|Barseback Golf and Country Club is one of Sweden's marquee courses, host to numerous big events. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)|
Golf in Sweden and Denmark offers fascinating history fascinating - and green fees cheaper than many Europeans are used to. With golf courses like Barseback Golf and Country Club, Royal Copenhagen and Ljunghusen Golf Club, the countries are making names for themselves.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark - The neighboring Scandinavian countries of Sweden and Denmark are ancient enemies, having fought various wars and skirmishes through the ages.
But this is the modern era, and the two countries now have armies of public relations people instead of warring Vikings. Besides, they've fought with each other so often, conquering and losing vast tracts of land, it's hard to tell who is who any more. Swedes live in Denmark, and Danes live in Sweden.
For example, you'll find many Danes living in southern Sweden, in the region known as Skane. And you'll find many Swedes traveling back and forth to Copenhagen for its wild pleasures and beautiful architecture.
So, it is completely natural that the region marketed as Oresund is made up of eastern Denmark and southern Sweden - with Copenhagen as sort of its epicenter - especially since they built the truly spectacular Oresund Bridge. It's 30 minutes by car from Copenhagen to Malmo, Sweden's third-largest city. There are also trains and ferries between the two countries - the Vikings would have been appalled.
Oresund may or may not be the Next Great Undiscovered Golf Destination, but it is definitely cheaper than most European golf hotspots.
The game is growing like wildfire in Denmark - second behind only soccer - though you would not want to visit the country for golf alone. In Sweden, golf has been a mainstay of family fun for years.
Swedes have been at the game longer, and the courses are more evolved there. In Skane alone, there are around 100 courses within an hour and a half drive.
There is pure Scandinavian beauty in both places. Denmark has remarkable Copenhagen, ancient castles and the sea, while Sweden has that beautiful countryside with vast fields of yellow flowers, immaculate farmhouses and those same seas, the Baltic and North.
It ain't Scotland, but the Oresund region has some fine courses to go with the pristine and historic Scandinavian scenery. Here is a sampler of some of the region's courses.
Barseback Golf and Country Club at its best is a lovely Swedish garden, with Swedish pines and gnarled old oaks bordering the lush, pristine fairways. There are two courses, the Masters and the Donald Steel, with the former by far the best.
The Masters is a versatile layout, part links-like - with three holes open to the North Sea - part woodland and part parkland. Barseback is one of the country's showcase courses, a short drive from Malmo.
The conditioning is excellent throughout. Because this is a marquee course, the green fees are higher than elsewhere in Skane, which is one of the cheapest places to play golf in Europe. Green fees here are in the $80-$85 range, while the average elsewhere is in the neighborhood of $40-$50. Still, the course is worth it.
It isn't an overly difficult course, lacking the infuriating rough other courses in Sweden and Denmark throw at you. The grass-sided bunkers and cross-cut fairways are nice touches, and some of the excellent fast greens are multi-tiered.
The Danes call Royal Copenhagen simply the Copenhagen Golf Club because they don't like to appear pretentious - is a short drive from downtown. It's in the middle of Dyrehaven, one of the country's prettiest natural areas.
It was here that King Frederik III in 1669 decided he wanted his own hunting grounds, and so he built a castle, which is still here, herded in thousands of deer and fenced off the area. Hence the name Dyrehaven, which means "deer park" or "deer garden."
"It's a fairytale course," said Tuula Undal, playing with her husband. "It's very special."
There are more than 2,000 deer in the park, and they roam freely over the fairways and greens. The course itself is fairly straightforward, over mildly rolling terrain with few forced carries - other than the deer - and only a couple of blind landing areas. There are also only a handful of bunkers, with brown sand that had to be carried in from outside so as not to disturb the park's natural setting.
The biggest threat here is the fescue rough. It's 3 to 4 inches high at this point - tough, springy, nasty stuff. Your only option normally, if you can even find your ball, is just to get it out and back to the fairway; forget about trying for the green. And it will only get worse as the weather warms up.
Ljunghusen Golf Club sits exposed out on a little spit of land jutting into the Baltic Sea on Sweden's Falsterbo Peninsula.
If Ljunghusen isn't a "true links course," it certainly looks the part: built on a foundation of sand, it is flat, virtually tree-less, open to the elements off the nearby sea and with an abundance of heather. Parts of the course look straight out of Ireland. The flatness of the terrain makes for some great views, from nearly any point of reference.
Your main obstacles here are the wind and the heather - in fact, Ljunghusen means "heather house."
Using a driver off the tee isn't always the smart play here, with the asymmetrical fairways, and especially since none of the 18-hole configurations is particularly long.
The wind that can come blasting off the open water can make a three- or even four-club difference on the more exposed portions of the course.
Simon's Golf Club is located in the town of Humlebaek, about 20 miles north of Copenhagen, the terminus of the coastal area popularly known as the Whiskey Trail.
It's one of the better-known golf courses in the country, a very green course with some nice, moderate elevation changes over gently rolling terrain. It's a little inland, but you can still see Sweden across the narrow Oresund Strait from some of the higher spots.
The greens are relatively small, tricky and slow early in the season, with some sporting multiple levels. But the greatest obstacle here is the fescue rough, which grows to a near-impossible 3 or 4 feet in the summer. You definitely want to keep it in the short grass here.
SAS Scandinavian Airlines (Flysas.com) is the biggest airline in Scandinavia and specializes in non-stop travel from North America and Asia to Stockholm and Copenhagen. The airline serves Copenhagen non-stop from Newark, Chicago, Seattle and Washington, D.C., and Stockholm non-strop from from Chicago and Newark, with Airbus A330 and A340 aircraft.
SAS and its partners offer connecting service to cities throughout Scandinavia, Europe and the world from the SAS hubs at Copenhagen and Stockholm.
February 10, 2009
Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
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