Golfplan is the name of Ron Fream’s American golf design company and they have been involved in the construction of nearly 100 courses on every continent around the world. They are credited with over a dozen courses in Scandanavia, France and Portugal and one of their first European designs was here at Nordcenter, where the Golf and Country Club sits on the edge of the Gulf of Bothnia, 50 miles west of Helsinki.
Nordcenter boasts two 18-hole championship courses; the Fream, created by Ron Fream in 1987 and the more inland Benz course, built some years later by its designer Brad Benz. Both par 72s, the Benz is a little shorter but it’s a tough cookie that plays tighter than the Fream and is an excellent test of golf in its right.
The Fream’s front nine has some eye-catching holes routed near to the coastline. In particular, the three holes from 6 to 8 are fantastic. The views from the elevated tee of the 6th all the way down to the green on the water’s edge are simply stunning. Holes 7 and 8 have narrow fairways that hug the shore and water inlets threaten the approach to both greens – wonderfully challenging golf at its best!
Overall, trees are fairly unobtrusive – unless you are really wayward – and, apart from holes 7 and 8, water is only in play at three other holes; 12, 14 and 17. A nice design touch, which helps maximize land usage, is the two shared green complexes at holes 2 and 8 and between the 4th and 13th holes. All in all, the Fream is a very classy course which should be played as a 36-hole package along with the Benz.
Ron Fream – course architect writes: “NordCenter occupies a beautiful, demanding and visually superb site. What exists is a result of the time, site geology, budget and Finnish golf construction technology from some 20 years ago.
Finland is blessed with wonderful, natural terrain and locations for golf. Creating golf courses on the Sinai Peninsula or at Tozeur Oasis in Tunisia lacks the natural grandeur of most Finnish golf locations and NordCenter just happens to have one of the finest sites.
It was the eighth course constructed in Finland and Golfplan was the first non-local company to provide design. The site was demanding with rock outcrops, drainage issues, subsiding marine clay and superb trees to protect. I have always loved the natural conditions of the site and the hole layout mostly adapted to the land we had – we did not have very much money so reforming the terrain was limited. Having a few hundred more meters of length, a bit more rock removal, a more aggressive use of the water edge and we could really have an even more majestic championship course but budget considerations must be given full regard.
Remodeling works are now respecting the original design as best as possible while adding some more current strategic playing elements. Over time, soil subsidence, drainage problems, increasing shade from encroaching trees and technological advances are all reasons for the upgrade. Modernizing now is to repair seedbed problems that emerge or evolve over time with normal play. More challenge is in order with putting surfaces. Sixty degree wedges justify deeper bunkers. Modern golf balls might go farther but not always straight and those shots should be penalized hence the repositioning of bunkers. Larger tee areas will accommodate more golfers, diversify play and counter technological advances.