A new nine-hole golf course, designed by Edwin Roald and operated by Sigló Hotel in Siglufjörður, Iceland, has opened for its first full season of play.
The project began in 2009 when Roald, in the midst of the financial crisis, decided to donate 100 working hours to rural golf clubs in Iceland. The Siglufjörður Golf Club, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2020, contacted Roald about improving its course.
“Ideas even included the possible relocation to a new site, across the river,” said Roald. “We developed the concept of a multifunctional recreational area, with facilities for golf, horse riding and other forms of general outdoor life. This got a positive reaction from the municipality, but the project didn’t really take off until local investor, entrepreneur and developer Róbert Gudfinnsson, and his tourism and leisure development company Raudka, gave it wings through funding and other means of support.”
Raudka has invested in improvements to the town’s attractions and infrastructure to strengthen the fishing village as a tourist destination.
“The town provided various resources, including land, the irrigation water source and some funds that were allocated to the rehabilitation of an abandoned gravel quarry that we made sure to include in the golf course design,” said Roald.
Construction started in June 2012 with most bulk earthworks completed in 2016. The course has been growing-in since and was opened for preview play in 2018.
“Of all the projects I have taken on in my 18 years of work in golf course architecture, this is the one which I have been the most heavily involved in,” said Roald. “I was deeply involved in the whole process, from the development of the first concept, through all the preliminary phases of planning, permitting and the like. I performed the detail design mostly in the field, alongside my role as a construction manager. My on-site involvement then gradually decreased as we transitioned from bulk earthworks to grow-in.”
The par 35 layout measures just under 3,000 yards. It sits partially in the gravel quarry, at the intersection of the Hólsá and Leyningsá rivers.
“It is short and sweet, combining entertainment for golfers of all skill levels with the unparalleled sights and sounds; the mountain amphitheatre, the perfectly aligned horizon at the fjord’s mouth that mirrors the midnight sun and paints the sky in bright pink, the distant roar of the waterfall, the crashing rapids of the river, and the birdies.
“Of course, only time can tell how the course will be received by players, but the elements that I expect will stand out are holes five through eight. These include two consecutive short par threes at holes six and seven. The sixth asks you for a delicate pitch into a narrow clearing in a mature pine plantation, which is a paradise in its own right. You then arrive at the seventh after a walk, slightly downhill, along the plantation and crashing rapids of one of the two rivers. You are then offered a sub-100-yard shot downhill to a large island green with Sigló’s most iconic mountain, Hólshyrna, as a backdrop.”
Roald oversaw a sustainable approach to the design. To keep plastic use to a minimum, a disused municipal water mains pipe was dug up and used for pond overflows. “Some of the culverts that allow you to cross streams and rivers are actually old dryers from the town’s old herring plant. All the gravel for construction was sourced from within the site, and course signage is made of wood from the plantation,” said Roald.
“The project has restored and enhanced the fish habitat. Part of the course was designed so that its construction would require certain specific earthwork deemed necessary for the rehabilitation of an abandoned gravel quarry at the intersection of two rivers.”
The lowering of the quarry and river floor through years of gravel extraction had increased the rivers’ gradient, making it harder for fish to migrate upstream and caused the river to ‘compensate’ by eroding its banks further up. This increased sediment load and compounded the loss of topsoil, which may be considered Iceland’s largest environmental problem.
To help rehabilitate the land, and to restore and enhance aquatic habitats – mostly those of sea-run arctic charr – one of the two rivers was partially rerouted. This was done to reclaim the river’s pre-quarry gradient, allowing fish to migrate to their lost upstream habitats where they breed and grow. The ability of fish to migrate upstream is important if we are to maintain healthy fish populations.”
Roald says that the island green par-three seventh would never have been conceived, had it not been for the ecological need to absorb the river’s energy and split its current. “This means that the course owes its most distinguishing feature to this effort,” said Roald.
The driveable fifth hole hugs the ruins of an old farm that dates to the 1400s. “The new course and its operations promise to facilitate effective monitoring and maintenance of these and other archaeological remains,” said Roald. “Linking them to public footpaths and erecting educational signs on their origins is yet another way for golf to exercise true, meaningful social responsibility.”