Expectations High for Hills/Forrest's First Foray into Russia


Twelve holes are shaped and construction will be completed this year at Forest Hills Golf Club, a new design from Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest and Associates (AHSF) that will serve as centerpiece to Russia's first golf resort-hotel development.

Forest Hills GC sits on 550 rolling, wooded acres on the outskirts of Moscow, 45 minutes from downtown. The developer behind this $200 million project is the Protcion Company, which also developed one of Russia's few existing clubs, Moscow's Pestovo Golf & Yacht Club. In addition to a five-star hotel, resort golf club and state-of-the-art practice facility (another golf amenity sorely lacking in greater Moscow), Protcion Director Oleg Kustikov plans to sprinkle luxury secondary vacation homes along Forest Hills' perimeter. Construction of the hotel will coincide with golf course grow-in; both are scheduled for grand opening in 2010.

"We plan to provide an entire year for the grow-in, which is unusual but a wise decision in this northern climate," said architect Steve Forrest, the AHSF partner directing the Forest Hills project. "The climate was just one reason for the deliberate grow-in strategy. It's almost always prudent to open a course only when the turf is truly mature, regardless of the climatic zone. Mr. Kustikov is not a first-time golf developer, he understands the relationship between a proper grow-in and first-class course conditions in the long term."

Protcion christened Pestovo in 2007, making it the second operating golf club in greater Moscow after Moscow Country Club, opened in 1986. Forrest isn't worried about Forest Hills distinguishing itself in this growing market. "The thing that sets our project apart is the property," said Forrest, sitting president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects.

"This is a gorgeous piece of rolling terrain with wooded slopes. It's essentially a broad valley with creeks running along the valley floor. Pestovo, for example, was more of a Florida-type course where they excavated a flat site to create the course features."

"At Forest Hills," Forrest continued, "the 18th hole drops some 70-feet downhill through a natural clearing to a fairway that doglegs left to a very dramatic green site below the clubhouse and beside a creek. There are a dozen great golf holes that feature the same sort of drama - the sort of drama you can't create without stunning natural landforms."

At 7,300 yards from the back tees, Forest Hills will be long enough and difficult enough to test the finest professionals, but hosting championship events is not the development's primary objective. This is a resort course well removed from the bustle of Moscow, with generous fairways and big targets.

"The greens here are very large because the owner specifically requested this characteristic. They fit the grand scale and the resort nature of the development," said AHSF Senior Designer Ken Williams, who is assisting Forrest on the Moscow project. "We did create some very attractive and strategic fall-offs and run-ups within the putting surfaces themselves. They're quite sprawling, often without a defined edge - the likes of which you'd see in the British Isles."

American turf expert Dr. Richard Hurley is the consulting agronomist at Forest Hills. He and Forrest specified a northern plant palette consisting mainly of bentgrass, with a dash of bluegrass in the rough. With a year-long grow-in set for 2009 and the thickly wooded nature of the property, the course "will look extremely mature on opening day, as a first-class resort layout should," Forrest added.

Steve Forrest is sitting president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA), though he may be the busiest architect in Europe. Course architecture cognoscenti can't stop gushing over Forrest's two recent Swedish designs -Sand Golf Club, just more than a year old but already ranked by Golf Digest among the world's Top 100 courses outside the United States, and Hills Golf Club, named by Travel+Leisure Golf magazine among the top 10 courses to open worldwide in 2005. His new course at Vasatorp GK, near Helsingborg, Sweden, will open in June 2008.


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