More than half a million people play golf regularly in Sweden; Parnevik and now Henrik Stenson have made top ten world rankings. The country may not be blessed with an ideal golfing climate, but it is one of the games' rising stars.
The prowess of Sweden's top professionals is more than matched by its technology, especially in the provision of training: witness the new Halmstad Golf Arena. Two years ago it was decided to embark on this ground breaking project which would lead the world in imaginative all year round facilities. Last April work began and handover is due later this year. What is pleasing to the British golf course industry is that one of our major sports turf contractors, Souters Sports Ltd. and its irrigation division Souters Irrigation Services Ltd. (SISL), whose work had hitherto been confined to these shores, has played a major part in its development alongside main contractor Irish-based SOL.
The new Golf Arena is on Sweden's South West coast, 600 metres from the Nordic Sea shared with Denmark. We can be sure that many PGA Pros and professional players will use the facilities and what marks it out from other top level outdoor facilities is that it offers infinite variability of 'golfing situations', a world apart from what is associated with indoor simulators. What makes the Arena unique is that golfers will be able to play each green from different positions and there are ten different angles for tee-off positions.
Architect of the project is Christian Lundin, an associate member of EIGCA. All design work has been handled by his company (re)GOLF, who have offices in Sweden, Ireland and Canada, although the work for the Halmstad Golf Arena was handled through their Swedish office in Gothenburg. He says the idea has been to create a links character for the state of the art training complex, and he was very much inspired by Scottish courses.
Cumbernauld and Knutsford based Souters Sports' have worked successfully on many a Scottish course so its involvement in the Halmstad project was entirely appropriate.
The focal point of the17 hectare site is a 365-metre range flanked by grass tees. Surrounding the range is a short game area where golfers can hit balls up to 140 metres. In the centre is a 2170 square metre green. There is also a practice hole with four greens and nine tees. A sports academy building includes high tech swing studios, and adjacent to this are a 1579 square metre putting green and a 1950 square metre chipping green with bunkers to suit all levels of ability. Some of the greens even have under soil heating, and driving off is assured all year round from sheltered and heated tees - a sure way of defeating Sweden's harsh winter and keeping the ball rolling. Perhaps the high spot of the project is an area about the size of a football pitch modelled on the St Andrews Old Course 'Himalayas'. Here, amateurs and pros can be tested by a variety of challenges.
Souters Irrigation Services Ltd., having been set up in late 2009, secured the contract for the irrigation installation following attendance at irrigation system manufacturer Hunter Industries global meeting in San Diego last Spring where Hunters John Shepherd introduced Souters Sales and Technical Manager Robert Smith to Peter Johansson, MD of Ostorps Bevattning AB. The Swedish company had earlier been appointed to design and supply the irrigation system for the whole of the Halmstad Golf Arena site and looked to draw upon SISL's experience with the clients' main requirements for the system being a fully automated, wall to wall, valve in head system.
Hunters Golf product range was marked out as an ideal candidate for the job. The Hunter sprinkler selected to cover the majority of the site was the Hunter G875E, along with Hunters 'Surveyor' PC based central control system overseeing 8 zones of irrigation. This was the first time the 'Surveyor' system has been used in Sweden. Surveyor is described as combining user-friendly simplicity with high tech accuracy, a system that can grow into a fully-fledged, weather-driven, flow-balanced interactive map.
"Early on in the project we made a decision to use the Hunter Surveyor system," explained Peter Johansson of Ostorps Bevattning. "A decoder based control system in combination with the only true Total Top Service (TTS) sprinkler on the market was also chosen. Souters Irrigation Services Ltd. were chosen as they had the in-house resources and experience to complete a high quality installation in a short period of time".
Although SISL's involvement in the project was principally the installation of the site's irrigation system, it did contribute to the on time completion of the civils works and installed the under soil heating pipework. Swedish law put an odd quirk on to the schedule because no one is allowed to work more than 44 hours a week. The construction period began in July and work had to be completed in October. There was all round co-operation on an international scale with input from France, Spain and Australia as well as main constructor SOL, Swedish interests and of course Souters. The Scottish firm's skills and manpower were drafted in to help see ground-works ran to time and the law was upheld.
"The program of works was very tight, with the site having a fixed seeding date," said Souter's Robert Smith, "but all parties worked very well together and completed the project on time and within budget. The opportunity to work on such a unique site, as well as with Ostorps and Hunter was tremendous."
"We found that although it seemed daunting at first to be working in Europe, it actually had similar challenges to those we normally face on many of our sites in the UK and we are looking forward to being involved in future irrigation projects within this partnership."
It was apt that Souter's10th anniversary year was marked by its first European venture. The Halmstad Golf Arena is going to be a very impressive and much used golf facility. It will surely set a standard for this type of outdoor training worldwide.
For further information, please contact Souters Irrigation Services Limited on 01236 453030