Innovative, inclusive design planned for new nine holes at Pirkkala club

Finnish club with huge junior programme plans expansion to support growth.

PIRKKALA, FINLAND, FEBRUARY 20, 2024 – Golf Pirkkala, one of the most successful and dynamic golf clubs in Finland, is to extend its facilities from eighteen to 27 holes, and has hired a team led by Tim Lobb of Lobb + Partners to design the new course. Lobb has assembled a team for the project comprising Minnesota-based golf course architect Kari Haug, plus already appointed Kai Hulkkonen and Jim Ferguson of development and project management consultancy Turnkey Golf.

Pirkkala is located some ten miles south-west of Tampere, Finland’s second city. The club was founded in 2007, and is wildly successful, with a huge membership; most notably, it has Finland’s largest junior golf programme, with 500 junior members, of whom 200 are involved in organised coaching. Consequently the club’s existing eighteen hole course had become insufficient; it needed to grow.

Kai Hulkkonen has been working with Pirkkala, investigating growth opportunities for some time. With his help, and with the participation of the local municipality, the club has acquired some 30 hectares (75 acres) of new land bordering the existing property. During the design competition for the appointment, Tim Lobb was mindful of the club’s nature, with large female and junior memberships, and saw the opportunity to collaborate on the job with Kari Haug, who specialises in designing courses with the maximum amount of playability for golfers of all abilities.

“Kari and I have talked about working together for a long time,” says Lobb. “We met at European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA) meetings, and built a close relationship at EIGCA board meetings when I became the institute’s president. I quickly realised that this was the perfect project for us to partner on, and asked her if she was interested – which, thankfully, she was.”

“The tender documents made specific mention of the needs of the club’s junior and senior membership,” says Haug. “But in our response, we went much further – we said we wanted to focus on all the golfers who don’t hit it far to make sure their game is as much fun. The course has to be open and inclusive for all the different body types who are going to play the golf course, so we will install forward tees to give everyone a choice of length to play. We will include rest stops along the way where needed, which is very important at Pirkkala, because the terrain is hilly and the average age of members is 59 – and a lot of them are finding it harder to walk the course. We are extending the golfing life at both ends: we see golf as a lifetime sport. I call my approach ‘Playable Pathways™’; the way we lay out our forward tees ensures that each tee has a suitable landing area. We also ensure that the ground game is playable and hazards encountered are surmountable if in the pathway to the green. We also want an accessible green for the incoming shot of the slower swingspeed player. Not every woman or senior plays the game the same way, so we need more than one forward tee to make it as playable as possible. There must be a pathway from the tee to the green, but the hole’s strategy might not be the same from each tee.”

Jim Ferguson of Turnkey will serve as project manager for the build. “The site is quite tricky, because it is hilly, rocky and in some areas forested,” he says. “We are hoping to sandcap certain areas, but we are going to have to use the native soil, and we don’t yet have a clear idea of what it is like – except that it is pretty rocky. For the forest holes, the clearing is not going to be straightforward in timing because of the nesting period for the native birds. We have to stop clearing trees in the spring to allow the birds to nest. But it is a very exciting project – the club is being extremely proactive in the actions it is taking to secure its future. I have never seen a junior section like this one!”

Club general manager Markus Junni says: “For us this is a vital project to make the club sustainable in the long term – we have a very large membership with a huge demand for golf – and we look forward to seeing what the team – which we believe is an outstanding one – comes up with. We hope to break ground this summer.”