Excellence at entry level

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    Steiner & Partner extended the short course at Golfpark Oberkirch to nine holes

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    At Golfpark Holzhäusern, the architect firm introduced The Alps putting green, inspired by the Himalayas at St Andrews

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    The third hole on the par-three course at Holzhäusern

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    One of the three new giant greens at Holzhäusern – nearly 900 square metres

By David Bily

This article first appeared in the October 2019 issue of Golf Course Architecture. For a printed subscription or free digital edition, please visit our subscriptions page.

In the last 25 years, Swiss supermarket chain Migros has built eight different public golf facilities across the country, offering golfing experiences ranging from putting greens to full 18-hole courses. In doing so, they have taken a big step in making golf more accessible, because of the public nature of the facilities and that they are often short courses. It is good thing for the future of golf in Switzerland.

Short courses take less time to play and are easier for beginners entering the game. Steiner & Partner designed and built its first pitch-and-putt course at Ruswil in the early 2000s. Since this first project, we have continued to propose simpler short courses in harmony with the environment.

The small extension at Migro’s Golfpark Oberkirch is one example where a club is investing in shorter golf alternatives and, in doing so they are contributing to creating a gateway to golf for young, old and new players to learn and play the game under their motto, ‘golf for everyone’.

This particular project at Oberkirch involved extending an existing short course from six to nine holes, with two par fours and one par three designed by Steiner & Partner in collaboration with (re)GOLF. These new holes bring something extra to the existing layout, providing different challenges to the higher handicapper while offering fair and playable holes. The new downhill par three is only 110 yards but it’s tricky. Designed as an infinity green, it will see long balls in certain trouble. It provides a different challenge and makes players think.

The two par four holes each provide very different feelings; one uphill with very little direct visibility to the green, while the other plays downhill. A creek crossing the fairway at about halfway between tee and green offers higher-handicap golfers some food for thought and keeps the game interesting, without being too punishing.

Last year Oberkirch also finished construction of a pitch-and-putt course that we designed around their existing practice range. Golfers can use traditional equipment or play FunGolf with a larger, lighter ball and a simple multi-purpose club. This course is one of Migro’s main venues for initiating ‘not yet’ golfers to the game.

Our firm has also been working with Golfpark Holzhäusern since 2005 on numerous renovation projects, with the goal of making the course more playable for all levels and more cost effective to maintain. In recent years, it has also focused on renovating and extending practice and short course facilities – now offering one of the finest golf academies in Switzerland.

The Swiss version of St Andrews’ Himalayas putting green was the first step in this process, finished in 2017 and called The Alps. A co-design between Steiner & Partner and (re)GOLF, this fun practice green right beside the restaurant and clubhouse is a great way to bring new golfers into the game.

But the big work at Holzhäusern has been the complete redesign of the new training academy. The new building at the heart of this project integrates the proshop, meeting rooms and club and cart storage together with a double-decker driving range. Surrounding this new building is an enormous putting green, chipping green and pitching green complex.

Steiner & Partner has converted the six-hole executive course into a nine-hole par-three course with the addition of three new tee complexes and three new giant greens – nearly 900 square metres each. The idea behind these monster greens is to place two pins on each green, one with a regulation size hole and the other with a 15-inch diameter hole. Golfers playing together can opt for the pin that is appropriate for their ability. Of course, the larger greens also allowed us to design some interesting contours and fun putting. We hope that the larger green surfaces will give golfers a better chance of hitting the green, more satisfaction, and increase the likelihood of them returning for more.

If we want to welcome more players to the sport, we simply need to offer more attractive entry experiences.

David Bily is a golf course architect at Steiner & Partner