, which was slightly isolated from the clubhouse and had irrigation issues, received much less play.

“The club wanted three equal nines, to balance play and take pressure of the greenkeepers,” said Althaus. “I came up with a new routing in late 2012, and now we are putting that routing into practice.”

The alterations consist of twelve entirely new holes, plus changes to others. “The site is only 70 hectares, which is very compact for 27 holes, so finding a suitable routing was a challenge,” said Althaus. “Additionally, we needed space for a substantial lake to hold irrigation water – the course is currently irrigated from two boreholes, pumping water in real time. Having the lake will create a buffer – we’ll be able to pump during the day and water at night.”

“The course is built on sand and on the higher part of the golf course the sand meets USGA specifications,” said contractor David Nelson. “But the water table in the lower part of the site is quite high, so building there will be a challenge.”

“The holes I built in 2009 were between 3-7m above sea level,” confirmed Althaus. “The area we’re working in now is between 1-6m, and the water table is at 1.5m, so we have to raise the levels. The new holes will be more low profile than the dunes we built last time around, and will generally have larger greens. Last time the work was rather like playing in a sandbox. This time, it is more complicated, with much more engineering required.”

The project is valued at close to €1 million. “The golf club is making a considerable investment in building the new holes and we hope at the end to have one of the finest golf courses for in Germany”, said Dr Joachim Schweim, the club’s president. The work started in January and is scheduled to be completed by August. German firm Perrot-Regnerbau is handling the irrigation system.