The recent KPMG Golf Business Forum in Cyprus indicated that the Czech Republic has been a great growth market for golf over the last five years, reports Trevor Ledger, although one of the delegates, Jonathan Gaunt, did not need telling. Originally designed by Gaunt and Marnoch Limited, Golf Resort Brno Jinacovice was handed over to chief executive Vladimir Plasil in June.
The 27-hole golf course development in the Moravia region marks a first for both Gaunt personally and also his newly formed Gaunt Golf Design – the company created after his amicable split from former partner, Steve Marnoch.
“There was already a .rudimentary. nine-hole course on site before I was brought in,” said Gaunt. “Having assessed that site and undertaken careful consultation with the local authorities (the project is partially owned by Brno City), it was decided to build the new course over it, even though the R&A provided the original owner with a grant of £50,000 towards the development. The new layout takes full advantage of the site’s potential.”
With 1,000 members already signed up at Jinacovice and golfing tourists able to arrive via daily Ryanair flights from Stansted to Brno, the future for Gaunt’s first adventure in this golfing ‘hotspot’ looks set to be successful. A mere two and a half hours from Prague and a one and a half hour drive from Vienna, Brno is ideally situated to expand on the Czech plan to increased tourism.
If the Czech Republic is an example of a modern tourist growth model, then Gaunt’s involvement in the project is a mirror in terms of how the contract was gained and how the design took shape. “The first we heard of the potential job was via an email received in Spring 2003 after the client had trawled the net and looked at our website,” explained Gaunt. “Masterplanning of the site started in September 2004 after some two months of detailed negotiations on contract details – written in Czech and English.
“Work started on site early May 2005 and continued through to July without much rain. Then we had about four weeks of storms which put us seriously behind schedule. Finally work continued and the seeding works on the first nine-holes and driving range were done by November 2005. Then it snowed and didn’t stop until May 2006; the worst winter for 50 years.”
That so much progress was made despite such conditions is testimony to the hi-tech drawings employed by Gaunt and Marnoch (and, subsequently, Gaunt Golf Design) and the expertise of golf course project manager, Chris Johnson, who has been working in Europe, Africa and the Middle East managing golf course construction projects for over 25 years.
“The project would probably have taken twice as long to build without Chris’s involvement,” Gaunt declared. “The major contractor on the project was Kalab – a local civil engineering contractor, also responsible for building the new airport terminal at Brno, but with no experience of building golf courses. With Johnson on site the work ran smoothly. He worked closely with the Polish and Czech shapers and they worked with the other, less-specialist, machine operators.”
Gaunt was more than happy with the construction team. “Kalab worked very well under difficult conditions and dovetailed well with the irrigation contractor – Profigrass, as well as the drainage and finishing works teams,” he said.
The resulting golf courses are reminiscent of Gaunt designs across the UK – Redlibbets and Ramside springing to mind – as the bold undulations of the Brno site are surveyed. Gaunt has designed a resort course that takes full advantage of a rolling, parkland terrain and reflects the dramatic Czech landscape, with large rolling fairways, strategically located bunkers and water features, providing stunning waterside green positions. Probably the most challenging is the 18th green, flanked as it is by two large lakes, overlooked by the new clubhouse on the hillside.
The course is flanked by mature oak forests that are inhabited by deer and goats. Birds of prey and wildfowl haunt the fringes and careful specification of rough grasses create a motion and flow to the course that has become a trademark of the Gaunt design over the last twenty years.
“Our client was, admittedly, taking a bit of a risk bringing in a British golf course architect to a region of Central Europe that is not considered a golf destination. What he wanted to achieve here, though, was a golf course that would be universally appealing,” said Gaunt.
Given the high quality of the site, he has achieved this – that is certain. The first nine-holes and driving range open for play in September 2006 with the remaining 18 and six-hole academy planned for opening in July 2007. Gaunt is looking forward to the date with very high hopes.
“The standard of construction is actually higher than I have worked to in the UK on hotel and country club standard courses. So, it will stand the test of time and will be fun, exciting and challenging to play. We have three composite layouts within the 27 holes, offering a variety of routes and starting points.
“It’s built to a standard that would allow the client to host a professional tournament, and in my opinion, is certainly in the top-ten in terms of construction quality in the Czech Republic,” concluded Gaunt.
This article is published by kind permission of Golf Management Europe
Gaunt Golf Design www.gaunt-golf-design.com