Pirkkala in Finland selects project team for new nine

  • Pirkkala Golf
    Pirkkala Golf

    Kari Haug and Tim Lobb pictured with Pirkkala’s chairman Mika Viitaharju and general manager Markus Junni

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Golf Pirkkala in Finland is to extend its facilities from 18 to 27 holes and has hired a team comprising of architects Tim Lobb and Kari Haug plus Kai Hulkkonen and Jim Ferguson of Turnkey Golf, a development and project management firm.

Pirkkala, which was founded in 2007, is near the city of Tampere. The club has an 18-hole course designed by Kosti Kuronen and has Finland’s largest junior golf programme, with 500 junior members.

Hulkkonen has been working with Pirkkala for some time, investigating opportunities for the club to expand. With his help, and with the participation of the local municipality, the club has acquired around 75 acres of new land bordering the existing property.

Haug specialises in designing courses that are playable for golfers of all abilities. “Kari and I have talked about working together for a long time,” said Lobb. “We met at European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA) meetings and built a close relationship at EIGCA board meetings when I became the institute’s president. I quickly realised that this was the perfect project for us to partner on, and asked her if she was interested – which, thankfully, she was.”

Haug said: “The tender documents made specific mention of the needs of the club’s junior and senior membership. But in our response, we went much further – we said we wanted to focus on all the golfers who don’t hit it far to make sure their game is as much fun. The course has to be open and inclusive for all the different body types who are going to play the golf course, so we will install forward tees to give everyone a choice of length to play. We will include rest stops along the way where needed, which is very important at Pirkkala, because the terrain is hilly, and the average age of members is 59 – and a lot of them are finding it harder to walk the course.

“We are extending the golfing life at both ends – we see golf as a lifetime sport. I call my approach ‘Playable Pathways’; the way we lay out our forward tees ensures that each tee has a suitable landing area. We also ensure that the ground game is playable, and hazards encountered are surmountable if in the pathway to the green. We also want an accessible green for the incoming shot of the slower swing speed player. Not every woman or senior plays the game the same way, so we need more than one forward tee to make it as playable as possible. There must be a pathway from the tee to the green, but the hole’s strategy might not be the same from each tee.”

The site is hilly, rocky and in some areas forested. “We are hoping to sandcap certain areas, but we are going to have to use the native soil, and we don’t yet have a clear idea of what it is like – except that it is pretty rocky,” said Ferguson, who will serve as project manager. “For the forest holes, the clearing is not going to be straightforward because of the nesting period for the native birds. We have to stop clearing trees in the spring to allow the birds to nest. But it is a very exciting project – the club is being extremely proactive in the actions it is taking to secure its future. I have never seen a junior section like this one!”

The club’s general manager Markus Junni said: “This is a vital project to make the club sustainable in the long term. We have a very large membership with a huge demand for golf and we look forward to seeing what the team – which we believe is an outstanding one – comes up with.”

Construction is expected to begin in summer 2024.