Kerteminde is a small harbour town known for its red-roofed merchants’ houses. It's located on the northeastern corner of Funen, Denmark’s third largest island. With a population of only 6,000, Kerteminde might seem like an unusual place to build an upscale golf resort. However, the town is a very popular summer destination with many holiday houses and summer villas. It’s also close to Odense, the main city of Funen, and it’s just a short detour from the E20 motorway, which is the main connection between Denmark and the continent.
With these qualifications, maybe it's a brilliant choice of location for the Great
Upon arrival at Great Northern, the bonsai-like tree in the centre of the courtyard is framed by the stylish gables of the ultra-chic clubhouse and the infinity waterfall in the reception area, embossed with the club logo, oozes class. One can immediatley sense the attention to detail that has gone into the development of the Great Northern resort.
Seven artificial lakes were built during the construction of the Great Northern golf course, which officially opened for play in July 2017. It’s no wonder water is a strategic feature on many of the holes. The sequence from the 4th to the 6th hole offers interesting variation both in terms of length and influence of water. The 4th, with water on the left, affects the drive on this brutal par four at 415 metres from the club tees. The slightly shorter 398-metre 5th is where the fairway pinch bunker and the greenside bunker cleverly frames the line of play with a lake on the right of the fairway. Then the short 6th where a pin long left offers an exercise of suspense for the approach shot.
An interesting feature from an architectural perspective is that the 7th and 13th are both short, driveable par fours, which are laid out in opposite directions in relation to the prevailing wind.
The other main feature of Great Northern is a 40-metre high hill on the west side of the course, where eight of the holes are laid out offering interesting challenges in terms of elevation change and spectacular views – the 3rd is a long downhill par three with the clubhouse area as an arresting backdrop. The delightful view of the Storebælt Bridge (the bridge between Zealand and Funen) is a splendid target for the tee shot on the long, downhill par five 14th hole. While the 15th is rather tongue-in-cheek, water is again introduced, this time in the form of a small beck that cascades over lovely wooden levees in front of the green.
Great Northern should be an interesting proposition both for the accomplished players as well as the regular club golfer, just make sure to choose the right tees for your skill level. With an excellent restaurant and fifteen stand-alone suites, why not plan for a stay and a second round to get even?
I’ve been lucky enough to visit a few big budget golf projects in the last few years but Great Northern comfortably knocks them all into a cocked hat. From the superior quality of the clubhouse, practice facilities and on-site accommodation to the 9-hole Academy layout and the main 18-hole course – everything here is absolutely top drawer.
And they’re still not finished as there’s a separate spa currently being built next to where Head of Instruction, former Ryder Cup player Soren Hansen, oversees the teaching school and practice area. The spa will be designed in a similar distinctive fashion to the clubhouse, with a large team of Greek masons building the walls from stones specially imported from their home country.
The course guide notes state: “the course is designed to accommodate the largest, international tournaments as well as the local golf players in Kenteminde” and I can’t help but think that this place will host big events in years to come because it has the basic infrastructure – and a course that can be stretched to 6,775 metres – to handle elite amateur events and big professional tournaments.
For now, even though the club is positioning itself at the exclusive end of Danish golf (with its own unique brand depicting a phoenix rising from the flames), daily green fee players are warmly welcomed and there’s even a special rate for play in the late afternoon, allowing the more cost-conscious golfer the chance to play at a substantially reduced price. Places like this are normally private, so credit where it’s due for the club promoting more affordable non-member access.
The course is perfectly polished – and so it should be with forty people on the greenkeeping staff plus all the latest John Deere maintenance equipment – and there’s lots of fairway width offering a wide variety of angles into greens that are carpeted in 007 creeping bent, the same grass chosen for the recent renovation of the West course at Wentworth. Aidan O’Hara, head greenkeeper for more than 25 years at Mount Juliet in Ireland, is in charge of keeping everything looking spick and span.
I wasn’t that surprised to see the hilly landscape on the west side of the property brought into play, as the elevated fairways provide a sharp contrast to those on the low lying areas which are routed around the wooden bulwarked lakes. I was startled however to discover that almost half the holes are laid out across this terrain, with both the front and back nines paying early visits at the 2nd and 11th.
My Top 100 colleague Jan Nordstrom has described the par four 15th and its cascading water feature as “tongue-in cheek” but I can understand if some might find pumping water up to the top of the hill to have it run back down to the lakes below a little too extravagant (and not so eco-friendly either). Still, you have to admire the engineering and construction skills involved in creating such an overtly conspicuous talking point.
Talking of which, the peninsula green at the 9th and island green at the 18th are bound to keep the chattering classes occupied and they’ve already attracted adverse criticism from a number of commentators who’ve looked at photographs of these holes after I posted the images on social media. Traditionalists will no doubt be up in arms at what might be interpreted as the blatant introduction of golfing Americana into Denmark but I suspect ordinary golfers playing here will love the tough finish to both nines.
All that remains now is to see where Great Northern – currently established as a GEM on this website – will appear in the next edition of the Danish Top 40, a listing that’s due to be published early next year. A raft of reviews between now and then might just have a bearing which position this course enters the chart at so I now await the thoughts of others with baited breath…