Golf Coming to the Ukraine

The course architects at Golfplan-Fream, Dale & Ramsey will break ground in 2009 on the first golf course project in the Ukraine. The 18-hole resort track is planned for the shores of Doboletsky Island, one of a series of islands in the Dnieper River some 150 feet below - but in plain sight of - the golden onion domes rising above Kiev's Old Town.

"It's quite a coup to find a viable golf course site this close to downtown in any city of 4.5 million people - that the city is Kiev makes it that much more remarkable," said Kevin Ramsey, the Golfplan partner directing the project. "Few courses will have this degree of urban access; there is a mass transit station located right across from the foot bridge to Doboletsky Island.

"When you do cross over to the island, you find the sort of sandy terrain that recalls Pinehurst, in the American Piedmont region. The proximity of the property to center city Kiev and physical attributes of the property itself make the resort potential here quite extraordinary."

Dnipro Plaza is the local holding company developing the Doboletsky Island project, with Russian backing. Course construction begins in the spring of 2009, but that is but one portion of this ambitious development, which also includes a five-star hotel and spa, 30-40 villas, public recreational space, and sizeable retail components. At Golfplan's behest, San Francisco-based land planners Horberger+Worstell have been retained, giving the project an integrative design capability equal to the task at hand.

"The land is zoned recreational; in fact, the southern half of the island - where the bridge provides access - is already home to beach volleyball courts and an outdoor weightlifting, sort of what you'd find on Venice Beach [near Los Angeles]," Ramsey explained. "Accordingly, whatever was to be developed on Doboletsky had to include and enhance that recreational aspect while still serving as a gateway to the larger resort components. It's a complicated land planning exercise with mixed use and access. All of the existing amenities will be upgraded and expanded. Half of the golf course will be located on the southern portion. The northern half of the island will be more exclusive and home to the hotel, spa, villas and marina.

"It's ambitious, especially as a country's debut golf project. There's never been anything quite like it."

Ramsey should know. It's nothing he and his colleagues haven't seen before. Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Golfplan-Fream, Dale and Ramsey are golf's most cosmopolitan course designers, with projects now in some stage of development in 11 different countries.

Since its founding in 1973, the firm has built courses in some of golf's most exotic and remote locations: Pezula, on South African cliffs overlooking the Indian Ocean; Korea's feted Club at Nine Bridges, on Jeju Island, now on the world top-100 lists at both Golf Digest and Golf Magazine; Bali Handara and Jagorawi, in the tropical jungles of Indonesia; Shore Gate, in the sand hills just a few miles from the boardwalks of Atlantic City, N.J., in the United States; the 27 holes at Disneyland Paris; the mountainous resort course at Bonari Kogen GC in Japan; and the Serapong Course on the Island of Sentosa, host site of the Barclay's Singapore Open and recently named the top tournament course in Asia by Asian Golf Monthly magazine.

Golfplan has designed more than 150 original golf projects in 65 different countries. Indeed, the firm has introduced golf to a dozen different nations, including Tunisia, Nepal, Brunei and Poland, which share as border and a post-Soviet economy with the Ukraine.

"There are similarities between Doboletsky Island and the development of Krakow Valley [Golf & Country Club]," said Ramsey, referring to a Golfplan-designed course that opened in 2001 near Poland's second city. "These are both emerging markets and Eastern European cultures new to the game of golf. But the comparison and the moment in time, frankly, favor Kiev: Krakow Valley is quite a distance from downtown and was built to serve that metro area. The Doboletsky property is right in the city and Kiev commands a great deal of tourist travel.

"There is also a lot more money being spent in this region today, mainly Russian money due to oil and gas prices. There are four or five different projects being developed in Moscow and golf is a much more prominent social status symbol now. Our project could never have been envisioned during the 1990s. I must have seen a dozen luxury cruisers and speedboats on the Dnieper during my last site visit this summer."

The golf course Ramsey has designed takes full advantage of the Dnieper, with 11 of the 18 holes at water's edge. The architect opted for a low-profile design that maximizes the riverside setting while skirting the site's ancient, red-barked pines. "The pines are sort of sacred on the island, so we'll definitely be working around them," he said. "Besides, it wouldn't have that Pinehurst feel without the pines."

For more information on this and other projects from Golfplan-Fream, Dale & Ramsey, call 207/526-7190 or visit