An 18-hole golf course at Borg in the Grimsnes region, nestled right in the heart of Iceland‘s most popular weekend getaway, is for sale. The unusual thing is that the course has not been opened, since two holes and three other greens have yet to be built to make up the numbers.
Iceland is one of the world‘s most vibrant golfing nations, where more than 10% of the 320-thousand population is reported to play golf on almost seventy courses, although many of the nation’s rural courses are nine-holers. Contrary to popular belief, golf in Iceland owes much of its popularity to the country‘s sustainable global position. Summer daylight is abundant, giving the working men and women a choice of all seven days in the week to play as well as setting the stage for an unforgettable midnight golf experience. The southern region in particular offers a suitable climate for sustainable golf management, resulting in low construction and maintenance costs – the cornerstones of affordable public golf.
For course designer Edwin Roald sustainability is the name of the game. At Borg, 70 kilometres from the capital Reykjavik, the course‘s proposed strategic bunkers will feature local red volcanic pumice as a substitute for the more conventional light-tan coloured sand. The unique, coarse, and firm material is expected to challenge better players around the greens while proving easier for most other golfers to escape from, contributing to faster play.
This choice of material is an integral part of the project‘s sustainability programme, where carbon emissions are reduced by reducing the hauling distance for construction materials. Furthermore, sand for the construction of greens and tees has been extracted from the site itself.
A premium on player entertainment
Although the proposed golf course measures around 6,400 m (7,000 yards) from the back tees – a strong number on a breezy course with six par-threes and a par of 70 – its design has focused on entertaining the average player, on variety and speedy play. The wide fairways – draped across some very interesting and gently rolling terrain – are deceptive in their demand for accuracy since the firm fescue greens feature a variety of hole locations that are only attacked from prime fairway locations. Walks from green to tee are unusually short, and only once do two consecutive holes play in the same direction, the first being a par-five and the other a par-three.
Missing piece in the puzzle
The project has been in development for a decade. The original plan included a total of 17 cottages in two isolated clusters, to be operated partially as an apartment hotel, managed from the clubhouse. In 2008, the developer lost its land in foreclosure, starting a period of three years where the site saw little or no activity. The half-built course was vulnerable to wind erosion, causing significant inconvenience to the local population and businesses, including the nearby swimming pool, indoor sports hall, fitness facilities, elementary school and other components which indeed play an interesting role in forming an attractive overall concept for the project. For Borg, the proposed golf course and related facilities, such as a hotel and restaurant, could prove to be the missing pieces in the puzzle, turning the village of Borg into an complete, ideal destination for families to live in or visit.
Minimizing erosion was pivotal in the municipality‘s decision to buy the property and take the project nearer to completion. It was never the council‘s intention to operate a golf course. Having achieved this goal, the council now seeks offers from interested buyers,” says Gunnar Thorgrimsson, chairman of the Municipality of Grimsnes & Grafningur. Enquiries are to be directed to its official e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Central to Iceland’s bursting tourism activity
An interested buyer will be looking at 59 hectares of land – 143 acres – in the middle of Iceland‘s most popular weekend getaway, right along the highway linking the Reykjavik to the Geysir hot spring and Gullfoss waterfall, the country‘s most popular destinations in a tourism industry that seems to be growing beyond control. Therefore, a vast majority of those who visit Iceland for the first time can hardly avoid noticing the course.
A demo cottage is already in place, located perfectly for it to serve as a clubhouse, either temporary or permanent depending on the new developer‘s vision. The deal also includes access to the on-site construction materials for the few tees and greens that are yet to be built, meaning that no materials need to be brought in, with the exception of the nearby red bunker material.
Planning permits have been granted for both hotel and golf course, meaning that nothing should stop a potential buyer from developing such additional components.
A design fusion: Classic meets the exotic
Course designer Edwin Roald says that to finish the course, two holes and two other greens need to be built almost entirely from scratch, with two others half-built. Other greens were seeded in late summer of 2012, shortly after the seeding of fairways and roughs, which proved very successful, thanks to favourable conditions. They were cut twice in 2012. Only one green is needed to make up a loop of nine holes that can be opened before the full eighteen are introduced. In addition to the final shaping and grassing of tees, the course has yet to get its finishing touches, including the installation of bunker material and the usual clean-up works that you normally schedule alongside the grow-in stage,” says Roald.
The municipality is not revealing an asking price. However, the designer, who has been involved from the start, has kept his fingers right on the project‘s pulse. Roald explains that to date, the project’s development costs amount to around two million dollars. He emphasizes that a developer who wants to come into the project will of course need to invest beyond the actual purchase to get the ball rolling. „This cost depends on the developer‘s vision. This is always a question of how far you feel you need to go to reach your desired quality and concept. I would estimate that to open eighteen good golf holes and start trading, although from the temporary clubhouse, a further investment of another two million dollars may be desirable,“ says Roald, who describes the course as a fusion of classic golf architecture and Iceland‘s exotic volcanic landscape, and therefore one of a kind.