The Queen: Annika Sörenstam Shares Her Thoughts about The Royal Golf Club
Recently, golfing legend Annika Sörenstam visited The Royal Golf Club when she was in the Twin Cities for the 2017 ANNIKA Intercollegiate presented by 3M. We used this opportunity to ask Annika to share her thoughts about her role in designing The Royal Golf Club golf course, and to reflect on the progress that she could see firsthand in the transformation of this area into a thriving new community. Here’s our interview. Enjoy!
The Royal: What attracted you to the Royal Golf Club project in Minnesota?
Annika: I had played Tartan Park during the Pro-Am of the 3M Championship. I loved the course and the setting, but didn’t think much more of it. When Hollis Cavner shared his plans for a redesign and asked if I was interested, I jumped at the opportunity. To do my first domestic design work and to do it with Arnold Palmer and his team was just a tremendous opportunity.
The Royal: You’ve designed a number of courses around the world (China, Estonia, British Columbia, etc.). How does the Royal Golf Club project compare to those projects? Is the key to each project drawing out the unique characteristics of the location to create something special?
Annika: I have had the pleasure of doing several courses around the world. There were several things different with those projects versus the Royal Golf Club. First off, with this being in the U.S., I have been able to be more involved with the project. Also, it was only nine holes, so I had to work with Thad Layton at Arnold Palmer design to make sure our two nines had some symmetry.
The Royal: What learnings did you draw upon from your successful career as a professional golfer in designing the Royal Golf Club?
Annika: I always say that I want my designs to be enjoyable by men, women and children equally. Obviously, my playing career can help me visualize the holes for better players, but I also want women and average players to have the same inspirational experience.
The Royal: Did you enjoy working with Arnold Palmer and his design group on this course? Do you think that you and he have a similar approach to golf course design?
Annika: I have always respected Mr. Palmer and his work in the business of golf. His philanthropy work is incredible as well. Our son Will was born three months prematurely at his hospital, so we shared an emotional connection with him. I really enjoyed working with him and Arnold Palmer Design and I hope to get to collaborate with them again in the future. I think we have the same philosophy, which is to make it challenging, but enjoyable for everyone who plays.
The Royal: You are a strong advocate for women playing golf — and encouraging young women, specifically, to picking up the game. Do you see the Royal Golf Course as a great place for women to learn and grow into their golf game?
Annika: The Royal Golf Club will be a wonderful course for women and kids to learn the game. First off, the short course will help them get introduced to the game and learn proper fundamentals. Then the Royal course will be great because we have a lot of fair tees for beginners without forced carries which can be intimidating.
The Royal: What did you see in the land at the Royal Golf Club — like what a sculpture sees in a chunk of clay to be molded and sculpted?
Annika: When I looked at the layout, I instantly got excited. I love the rolling hills, lakes and woods. It really reminds me of the course where I grew up in Sweden. It was an honor to get to work with everyone to bring it to life.
The Royal: Do you have any connections to Minnesota and specifically to the Twin Cities?
Annika: Our Foundation — the ANNIKA Foundation — has a wonderful partnership with 3M. They are the Presenting Sponsor for our ANNIKA Intercollegiate golf tournament, which annually hosts a tournament for the best teams in college golf. They are also the Presenting Sponsor of the ANNIKA Award, which is annually given to the best women’s collegiate golfer as voted upon by her peers, coaches and the media. This past year, Arkansas won our tournament, which was played at Olympic Hills and it was spectacular. We will move our tournament to Royal Golf Club next year, which is exciting!
The Royal: How do you think the Royal Golf Club will compare to other golf courses that you’ve played in Minnesota and in the Midwest U.S.?
Annika: I think the Royal Golf Club is a traditional Midwest course with the rolling hills, tree lined holes and lakes. I think it will present a challenging test to better golfers, while being fun and fair for beginners.