Richardson Begins Swedish Project
(06-2009)

(from Golf Course Architecture Magazine)


Håkan and Monika Rasmusson study the early plans for S:t Hans Golf Club located in the south of Sweden.

(Lund, Sweden) Forrest Richardson has spent the past 20 years focusing on a variety of project types, perhaps more diverse than most other practicing golf architects. There have been high end resort courses, but also the public courses for small towns. There have been noted restorations, such as the Wigwam Resort in Arizona where the once-thriving design strategy of Robert Trent Jones, Sr. had all but vanished below too many trees and incredible shrinking greens. And, not to forget, there have been the rebuilds where Richardson has taken long-forgotten layouts and replaced them with highly creative and revenue producing re-makes, each embodying his flair for creative greens and unusual holes. Now he turns yet another diversity — expanding his work beyond North and Central America.

Just a short drive north of Copenhagen is the quiet and historic university town of Lund, Sweden. On the edge of the town center Richardson has been routing what will become a new breed of golf course for Sweden: A daily fee course that is both creative and yet highly accessible. While much of the newer golf development in Sweden has gone far toward the limits of high end, expensive and semi-private, the S:t Hans Golf Club will embrace local players through annual memberships, yet will remain solidly a fixture for the public at large. The vision for S:t Hans has also been to break the mold in Sweden for affordable golf. Until now many of the public play courses in Sweden are quite content to be rather mundane layouts with little creativity.

The S:t Hans project is being developed by Håkan and Monika Rasmusson, seasoned golf course operators who currently serve the public via their 9-hole Varpinge Golf Course, also in Lund. “Our aim for S:t Hans is to use the land in an economical and ecological sustainable manner so we can hand it over to the next generation of Rasmussons,” says Håkan.

Expounding on that theme, the Rasmussons gave Richardson as series of directives to convert the gently sloping farmland into what will become the most centrally located course to the city center of Lund: “Make an interesting course for all players…Set a good example in how to build and maintain a quality course, without being pretentious…Do something ‘different’ for Sweden that is anything but boring… Take pace-of-play into consideration right from the start…Build a course mainly for the members (residents in Lund,) but also to attract green fee guests from out of town…Create a course which can be played in many different manors with loops of 3, 6 or 12 holes, not just two nines…create a terrific practice area…and, Make it affordable…”

The site Richardson inherits is a rectangular farm with a series of wetlands and some interesting features. Six old gravel pits remain as sunken ponds and a Bronze Era burial mound protrudes above the landscape. “At first they were puzzle pieces that didn’t seem to fit,” notes Richardson, “but we soon realized their charm is all about the farming legacy that has carried on for hundreds of years.”

Currently Richardson is completing development of the routing plan that will form S:t Hans. The plan incorporates the unusual sunken ponds with a series of open ditches that will borrow much of their look and feel from Oakmont. An old barn will be relocated to part of the site and will be used to house fertilizer and equipment for the course. But, in the name of efficiency, Richardson will also use this barn as a feature. “The concept for S:t Hans is to celebrate the agricultural aspect of the land,” he explains. “We are incorporating the landscape of the area with the new landscape of golf. My goal is to set the course into the land so it feels as if the golfer has stumbled onto an old course created on an old farm.”

In one area of the land, in order to avoid any grading disturbance of the burial mound, Richardson plans on goats to graze below the pile of rocks. But, there’s more. To separate the goats from the golfers he plans on building a “goat ladder” so the goats can get back and forth without potentially escaping to the fairways. “Golf should be entertaining,” says Richardson. “Missing from the highly homogenized layouts of the past 40 years are bits and pieces that help make courses different from one another.” Richardson has been outspoken on the role of modern golf architects and a trend to inject only subtle differences into courses. “On many modern golf courses it is possible to blindfold a player, plop him down on any given fairway, and then watch as he tries to discern what hole you have placed him,” he points out. “Subtle design is appropriate, but courses and holes deserve a chance to stand apart and be counted. We owe it to golf to create memorable experiences on courses that are truly one of a kind.”

The Rasmussons have been working on theie vision for several years. Swedish designer Claes Lind, who passed away in 2006, completed preliminary plans for S:t Hans that allowed the project to make its way through early planning approvals. After Lind died Håkan was faced with having to make a change. His ultimate decision was to look beyond Sweden to expound on the innovations Lind had worked into the early planning.

In addition to meeting the Rasmusson’s requirement for loops and a major practice venue, Richardson has injected some design nuances that are bound to get noticed. Of note among these is the series of holes 15, 16 and 17 — each par-3s — where Richardson explains, “We simply looked at routing after routing and the most interesting one was the has these three one-shot holes instead of a more forced series of holes.” The par-3s each face a different direction, each play to widely varying yardage, and each have very different hazards. “It may seem odd when you look at the scorecard,” says Richardson, “but I think the golfer will recognize the fun in facing three potential holes-in-one as the round comes to a close. The more time I spend with the routing, the more it feels right to me.”

S:t Hans continues it way along a methodical approval process. The next steps are specific approvals for the entry road, clubhouse site and change in land use. In early 2009 the General Plan for Lund was released showing the new golf course along with other land uses to define the future for the community. A construction timetable is not defined for S:t Hans, although everyone seems hopeful that 2010 will mark a significant graduation for the project, moving it from planning to point that bids can be secured for the work that lies ahead.

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