Fore! The bags are out and the gloves are on in Scandinavia as golf enthusiasts prepare to welcome the golfing season.
For golfers looking for a golf break away from the tried and tested haunts, the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden and Norway and their beautiful capitals of Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo are well-worth considering. Boasting a wealth of historical and cultural sites, world-class museums and art galleries, plus cutting-edge style and design, they make excellent destinations for a city sightseeing golf excursion, particularly during the warmer, longer days of May to September.
Start your trip by driving 20 kilometres north from the city to Royal Copenhagen Golf Club, originally an ancient hunting ground and now a beautiful nature reserve in Dyrehaven. Founded in 1898, Royal Copenhagen is the oldest golf club not only in Denmark, but all of Scandinavia. What makes the place so special is its history, character and the more than 2,000 deer in the park, which roam freely over the fairways and greens of this parkland track laid out over mildly-rolling terrain.
Heading further north up the coastal road you arrive at Simon’s Golf Club in the town of Humlebæk, which hosted Denmark's first European Tour event, the 2003 Nordic Open, which was won by Ian Poulter. Simon’s is a 27-hole golf complex, with three nines – labelled A, B and C – which meander and wrap around a scenic lake. Facilities at Simon's include cottage-style accommodation, a driving range, three putting greens, par-three course with six holes, an indoor training centre with golf simulator, a bistro and the Albatross Bar with several house beers on tap.
Further to the west you'll find The Scandinavian with two golf courses designed by the company of Robert Trent Jones II which opened several years ago. Both courses are ranked among the Top 50 in Continental Europe.
Located 46 kilometres southwest of Copenhagen towards Ledreborg Allé, is the only course in Scandinavia designed by Sir Nick Faldo – Ledreborg Palace Golf. Opened in 2007, this inland links-style layout weaves its way through the sumptuous grounds that border the 18th-century palace (a landmark still home to an aristocratic Danish family). “Our design will blend comfortably into the existing landscape. In fact, I would say that it’s more a case of ‘finding’, rather than ‘creating’ this golf course,” said Faldo while the course was being built.
Other highly rated courses in the Copenhagen region include the Skjoldenæsholm Golf Centre at Jystrup (55 km from Copenhagen), which offers two different 18-holes, both situated around historic Skjoldenæsholm Manor. The more recent of the two, the Jones Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jnr, is an open, risk/reward layout framed by forests. And only 5 kilometres south of the city centre is the Royal Golf Club, an attractive 18-hole layout designed by Ron Kirby, featuring mature trees and wetland areas in the routing.
AWAY FROM THE COURSES
Copenhagen is known for its beer culture and the world-famous Carlsberg Brewery. Founded in 1847, the brewery offers excellent self-guided tours, which includes a complimentary beer at the Jacobsen Brewhouse. The picturesque Nyhavn district with its showcase canal, lined with colourful gabled townhouses, is a great place to enjoy a drink at one of the pavement cafés or bars. For traditional watering holes try Copenhagen’s oldest: Hviids Vinstue founded in 1723, or the Hvide & Lam. Also worth a visit is the Nørrebro Bryghus, a combined microbrewery, bar and restaurant located in a former metal goods factory where the dishes are created around beers brewed on site.
Other top attractions include the Tivoli Gardens (the world’s second oldest amusement park), Christiana (a collectively run alternative village community featuring workshops, live music and organic eateries), the Danish Design Centre and the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde. With its flat terrain and 350 km of dedicated bike lanes, Copenhagen is a great city for exploring on two wheels. You can borrow and return bikes at any of the bike stands all over the city centre for a small fee.
Thanks partly to homegrown golfing talent like Annika Sorenstam, Jesper Parnevik and Henrik Stenson, it’s difficult to meet a Swede that doesn’t play the game, and there's at least 50 courses within an hour’s drive in different directions of Stockholm. What's more, courses are of a consistently high-standard with average green fees around SEK 400. Travelling to the courses is all part of the Scandinavian golf experience and it doesn't take long to leave the capital behind and enter the countryside, dotted with Swedish homes with their distinctive yellow, musk and red facades which contrast vividly against the farmland, rocky outcrops and ubiquitous conifer and birch woodland.
The pick of the courses is Bro Hof Slott. From the moment you drive through the gates and glimpse the white hilltop castle, manicured fairways and glistening Lake Mälaren, you know you have arrived at a special place. “Everything is big at Bro Hof. The holes are longer, the greens are bigger, the course has more water and the bunkers are larger and well-placed,” said Robert Trent Jones Jnr. who designed this superb lakeside layout with state-of-the-art facilities. Open for play since 2007, Bro Hof Slott's Stadium Course is now one of the world's best layouts and has previously been home to the Nordea Masters European Tour event. Bro Hof Slott's other layout, the equally well-conditioned Castle Course is a mix of forest and open country with a distinctive heathland feel.
Another highly regarded course mentioned regularly among Stockholm golfers is Haninge Golf Club. It has a panoramic setting with the 15th century castle and clubhouse, Årsta Slott, where you can enjoy a 19th-hole beer or meal. The first 18 holes are a combination of parkland and forest, while the last nine holes are pure parkland.
Situated by the side of beautiful Lake Ullnasjon is the Ullna Golf Club rated number three in Sweden by Golf Digest. It was redesigned and renovated by Jack Nicklaus and his team between 2011-2013, and boasts mint condition bent grass fairways, fast greens and intricate bright-white marble bunkers. Water comes into play on nearly every hole including the standout par-three third hole played to an island green.
