|Successful Swedes Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall|
Vasatorp Golfklubb continues its long tradition of hosting championship golf on September 5-8, 2013 when it welcomes a contingent of prominent professionals of the Ladies European Tour, led by Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall and Anna Nordqvist, heroines of the triumphant European Solheim Cup team to the Helsingborg Open, which will be played on Vasatorp’s Tournament Course.
Consistently rated among Sweden’s Top Ten Courses since its opening in 2008, the Tournament Course (called “TC” for short) was designed by the American golf designer Steve Forrest, Chairman of Hills & Forrest, International Golf Course Architects. The TC’s overwhelming success also persuaded Vasatorp to invite Forrest to completely redesign its Old, or “Gamla” Course. Now known as the Classic Course, this second major design project by Forrest at Vasatorps opened this summer to the same glowing accolades that the Tournament Course received when it debuted.
Vasatorp’s original course produced champions such as Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman and Sandy Lyle, during the era when the Scandinavian Enterprise Open and Vasatorp were credited with establishing golf in Sweden as a spectator sport. The Club’s standards and ambitions were always high and its influence on Swedish golf was substantial. The success of Vasatorp’s original tournament was a key component in launching Sweden’s spectacularly successful player development movement. Gabriel Hjertstedt, the first Swede to win on the U.S. PGA Tour, was a product of Vasatorp’s own junior program. The European Ladies Tour revisited Vasatorp for the Compaq Open in 2002, but the course they played then is now a distant memory. The same will soon be said of the “Gamla.”
Vasatorp now boasts 54 holes of golf, presenting four distinct golf experiences to members and guests: the club’s classic British parkland 18, a full length 9-hole course with a moor character, a newly opened 9-hole short course (designed by Sellberg), and the Tournament Course from Hills/Forrest.
With the Tournament Course, Vasatorp looks to burnish its already lustrous place at the center of Swedish golf. “Attracting top-quality professional tournaments, of course, depends not merely on the quality of the golf course, but on financial support, as well,” noted Ove Sellberg, manager of golf at Vasatorp and the first Swede to win on the European Tour. “There are many fine courses in Sweden — many fine new courses — and several have championship aspirations. However, Hills/Forrest has created for us a golf course difficult enough, strategic enough and beautiful enough to keep Vasatorp in these championship conversations for many years to come, and, most important, they have created a golf course that members and guests will enjoy playing day in and day out.”
Under the direction of Hills/Forrest partner and principal Steve Forrest, ground was broken at Vasatorp in mid-December 2005. Forrest completely reimagined nine existing holes and created nine entirely new ones to form the new 18.
“This project was indeed part renovation, part new design. But our remaking of the existing nine holes is so extensive, it’s more accurate to call it a brand new 18-hole course,” says Forrest, immediate past president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects. “As one gathers from Vasatorp’s history, the club has maintained an interest in improving the facility, expanding it and attracting prestigious tournaments. The course we’ve designed here does all three things.
“We’re helping Vasatorp do something similar to what we helped Inverness do: upgrade its championship-hosting capabilities. The difference is that, in order to meet this goal, we’re creating a new championship venue as opposed to refining an existing one.”
Stylistically, the existing nine-hole property is accented by stands of beautiful mature trees — oaks and towering, old pines — while the new nine has been routed on open land using a linksland theme, with spectator mounding separating the playing corridors. It’s going to be long enough to test the world’s best players — some 6,700 meters, or 7,300 yards — but Forrest believes competitors, spectators and club members will be most struck by the variety of strategic challenges.
Two of the more interesting holes include the short par-4 8th and the beastly, par-4 13th.
“The two-level green on 8 is neatly positioned at the end of a tranquil lake that lines the entire left side of the fairway, in a lovely wooded setting,” the architect muses. “The bold player can aim for the putting surface and try to avoid the water and a couple gaping bunkers. Others will lay back, but have a much longer approach shot to the undulating putting surface.
“On 13, the water hazard is on the right side of a fairway that meanders across an open linkscape. It’s a long par-4 but it plays like a short, double dogleg par-5 — with a second water hazard protecting the left side of the green complex. A towering, bunker-riddled mound right of the green and the prevailing wind makes a tough hole even tougher.
“These holes will be gallery favorites, I’m sure. I like them because they typify all the holes at Vasatorp: there are countless ways to play the holes well, and countless ways to play them poorly.”
Some 35 Hills & Forrest designs have hosted Ladies European Tour, PGA Tour, European PGA Tour, Champions Tour, LPGA Tour, USGA and PGA of America events. Among its European courses is Oitavos Dunes, a 2002 Hills & Forrest design and #65 on Golf’s Top 100 List. Oitavos Dunes was home to the European PGA Tour’s Open of Portugal from 2005-2009, and hosted the Portugal Ladies Open in 2003.