The beginning of August had a surprise in store for Golf Club Engelberg above Lucerne in the Swiss Alps.
Strong rains on July 29th led to a landslide of rock and scrub which tore down the mountain side, veered out of the normal creek bed and came ripping across one portion of the golf course. Then three days later another storm brought down more rock and with it an enormous quantity of silt which covered greens, tees and fairways. In total, 12 of the 18 holes were touched by the torrential flooding, with 4 holes hit badly!
“Water is one thing”, says René Rinderknecht of Golf Club Engelberg, “but rock is quite another! We had over 2m of rock covering green No. 7! It was unbelievable, but then again, we are surrounded by mountains. We knew that there was an avalanche path but even if you are aware of it, you never really expect it to happen. It reminds you of the danger and the importance of designing to minimize any future damage.”
That is where Steiner & Partner came in. Within hours of the event, Erich Steiner was on site looking for solutions with the golf club. “It was impressive to say the least” said the golf course architect. “We have been working with Engelberg for a couple of years to develop a renovation masterplan, but suddenly things have become pretty urgent. We have had to change strategy and start to think more about how to protect the golf playing surfaces instead of how to improve the golf holes.”
Steiner & Partner and partner (re)GOLF have been redesigning for the last couple of weeks as shapers and foresters have been slowly removing the rock and wood. “A couple of greens and one set of tees which were not on the list of changes will now have to be raised and re-designed”, says David Bily of Steiner & Partner. “It changes your priorities and makes you think big picture.”
The main change is the creation of a wide swale which will hopefully guide any future storm water away from the expensive tees and greens. “It’s an important measure for the protection of the golf course and if we do it right we should be able to work it into the playing strategy and interest of these holes in question, says Paul O’Brien of (re)GOLF. Sometimes you can turn a problem into an opportunity, and I think that’s what we are doing here”.
Now, four weeks after the storms, the damaged areas have been cleared of debris, re-shaped and re-sodded. “We had a deadline to meet with a big tournament on August 25th and 26th, says René Rinderknecht, and thanks to the team of architects, contractors and exceptional support from the club members, we could actually play the 18 hole golf course. It’s amazing!”
But there is still more to do and Engelberg will continue to implement the proposed masterplan this year in the other areas hit by the flooding, wherever it makes sense to do so. “Normally the planning process moves rather slowly in Switzerland, smiles Erich Steiner, but when you get an event like this everything speeds up ten-fold.”
Golf Club Engelberg https://golfclub-engelberg.ch
Steiner & Partner www.steinerpartner.com
(re)GOLF Design www.regolfdesign.com