Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest and Associates, which continues to rank among the busiest and most cosmopolitan course designers in the business, has a refurbishment project in Oslo to add to its portfolio of 130 renovations worldwide.
In the Norwegian capital, ground was broken this Autumn on a major renovation of Oslo Golfklubb, the country’s oldest, most prestigious course and home club to LPGA star Suzanne Petterson. Hills/Forrest partner Steve Forrest is directing the $10 million project, alongside Oslo GK superintendent John Riiber. The course will reopen for play in July 2008.
“We’re authoring some major changes in the course routing and feature work, but serious turf and drainage issues prompted this project and addressing those issues is the main order of business,” said Forrest. “The season is so short over here, and the property was so wet, that the only months when they could accommodate sustained member play were July and August. Something had to be done.”
What Forrest devised was a series of 360-degree, spoke-and-wheel drainage systems underlying the entire golf course, complemented by a extensive sand-capping in the fairways – a measure usually reserved for putting surfaces. The architect’s master plan also calls for a thorough rebunkering of the 18-hole course; the reconfiguring of several holes to eliminate blind shots; and the recontouring of nearly every putting surface, including the relocation of the 16th green to the edge of a beautiful, expansive, picture-postcard lake.
Forrest is also particularly pleased with the redesign of no. 14, a short par-4 that had doglegged awkwardly around a grove of trees and virtually ignored the large lake to its left; when Oslo GK reopens, members will find a tantalizing, peekaboo, driveable par-4 with a green perched at water’s edge.
“It’s been fascinating working with Steve Forrest on our project,” said Oslo GK President Einar Skogstad. “He has used tremendous skill to renovate our golf course. When it’s finished, it will be amongst the top golf courses in Scandinavia. The way Steve has redesigned holes 11, 12, 13, 14 and 16 – and brought the river, our spectacular waterfall and Bogstad Lake more into play – is just fantastic. Our members, all 2,000 of them, are looking forward to playing our ‘new’ course in 2008.”
Forrest acknowledges that without the extraordinary drainage improvements, none of this design work would have been worth doing.
“There was no sense in bettering the golf experience if that experience lasted only two months a year,” Forrest said. “It’s an amazing drainage system, to be honest Â¬ – the most extensive and expensive I’ve ever seen. It’s what made this a $10 million project. Of course, the U.S. dollar has rarely been weaker and you can spend $30 on a hamburger here! Oslo is a wonderful city but it’s definitely the most expensive place I’ve been, save a few specific parts of downtown Manhattan.”
Forrest is the current president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects (his term runs until March 2008), but he may also be one of the busiest architects in Europe too. Course architecture cognoscenti can’t stop gushing over his two recent Swedish designs – Sand Golf Club, just more than year old but already ranked by Golf Digest among the world’s Top 100 courses outside the United States (#82), and Hills Golf Club, named by Travel+Leisure Golf magazine among the top 10 courses to open worldwide in 2005. His new course at Vasatorp GK, near Helsingborg, will open in June 2008 and ground was broken this autumn on Forest Hills, an 18-hole resort track outside Moscow.
Indeed, Forrest was originally referred to the board at Oslo GK by a client in Sweden, and the Scandinavian connections remain strong. Course construction in Oslo is being handled by Swedish course contractor MS Golf, and Forrest freely admits his previous work in Scandinavia has informed and assisted this Norwegian project, AHSF’s first.
“Oslo is even further north than Gothenburg, but the climates are similar, which helped in the specification of grass types,” said Forrest, who noted that he and Superintendent Riiber went with bentgrass wall to wall, and a rough mix of fescue, rye and barcampsia, a Barenbrug product and the first commercially available cultivar of tufted hairgrass.
“It was also a blessing to work in Norway with the same contractor we had worked alongside in Sweden, MS Golf. This saved time and ensured quality because MS Golf knows of our obsession with quality and had implemented the same hyper levels of drainage at Hills GC, though not quite so much of it. And together we had sand-capped the entire site at Sand GC, which has moved that process along efficiently in Oslo.”
Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest and Associates www.arthurhills.com