Kungsängen Golf Club features two 18-holers – the Queens Course and Kings Course – where the Scandinavian Masters was played in 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2005. The tree-lined holes, with a mix of tight dog-legging par-fours and fives, require skilful course management to score well.
One of Stockholm's classic golf holes can be found at Golf Star Brollsta. With water all the way to the putting surface, the 308-metre par-four ninth is drivable if you hit it like Dustin Johnson, but most golfers take the safer route to the fairway on the right, leaving a tricky chip to the green.
AWAY FROM THE COURSES
Medieval Gamla Stan (the old town) is the oldest part of Stockholm and a treasure-trove of 17th-century Swedish architecture. Take time to wander the network of picturesque streets and lanes crammed with tourist shops, studios, museums, bars and restaurants. Another essential Stockholm attraction is the superb Vasa Museum. The Royal Warship Vasa lay at the bottom of the sea for well over 300 years until it was discovered and salvaged in the 1960s with virtually all its treasures intact.
After a careful restoration process, the oldest identified and most complete ship in the world is now the crowning glory of the Vasa Museum. Staying with the nautical theme, the ferry terminal in front of the Grand Hôtel is a launch pad for boat trips to the islands of the archipelago, 24,000 of them scattered across the water for 70 km in the direction of Finland.
For a pre-dinner drink head for Gondolen, situated 33 metres above street level in the centre of the landmark lift structure at Slussen. With a menu of over 150 cocktails plus unparalleled views of Gamla Stan and Lake Mälaren, this is Stockholm's must-visit bar. Another cool drinking spot is the ICEBAR Stockholm, situated inside the Hotel C Stockholm near the Central Station, where the entire interior is constructed using ice from the frozen waters of the Torne River in Lapland, including the glasses that the vodkas are served in. Right in the heart of Gamla Stan is the historic top-end restaurant Den Gyldene Freden (The Golden Peace), which has been serving traditional Swedish fare since 1722.
Get your city golf break underway by driving to Miklagard Golf, only 10 minutes from Gardermoen International Airport. From the welcoming clubhouse featuring a traditional Viking-style grassed roof, to the well-stocked pro shop and lovely views from the terrace, it's easy to see why this Robert Trent Jones Jnr championship course is one of best in the country. Its open, parkland-style design is laid out on hilly terrain where lush fairways contrast with waving grasses, burnished yellow by the northern summer sun. The Viking theme continues with each hole named after Norse monarchs and deities, and the course derives its name from the moniker given by the Vikings to present-day Istanbul, where Europe and Asia meet.
Only 8 kilometres northwest of the city centre is Norway's oldest course founded in 1924 – Oslo Golf Club, beautifully situated around the alpine waters of Lake Bogstad. This championship quality par-71 design of 6,340 metres features plenty of elevation changes, with water coming into play on several holes, particularly the signature stretch from 13 to 16 close to the lake.
Heading north of Oslo, along the shores of Lake Mjøsa (Norway’s largest lake) you arrive at Atlungstad Golf Club. This club has a lovely mix of forest-style holes on the front nine and parkland-style on the back. The closing trio of holes near the shores of Lake Mjøsa are especially memorable.
A lone fir tree in front of a lakeside green, guards the picturesque par-three 16th, and the par-four 17th requires a risk-reward tee shot across the lake to reach the fairway. On the par-five 18th, locals suggests using the Atlungstad Brenneri (Norway's only historical aquavit distillery still operating – tours are available), just beyond the clubhouse, as a marker for your second shot, to leave a short iron approach overwater to the flag.
Situated in gorgeous wooded countryside 20 km from Oslo and 44 km from Gardermoen International Airport is Losby Gods, one of the country's premier golf resorts and proud member of 'The Historic Hotels of Norway.' Losby's star appeal is the Østmork 18-hole championship course routed around both sides of the meandering Losbyelven River which runs through the valley.
AWAY FROM THE COURSES
Some of Oslo's best attractions include the Royal Palace, Akershus Slott (a medieval castle dating from 1300 AD), Nobel Peace Centre, Norsk Museum of Cultural History, Munch Museum and the National Gallery. If you have time, take the short ferry trip from Radhusbrygge Quay to the Bygdøy Peninsula and visit the Polar Ship Fram Museum and the magnificent Viking Ship Museum whose exhibits include the 24-metre long Gokstad, the world's finest example of a longship.
On the outskirts of Oslo is the Holmenkollen National Arena, a skiing and biathlon venue which hosts World Cup Nordic skiing events every winter. The centrepiece is the impressive Holmenkollbaken ski jump and from the viewing deck you can enjoy 360-degree panoramic views of the city, fjord and hinterland. Underneath the ski jump is the world's oldest ski museum (with 4,000 years of skiing history on display) and a ski simulator with a totally unique and realistic feel.
GOOD TO KNOW
Tourist Information: visitcopenhagen.com
Royal Copenhagen Golf Club: kgkgolf.dk
Simon's Golf Club: simonsgolf.dk
Ledreborg Palace Golf: ledreborgpalacegolf.dk
Skjoldenæsholm Golf Centre: golfers.dk
Royal Golf Club: royalgolf.dk
Tourist Information: visitstockholm.com
Bro Hof Slott: www.brohofslott.se
Haninge Golf Club: www.haningegk.se
Ullna Golf Club: www.ullnagolf.se
Kungsängen Golf Club: www.kungsangengolf.se
Golf Star Brollsta: www.golfstarbrollsta.se
Tourist Information: www.visitoslo.com
Miklagard Golf: www.miklagardgolf.no
Oslo Golf Club: www.oslogk.no
Atlungstad Golf Club: www.atlungstadgolf.com
Losby Gods: www.losby.no