Odense Golf Club was founded at a meeting held on September 29, 1927, and the first course was built at Kløvermosevej, a suburb in the southwest of the city. It consisted of 9 holes with a length of 2,815 yards and was completed in 1928. It was constructed on land previously used by the Danish army for training horses.
Following the expiry of its lease in 1962, the club moved to the area of Snapindskoven where a new 9 hole course was constructed.
However, conditions were cramped and in 1980 the decision was taken to build a new complex with an 18-hole course of international standard (Holluf Park) and a 9-hole course (Pile) at Neder Holluf, south of the city centre. The purchase of this site, just 5 kilometres from the original 1928 course, was a joint venture between the local community and the golf club.
Hans Henrik Burkal, the Club Manager, is an interesting character; he was a Prison Officer for five years and for 18 years was General Secretary of the Danish Swimming and Lifesaving Association. He was a member of the Danish delegation at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and also officiated at the 1991 and 1999 World Swimming Championships in Perth and again in Hong Kong in 1996. He joined Odense in 2009, following seven years in a similar position at a club in Zeeland.
He is responsible for 13 staff including seven greenkeepers, a housekeeper, a gardener and two Golf Professionals, which is unusual as Pros are not normally employees.
“We have a very loyal membership of almost 1,300, of which 50 are juniors and 60% who are over 50,” he said. “Rightly so, they are very demanding and we have to present the courses to the highest standards at all times. I have an excellent greenkeeping team, led by Jack Rasmussen, our Course Manager and we have a superb relationship with our machinery dealer, Svenningsens, which is an important factor when we have to maintaining the courses at such a high level.”
The 18-hole, par 72 Holluf Park parkland course is slightly undulating and features push-up greens, three large lakes and 90 bunkers. It is bordered by a local stream, so water comes into play on a majority of holes. For experienced players it is a real challenge and has hosted many Danish championships. Flooding can be an issue and the course is closed from the beginning of December through to April.
As you would expect the 9-hole, par 31 Pile course has significantly shorter holes than Holluf Park, but is nevertheless a real golf course. It is the ideal place for high handicap golfers and beginners or for those who seek a leisurely round of golf. It is maintained to the same exacting standards as the Holluf Park course.
Course Manager Jack Rasmussen completed his education as a Landscape Gardener in 1994 and was the first Dane to specialise in turfgrass management. He joined Odense Golf Club in 2003 and in 2008 succeeded his father when he was appointed to his current role. He leads a team of seven greenkeeping staff including a dedicated mechanic.
“As Hans Henrik said earlier, we have very demanding members and we have to concentrate on presenting the courses to its maximum, at all times. With just seven of us on the greenkeeping team, that’s a big task so we have to have equipment that we can depend and rely on.
“That’s why we have chosen Jacobsen and their local distributor Svenningsens as our preferred supplier of our mowers and other course maintenance equipment through to 2020.
“In 2013 we purchased our first Eclipse 322 diesel-electric hybrid mower and it has been very successful. We can change the number of cuts per metre depending on the growing conditions and also have the option of increasing the frequency of cut for tournaments, if we want to increase green speed without lowering the height of cut.”
The maintenance regime follows a regular pattern with the greens being cut at 4 mm, six times per week and the holes moved five times; the approaches (8 mm), tees (14 mm) and fairways (14 mm) are mown three times a week. The semi-rough on greens surrounds is cut at 51 mm and the semi-rough on the remainder of the course is maintained at 100 mm.
Denmark has some of the most stringent laws in Europe concerning the use of chemicals on golf courses. For example, fungicides can only be applied three times a year and if you operate a 100 hectare area, it is only permissible to spray a total of 5 hectares. This makes it extremely difficult to manage a course, but it’s something that Danish greenkeepers take in their stride.
“Jacobsen has the best quality of cut by far,” says Jack Rasmussen, “and that helps us when it comes to combatting disease. Our Jacobsen R311 is a good, solid machine and our GP400 triplex which we use for tees and surrounds does a perfect job for us.”
The grounds of the Syddansk Unversitet (University of Southern Denmark) borders the northern end of the golf course and the club offers a special student membership of Danish Krone 2100 (around UK £200 a year). This provides an excellent entry level for prospective members and many choose to stay on. The club attracted 257 new members in 2014, a remarkable statistic when golf was still suffering from a global depression.
Hans Henrik Burkal re-joined the conversation and provided some interesting statistics concerning the number of rounds played during 2014. The total was 29,594 played, of which 26,117 were by members and 3,477 by guests. That equated to an average of 22 rounds per member, with one member registering an incredible 190 rounds. The average handicap was 23.6, 29.5 for women and 21.0 for men.
“When you consider that we are closed for five months of the year, nearly 30,000 rounds of golf puts a lot of pressure on Jack and his team,” he said. “With the support of trusted suppliers such as Svenningsens and reliable products from Jacobsen, we give them the tools to produce quality playing surfaces. I truly believe we have the best greenkeeping team in Denmark.”