The North American golf architect Graham Cooke has been involved in the design and restoration of dozens of courses in his native Canada but, apart from a handful of layouts in Italy, his European portfolio has not exactly been overflowing.
That all changed in 2006 with Cooke’s first golfing foray into Finland which saw him complete the exciting new Vierumäki course near Lahti – and that initial project has led to others as he has since become involved in another couple of Finnish projects at St Nicolaus, Inkoo and Tykkimaki, Valkeala-Kourola.
Located on the beautiful Salpausselkä ridge in the south of the country, the Vierumäki golf complex (Cooke, Classic and par-3 Coach courses) is part of a centre of excellence for the Sport Institute of Finland, where the main aim is to develop and market competitive training and education in leisure and physical education.
Set in rolling countryside, the Cooke’s fairways, although tree-lined, are wide and inviting with water involved at only a handful of holes; in particular, those around the lake at the 3rd, 6th and 7th. The short, left doglegged par four 13th measures a mere 277 yards from the back tees but with a pond in play all the way from tee to green, the smart golfer will not try to bite off more than they can chew at this potential card wrecker.
Course architect Graham Cooke writes: Designing and seeing this course take shape was a very enjoyable process. Southern Finland has a climate very similar to Eastern Canada's, so I felt right at home. Also, I managed to find the club two excellent shapers from Canada who formed a great team with the local operators and myself.
The Vierumäki site offered a balanced mix of open land and mature pine forests. The open land was very quiet in grade, while the forested lands had some attractive, pronounced contours. This mix makes Vierumäki a course of superb contrasts as you walk the course. The open lands showcase deep, rich blue lakes and expressive, steeply-banked sandy waste areas. This area was also designed with flowing, high-banked mounds of tall fescue grasses that helped to isolate the open holes. The forested holes are accented by statuesque, tall, straight pines and fine contour changes.
This course rests very naturally into its setting and each golf hole provides its own snapshot. The fairway areas are rolling, but generous, and the bunkers, lakes and waste areas help the golfer direct his or her shots. The risk-reward opportunities on a few short par-fours beckon the long hitters to cut across water and sand.
I believe this course gains its appeal by bringing many images and options into the player's sight. A bold, attractive course with large, gently rolling greens, numerous tee decks and challenge for all makes every round different and memorable.
The very knowledgeable and passionate client group wanted a course that would appeal to all of their resort guests. However, they also wanted a course that could hold its own on a world stage. Vierumäki provides a quality golfing experience in a mystical setting.